CofC Escape With 77-72 Win Over 3rd Seeded Towson
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
A little more than 24 hours after downing Stony Brook 74-52 in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament Sunday evening, the College of Charleston men’s basketball team advance to the finals after doing away with 3rd seeded Towson 77-72 Monday night. Next up CofC will face 4th seeded UNC Wilmington, as the Seahawks in OT defeated top seeded Hofstra 79-73 in the earlier evening matchup.
Up by double digits midway through the second half and by nine on two occasions late in the contest, the Tigers tied the game and eventually went ahead before the Cougars buckled down on defense and made some clutch free throws in the final seconds to secure the victory.
A layup by Towson’s Nygal Russell tied the contest at 67 all with under three minutes to play. Nicolas Timberlake followed up with a short jumper giving the Tigers a two point lead with 2:13 remaining. However, ten straight free throws including six from Ryan Larson would carry the Cougars over the finish line as they improve to 30-3 overall, becoming the first men’s program to amass 30 wins on the season.
CofC Head Coach Pat Kelsey expected nothing less than a war. “You have two very tough teams that play with tenacity. They (Towson) pride themselves on grit and rebounding. It’s a battle every time we play them. I have a lot of respect for those kids. We are fortunate to move on.”
Four CofC players finished in double figures. Reyne Smith who was quiet in the first half lead the Cougars adding three from long range in the second period to end up with 20 points. Ante Brzovic was steady throughout as he finished with 19 points going 10 of 12 from the charity stripe while hauling in a team best nine rebounds. Larson and Dalton Bolon chipped in 12 apiece for the Cougars.
Brzovic accounted for Charleston’s first five points with Bolon knocking down a trey as the Cougars went up 8-5 early on. Towson would regain the lead before Benny Buckets aka Ben Burnham came in off the Charleston bench adding a quick and gutsy four points to provide CofC a 14-11 advantage with 11:45 remaining in the first half.
Towson proved a more worthy opponent than did Stony Brook, as the Tigers kept pace throughout. The two teams traded baskets for most of the first 20 minutes of play with neither enjoying more than a two possession lead. When Timberlake who averages 17 points per game notched his first points of the contest from beyond the arc Towson took a 32-27 lead under the three minute mark.
15 first half points from Brzovic kept the Cougars within striking distance as they went into the locker room down 38-33 at the break. Not accustom to trailing at the break, the five point deficit was their largest of the season. The first 20 minutes of play was not stellar for Charleston as the sure shooting 3-point team made just 3 of 15 from long range finishing the first half just 30 percent from the field overall.
Bolon jump started the second period with two quick baskets before a sluggish few minutes erupted. Thankfully their defense started to ramp up. Smith managed to steal a couple of balls from Timberlake that lead to baskets.
Doing what the Cougars do best helped by attacking the glass. A couple of offensive rebounds allowed for Smith to drain a missile re-establishing the lead for Charleston. Smith would follow with another long ball, a layup and his third triple, all part of a 19-5 run that found CofC up 52-43 with 14:10 on the scoreboard clock.
It was beginning to click offensively for CofC. When Brzovic made three the hard way, Bolon followed with five points as the Cougars enjoyed a 13 point (60-47) advantage nearing the midway mark. Larson who had been throwing up near misses hit for back to back buckets allowing for a nine point margin for Charleston with just over five minutes showing on the clock.
But it began to get physical from that point on as Cameron Holden and Timberlake took control draining threes to bring Towson with one point (66-65) with 3:25 left to play. The score would be tied at two more times before the Cougars finished with a flurry of must make free throws. For the game the Cougars made 28 of 35 from the foul line.
Holden who is easily on the CAA’s best all around players finished with a game high 21 points shooting 9 of 18 from the field. Timberlake came on late in the game to finish with his average of 17 points per game. Towson’s big man Charles Thompson who fouled out late grabbed a game best 10 rebounds. The Tigers finish the season 21-12.
No. 2 Charleston will face No. 4 UNCW Tuesday night for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Seahawks defeated No. 1 Hofstra in overtime to advance. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. Check local listings.
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