CofC Roll Over UNCW 93-61
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
The College of Charleston men’s basketball team were riding high for two and a half months. From mid November until late January the Cougars went on a 20 game win streak, allowing them to rise to 18 in the weekly AP Poll. Along the way CofC became the darlings of sports broadcasting as well as the most talked about mid-major program in the country.
It all came crashing down when Charleston lost at home to Hofstra, only to add injury to insult when they followed that defeat with a one possession (70-69) loss on the road to Drexel. Thankfully they avoided a three game skid when they found late game offense to put away Delaware 84-67, returning the friendly confines of TD Arena for a Wednesday matchup against UNC Wilmington.
The Cougars got past the Seahawks (71-69) in their first meeting earlier in the season. Would the home town crowd be able to propel Charleston to their second win and a row. UNCW brought an impressive 19-6 record, including a 9-2 CAA mark to TD Arena, as well as a four game winning streak.
Entering the contest at 22-3, CofC were one of three men’s teams with 22 victories, and at 10-2 are tied for first place in the league. But streaks and records don’t matter when you take to the court, with both teams vying for a win. The contest would prove to be the total opposite of their first meeting, with Charleston cruising to an impressive 93-61 victory before another near sell out crowd at TD Arena.
Four Cougars finished in double figures with Ante Brzovic leading the way with a game high and CofC career best 23 points, ending the contest shooting 9 of 14 from the field. Ben Burnham and Pat Robinson III came in off the bench to score 18 apiece, with Burnham doing most of his damage in the second half, and Robinson going 8 of 9 from the free throw line. Jaylon Scott went 4 of 5 from the floor including two from long range for 11 points.
A double and a triple by Ante Brzovic and Ryan Larsen gave CofC an early 5-2 lead, before UNCW answered with an 8-0 run to double up the home team. A long range missile by Brzovic righted the ship with CofC going up 18-14 with 12:15 remaining. Try as they will, CofC couldn’t seem to clip the Seahawks until late in the first period.
When Reyne Smith drained back to back threes the CofC went up 25-23 under the seven minute mark. Another triple by Dalton Bolon extended the lead to five. When Brzovic scored his 12th point from the line CofC were up by eight. That was the front end of a 22-2 run including treys from Burnham and Brzovic that found Charleston taking a 19 point (46-27) advantage at the break.
A short 7-0 run by UNCW quickly stalled. The teams traded baskets for the first few minutes of the second half before CofC began to pour in on. A corner missile by Larsen followed by a put back from Scott provided the Cougars with a comfortable 25 point margin. 15 second half points by Burnham aka ‘Benny Buckets’ including a corner triple gave the home team an impressive 83-49 lead under the five minute mark.
With two minutes remaining CofC Head Coach Pat Kelsey cleared the bench allowing Adam Comer to get in the scoring column. With the win Charleston improve to 23-3 overall and move to 11-2 in the CAA. The Seahawks were lead by Jamarii Thomas, finishing with nine points. Trazarien White, Shykeim Phillips, and Nolan Hodge chipped in eight respectively as UNCW fall to 9-4 in the league, and 19-7 overall.
While both teams turned the ball over 18 times, it was three of the usual stats that propelled CofC to victory. The Cougars outrebounded the Seahawks 42-23, hauling in 13 offensive boards that lead to 22 second chance points. Although not up to their normal output CofC knocked down 10 of 24 from beyond the arc with UNCW making just 4 or 20 from long range.
CofC got 44 points off the bench with Burnham and Robinson III contributing 36 of that total. Charleston currently ranks eighth in the nation in bench points per game. Coach Kelsey lauded their efforts. “We’re deep on the bench. We have 10 players that could easily start the game.”
The Cougars will travel to Hampton to face the Pirates Saturday at 4 pm.
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