College of Charleston bounced back from a tough two-game road trip with a big win at home over crosstown rival The Citadel, 69-54, in Southern Conference action held Thursday night before a crowd of 4,118 at TD Arena.
The Cougars (13-7, 5-3 SoCon) never trailed in the contest and built a 25-point lead late in the second half over the Bulldogs (4-14, 1-7 SoCon). CofC swept The Citadel in the regular-season series and have now won six-straight games over its crosstown rivals.
Charleston held a 48-29 (+19) advantage in rebounds with the Cougars grabbing 16 offensive boards leading to 14 second-chance points. They also shot 43.9 percent (25-of-57) from the field and held the Bulldogs to just 36.5 percent (23-of-63).
Redshirt junior forward Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) led the squad with 14 points on a red-hot shooting night, going 7-of-8 from the field. Senior point guard Andrew Lawrence (London, England) scored 12 points and dished out four assists, while sophomore guard Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.) bounced back with 10 points on two three-pointers.
Sophomore big man Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) was once again strong on the boards as he grabbed 12 rebounds to go along with seven points and just one foul. Junior forward Trent Wiedeman (Suwanee, Ga.) grabbed seven rebounds, including three on the offensive glass.
The Citadel was led by Mike Groselle and his 17 points and nine rebounds. The CofC defense held Matt Van Scyoc, who scored 17 in the first meeting of the series on Jan. 14, to just four points on 2-of-8 shooting.
The Cougars jumped out to a 10-2 lead early in the first half after two three-pointers from Lawrence and an offensive put-back from Baru. The Citadel cut the margin to 20-17 on a steal and three-pointer from Lawrence Miller, but CofC responded with a jumper from junior reserve Nori Johnson (Greer, S.C.).
Stitt broke his scoring drought with a three-pointer late in the half and added two free throws in the final seconds to give Charleston a 31-24 halftime lead.
CofC slowly pulled away in the first eight minutes of the second half, going on a 9-0 run to build a 49-32 lead with 11:53 left after a layup from Hall. Hall hit another layup followed by a Stitt three to put the game out of reach with 7:49 remaining and the Cougars ahead by 19, 57-38.
Layups from reserves Theo Johnson (Sacramento, Calif.) and Trevonte Dixon (Florence, S.C.) gave the Cougars their largest lead at 69-44. The Bulldogs scored 10 points in the final minute against the CofC bench to bring the final margin to 69-54.
The Cougars will have a quick one-day prep before traveling to Wofford (8-12, 2-5 SoCon) for a heated South Division matchup with the Terriers on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. (ET) at Benjamin Johnson Arena in Spartanburg, S.C. The game will be televised live locally on the Charleston Sports Network via MyTV Charleston and carried nationally on ESPN3/WatchESPN.com.
· For the 16th time this year, CofC used the starting lineup of sophomore Anthony Stitt, senior Andrew Lawrence, junior Anthony Thomas, redshirt junior Willis Hall and sophomore forward Adjehi Baru (12-4).
· With the win, the Cougars claimed their sixth-straight victory in the crosstown rivalry series over the Bulldogs in both teams' last regular-season meeting in conference play as CofC moves to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) next season. They have now swept The Citadel three years in a row in the regular-season series.
· Willis Hall led all CofC scorers with 14 points which marked his sixth time this season to reach double figures in scoring.
· Adjehi Baru turned in his 10th career double-figure rebounding game, eighth of the season, with a game-high 12 rebounds.
· Andrew Lawrence extended his double-digit scoring streak to four-straight games with 12 points. He has now registered 1,027 career points to date.
· CofC outrebounded The Citadel, 48-29, its largest rebound margin of the season (+19) versus an opponent. The Cougars previously outboarded Auburn (+16) on Nov. 16 and Chattanooga (+16) on Jan. 12. In both teams' first meeting, the Cougars won the board war, 36-33 (+3), on Jan. 14.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the game …
"It was a really good game for us. On the board in our locker room, the last key to the game I wrote was ‘team effort.' I am really proud of our guys. It seems like the Chattanooga game was two weeks ago, but we followed it up with another nice home effort. I thought Trent Wiedeman looked like he was back to form. It was just an overall great team effort. We got them on the glass and we had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. Our kids really adhered to our defensive game plan tonight."
On Willis Hall's performance …
"When Willis (Hall) scores, we win. He was active. He grabbed a couple of rebounds I didn't think he had a shot at. He is a really good high-post player. When people zone us, he is tough to deal with because he can make that shot."
College of Charleston Redshirt Junior Forward Willis Hall
On the win ...
"We spent four-or-five days away from home. It feels good to get back, get back to work, get back into the swing of things and play in front of our home crowd."
College of Charleston Sophomore Guard Anthony Stitt
On getting his groove back on the court ...
"I was just really focused on myself – being able to keep my confidence up. I talked to (NBA Hall of Famer and father of freshman Canyon Barry) Rick Barry last week and he said, ‘I can shoot 13 and miss them all, but I know the next one's going in.' So, I just thought about that and coming from a (NBA) Top 50 (all-time) player it always helps. The team had confidence in me. Willis (Hall) played great and I just kind of fed off of their energy."
Citadel Head Coach Chuck Driesell
On the loss …
"I don't think we made some shots we had open early. They did a good job of defending Matt (Van Scyoc) who is a big part of our offense. We shot bad in the first half and continued to shoot that way the rest of the game. I know my guys are disappointed how we shot the basketball tonight. That's what happens when you are on the road. We are used to being at home with those baskets and that atmosphere. It could have gone either way. We didn't make some shots. I give them a lot of credit. Their defense held us to 37 percent (from the floor tonight)."
Citadel Senior Center Mike Groselle
On the loss after the road win at Georgia Southern …
"We let a little bit of success get to our heads. We didn't come out with the same fire that we had going into Georgia Southern. I didn't make shots that I usually make. As a team, overall we weren't playing like we usually do, myself included. We got down early and that got to our heads. We kind of quit. We got down 10 and it seemed like we just gave up instead of trying to fight back like we have other times. We didn't come in with that aggressive mindset and rebound out of our zone – that's where they really hurt us, because they weren't shooting that high of a percentage on their first shots. But, they were getting second and third ones and you can't defend against that."