Charleston Bench Account for 44 Pts., Hofstra’s Estrada Near Unstoppable
Jeff Walker, Sportswriter
The College of Charleston men’s basketball have managed to play seven games in the CAA this season, and all but four have been decided by one possession. The same was true Thursday night when CofC hosted Hofstra, one of the stronger teams in the conference. Down by double digits in both halves the Cougars fought their way back into contention only to come up empty in the final seconds, falling to the Pride 76-73 at TD Arena.
After being up by six at the half, Hofstra managed to extend their lead to 10 points (49-39) early in the period before CofC put together a 13-2 run capped off by a field goal by John Meeks that gave the home team their first lead (52-51) of the contest with just over 11 minutes left to play.
Although the lead with change hands several times during the remainder of the contest, Hofstra’s Aaron Estrada would take control over the final six minutes, scoring the Pride’s final 14 points including two from long range to seal the victory for the visitors. Estrada who was on fire all night finished with a game high 30 points, adding four from beyond the arc and going 4 of 4 from the foul line. His teammate Darlinstone Dubar chipped in 16 points as Hofstra improved to 13-7 overall and 5-2 in league play.
CofC head coach Pat Kelsey was impressed. “You have to tip your hat to Aaron Estrada who was just epic. This is my first year at the College of Charleston. I can’t imagine many, many better visiting performances than that one tonight. It was epic and heroic.”
The one bright spot for CofC was their bench. Coach Kelsey’s team scored 44 points off the bench with Brenden Tucker leading the Cougars with 17 including three from beyond the arc. Sophomore Nick Farrar had a career best 15 points behind a trio of 3-pointers. Farrar’s play in the first half helped CofC fight their way back into the game. Freshmen Raekwon Horton shot 3-of-4 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line finishing with 12 points.
Farrar admits it’s been tough lately. “We’ve been having a rough start, maybe not a rough start but a tough couple of games. We just have to stick to the process.” He adds the team remains driven and optimistic. “Everybody is doing what we’re supposed to do. Everybody is playing hard. I know we fell short on a couple, but we need to turn some things around in the second half.”
Coach Kelsey found positives in his freshman players who are the face of the Cougars moving forward. Coming down to the wire whether they prevail or lose, Kelsey says the fans only add to overall effort. “The crowd was great tonight. I thought the crowd was terrific. They gave us a great boost. They make such a difference. They are ‘the six’. The students were awesome. The fans were awesome. We need that kind of turn out on Saturday.”
While Charleston has several offensive threats, just one of the lone starters hit for double figures, with Dimitrius Underwood scoring 10 points, and grabbing a team best nine rebounds. With the loss the Cougars fall to 2-5 in the CAA and 10-9 overall.
It appeared to be a runaway early on as the Pride went up 13-0 after just three and a half minutes of play, leaving faithful Cougar fans on their feet for four minutes until Tucker hit a short jumper. Another three minutes later the home team trailed by 15 (20-5) with 12:17 left in the half.
A 22-10 rally by the Cougars over the next eight minutes capped off by Ben Burnham brought CofC within one possession. Hofstra would end up taking a 39-33 advantage at the break. Burnham added nine points for the Cougars in a loss.
Despite the up and downplay over 40 minutes it was the final four minutes that had Cougar fans on their feet and cheering. When Tucker hit a 3-pointer with 3:36 showing CofC was up by one. However, a three by Estrada soon erased that. Two minutes later Estrada would add two from the line as the Pride took a 74-70 lead. Nine seconds later a long ball by Horton cut it back to one point.
After failed attempts on both ends of the court CofC’s John Meeks drew a foul allowing for two attempts at the line with eight ticks on the clock. The usually sure shooting senior forward surprisingly missed both that would have given Charleston the lead. A quick foul by the Cougars allowed Estrada to allow the visitors to exit with a three point (76-73) victory.
Coach Kelsey took Meeks two misses to heart, praising his team leader. “John’s been such a warrior for us this year. He’s our go to guy. His preparation behind the scenes is so elite. He’ll bounce back and have a great game on Saturday.”
The Cougars turn right back around Saturday to host Northeastern at TD Arena. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. ET on FloSports.
Maya to Host “All About Agave Tequila Tasting” on 2/8
Downtown restaurant Maya is hosting an “All About Agave Tequila Tasting” on Wednesday, February 8th. The event will take place...