Final Score (Thursday):
College of Charleston 65, Towson 47 (Jarrell Brantley 16 pts, 11 rebs, 1 ast, 2 stls)
Final Score (Saturday):
College of Charleston 60, Drexel 38 (Cam Johnson 16 pts, 5 rebs, 2 asts, 4 stls, 39 mins)
Playing in their final home-and-home series this season, the College of Charleston men put together their two most dominant league performances over Homecoming weekend. The 18 and 22 point margins of victory were the largest for the Cougars in CAA play this season, as the league's top defense took it to yet another level.
As has been the case most weeks, we had one more injured scholarship player announced. Terrance O'Donohue - who was a big part of that 40-37 slugfest in Baltimore - would not be participating in the rematch as he nurses a shoulder injury. He is projected to return in late February.
An announcement like that can no longer faze these guys.
As Andrew Miller put it, Towson's offense is...limited. They don't really have shooters, so they're gameplan is to out-tough and out-hustle their opponent for every second-chance rebound and free throw opportunity. Like the first time these teams met, the results can often get a bit shady - especially with TV Teddy Valentine in the building. Yet once again, the young Cougars refused to be bullied.
What made that demeanor impressive was that it was freshmen Marquise Pointer and Jarrell Brantley who led the charge. The former, reigning CAA Rookie of the Week, led the team with 19 points while the latter turned in a double-double. CofC was having a much easier day offensively, hitting early and often from three (8-17 on the night). The Cougars jumped out to an early lead and rarely let the Tigers get within two or three possessions the rest of the way en route to a wire to wire win. Once again, Towson's William Adala Moto had a difficult time contributing - 4 points, 6 rebounds, 6 turnovers and one made field goal.
The marquee event this weekend was the Saturday matinee rematch vs Drexel. The Dragons, who have not won a game since picking up their sole conference victory over the Cougars in Philadelphia, would not have the same fortune in Chucktown.
You've probably seen Drexel's numbers by now - 10 first half points, 1 made field goal in the first half, no player with double-digit scoring, 4 assists to 23 turnovers, 23% shooting for the game including 2 of 12 shooting from deep. The Cougars aggressively doubled Rodney Williams in the paint (the big man who forced Harris and Brantley to sit significant minutes with foul trouble in Philly) and closed off nearly every passing lane whether they were in man or zone.
It really was a perfect (depending on who you root for) storm - a team struggling on offense facing off against a defense playing at it's best. If you watched the Super Bowl last night, you know which team will be the one imposing its will in those cases.
Offensively for the Cougars, it was another by-committee effort. Nick Harris had a second-straight solid performance, flirting with a double-double with a team-leading 9 boards. Evan Bailey kept up his hot shooting off the bench and Cam once again very efficiently flirted with a career-high points total. Even Harrison Bowne, who came in to spell the big men for 3 minutes in the first half, got on the board with a free throw.
The Cougars needed to win these two games in order to stay in the upper half of the standings - especially should some fortuitous losing by the top teams take place over the final handful of games. The fact that CofC put their foot on the necks of both opponents and did not let up is another strong indicator of the surprising maturity of this young team.
Next up is a rematch with JMU followed by a big game at Elon. The Dukes have vaunted themselves into that three team tie for 3rd in the CAA ever since their league-opening home loss to the Cougars. You have to anticipate they'll want revenge, and their depth will create problems even in TD Arena. Elon is coming off a tough home loss to Towson, and is one of those teams (along with Northeastern) who could push CofC into the CAA Tournament play-in game with a late season run.
There's just three more pairs of CAA games this year. Charleston is playing their best, is it enough to peak at the right time and separate themselves from the pack?