Sunday, March 10, 2013
CofC Beats Western Carolina, Advances to Final Four
College of Charleston 78, Western Carolina 70
Adjehi Baru 14 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Anthony Thomas 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals
Trey Sumler 25 points (10-21 FG)
Facing a seven day layoff between games, a very pro-Catamounts Civic Center crowd and the hot shooting Trey Sumler, the Cougars put together one of their most complete games of the year at just the right time. CofC scored 78 points, had four starters in double figures and hit 29 of 35 free throws to outpace Western Carolina. The Wojcik numbers: 40-35 rebounding advantage and a Cougar defense that only allowed 38% shooting from the field.
Aside from the outstanding free throw shooting, the story of this game was the play of Adjehi Baru and Anthony Thomas. It says a lot when your leading scorer is 2 of 11 from the field and you still find yourself up 15 late and putting the subs in. Normally we praise the defense of Baru and Thomas but last night in their second and first, respectively, career SoCon Tournament games both guys were forces offensively. Anthony Thomas was aggressive every time he went to the rim, whether for his own shot or for offensive putbacks. Baru took serious advantage of his matchup with King inside and also navigated his way around Western's 1-3-1 defense for a few authoritative dunks.
The rest of the Cougars also found ways to contribute. Lawrence, whose shot wasn't falling, remained a threat to the Catamounts by driving to the basket and picking up 12 of his 16 points at the line. Anthony Stitt gave us flashbacks to his freshman days when he drove right at Tawaski King, absorbed a big hit in the air and finished the basket for a three point play. Even the guys who didn't score in double figures had an impact.
Nori Johnson was a perfect 3-3 from the field in his 15 minutes off the bench (8 points). Willis nailed a three to give CofC the lead back after a WCU run and had one of the highlights of the game when he stole an inbounds pass late in the contest and flushed it. Wiedeman picked up a few fouls and was limited to just 20 minutes but he was active around the basket all night.
Again, the fact that Lawrence and Wiedeman both had bad shooting nights and we were still able to cruise to a victory without a super-human effort from Stitt is a very, very good sign.
It was a bit puzzling that Larry Hunter decided not to go 2-3 zone more often. It's pretty apparent that we struggle against it. Maybe it was because the Cougars were lethal from three all night. Take out Lawrence's uncharacteristic 0-6 night and the rest of the team was 5 for 7 from outside. The Catamounts did however switch up their defensive looks a couple times. They switched from man to 1-3-1 during the 1st half and suddenly the Cougar offense (which started the game on a 13-4 run) came to a screeching halt. Stitt and Lawrence couldn't get the offense set up the way they wanted and the Catamounts chipped away at the lead.
These types of lapses have been common this year but there was one play in particular that I really liked. After Western once again switched their defense (after Wojcik had already called a play from the bench) Anthony Stitt had the ball at the top of the key with the rest of the team out of sync. Rather than force the ball to wherever it was supposed to go, or take his man one-on-one, Stitt backed it out again and reset. The Cougars ran a play and Wiedeman got an easy basket with the shot clock running out. That type of maturity is a welcome sight in postseason play.
Trey Sumler had yet another ridiculous shooting performance. Last time these two teams met he had 14 points in the final minute of play. Last night he had a similar hot streak. He nailed an off-balance jumper as the first half buzzer sounded and he also hit a long three as the final horn buzzed. Sumler finished the game with 25 points but he did take 21 shots. For much of the second half Stitt did a great job defensing him. Even if after some of those shots all you can do is raise your arms and shrug.
If there was one thing about this game to nitpick it would be the 17 turnovers. A lot of them were careless; Baru not taking his time with the outlet pass, balls going between guys legs, Lawrence's flashy transition attempted bounce pass to Baru etc. Thomas credited the sloppiness to the long time period between last night and the last game for the Cougars over a week ago. Again though, we had 17 turnovers and still scored 78 points. That's a good thing.
Just a really solid team win. If this is a sign of peaking at the right time than I am very excited about the next game. Elon had a tough time yesterday against UNCG. The Cougar-Phoenix semi-final is the game to watch Sunday and it won't disappoint. Go Cougars!