WILMINGTON, N.C. – For a team renowned for its defense, College of Charleston showed plenty of offensive brilliance Saturday night.
The Cougars shot 68 percent from the field on their way to an 88-74 win over UNC Wilmington. It was the 10th straight victory for the the Cougars and kept Charleston (22-6, 13-3) a game ahead of Northeastern in the Colonial Athletic Association standings with two regular season contests to go. The Cougars can clinch the CAA regular-season title with a win over either Elon or William & Mary next week. At the very least, the Cougars, who were picked to win the CAA in the preseason, would be assured of a spot in the NIT if they can manage to win the the regular-season crown.
After a 0-for-2 start shooting the ball, the Cougars found a rhythm UNCW struggled to slow the rest of the night, shooting 65.4 percent in the first 20 minutes. Charleston upped the effort in the second stanza with a 70.8-percent effort.
“As we got into the game and we settled down, we started executing better,” College of Charleston coach Earl Grant said. “We were running a lot of set plays for different people. Some of it was just movement, some of it was getting certain guys in different spots. And we just did a really good job of being poised and executing with pace and acting like a team that can run good offense.”
The 68 percent is the highest single-game percentage for Charleston this season, besting the team’s 60 percent effort against Northeastern on Jan. 11.
The Cougars have now scored 80-plus points in each of their last five games, with 88 being the third-highest total they’ve netted this year.
Jarrell Brantley set the tone by scoring the team’s first 11. After not hitting a 3-pointer in the first meeting with UNCW, the junior forward connected on all four attempts Saturday, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds.
Teammate Grant Riller eventually found his rhythm, dropping 28 points, 18 in the second half. It’s his fourth game with 24 or more in the team’s last five outings.
“We didn’t adjust as quickly as we needed to,” Seahawks coach C.B. McGrath said. “Our guys, defensively, we talked about it, and they’re athletic, long, physical, and if they get into the lane, and we challenged them, and they made some tough shots.”
While the offense was clicking, Charleston did enough defensively to keep the Seahawks from sparking a rally. Devontae Cacok put together a 29-point, 17-rebound game to keep UNCW in it, but struggles from the perimeter limited the Seahawks’ effectiveness. UNCW went 4 of 22 from 3-point range, two days after connecting on a season-high 15 3-pointers.
“We knew (Cacok) would score. We knew he would rebound. He’s a really good player,” Grant said. “He’s one of the best big guys in the league and so we knew it would be a challenge. We did want to help a little bit, but we didn’t want to give up wide-open 3s. I think Wilmington can shoot it pretty good, so we didn’t want to give up wide-open 3s.”