Four players scored in double figures as the College of Charleston overcame a sluggish first half to get past Furman in both teams' Southern Conference regular-season finale held on Saturday night at Timmons Arena.
The Cougars (22-9, 14-4 SoCon) claimed the regular-season series sweep of the Paladins (6-23, 3-15 SoCon) and secured their 22nd victory of the season and improved to an impressive 11-2 on the road under first-year head coach Doug Wojcik. Furman, hobbled by injuries, dropped its 10th straight.
Riding the emotion of Senior Night, the Paladins jumped out to an 18-8 run in the first 10 minutes of the ballgame as CofC could not get a shot to hit the back of the net.
The Cougars trailed by as many as 10 in the first half and shot a low 31.0 percent from the floor (9-of-29) and 20.0 percent from beyond the arc (2-of-10). They managed to counter back to get within four at halftime, 23-27.
CofC shot the lights out in the second half with an improved 67.9 shooting-percentage from the field. Junior small forward Anthony Thomas (Winston-Salem, N.C.) made a strong layup move to the basket at the 17:54 minute mark to give the Cougars their first lead of the ballgame, 29-27.
Big three-pointers by sophomore guard Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.) and junior forward/guard Nori Johnson (Greer, S.C.) stretched the lead out to double digits and CofC never looked back. Stitt ended the night with a team-high 15 points, while redshirt junior forward Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) came up big on the glass with a game-high 15.
Junior forward Trent Wiedeman (Suwanee, Ga.) contributed a near double-double off the bench with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Johnson and senior point guard Andrew Lawrence (London, England) each had 10 points.
The Cougars will face the winner between the No. 6 seed Western Carolina and No. 11 seed (still to be determined) in the quarterfinals of the upcoming Southern Conference Tournament on Saturday, March 9 at 8:30 p.m. (ET) in Asheville, N.C.
· For the 25th time this season, CofC went with the starting five of sophomore Anthony Stitt, senior Andrew Lawrence, junior Anthony Thomas, redshirt junior Willis Hall and sophomore forward Adjehi Baru (20-5). Stitt returned to the lineup after being sidelined with a knee injury against Wofford on Feb. 28.
· With the win, the Cougars claimed the regular-season series sweep of the Paladins for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign, after both teams split the series a year ago. They now trail by one game in the all-time series with Furman, 41-40.
· CofC defeated the Paladins by a 24-point margin – only its fourth 20+ margin of victory over an opponent this season next to Chattanooga (+27) on Jan. 12, Wofford (+29) on Jan. 26 and UNCG (+22) on Feb. 2.
· The Cougars picked up their 11th road win of the season (11-2) which is tied as the most road victories among NCAA Division I teams this season next to Bucknell (11-4), Stephen F. Austin (11-3) and Stony Brook (11-5).
· Anthony Stitt scored in double figures for the 20th time this season with a team-high 15 points. He also added a game-high five assists with just two turnovers to give him 99 total assists this year.
· Willis Hall brought down a season-high 15 rebounds including a career-best 12 on the defensive glass. He was one point short of a double-double with nine points.
· The Cougars grabbed a season-high tying 48 rebounds against Furman. It tied 48 boards versus crosstown rival The Citadel on Jan. 24.
· Defensively, CofC held Furman an opponent season-low tying 50 points. The Cougars entered the game as the second-best team in the league in scoring defense which ranked No. 56 nationally.
· CofC cleared its bench in the final minutes of the contest as sophomore Pat Branin tied his career-high with a made three-pointer with 1:07 remaining in regulation and freshman walk-on Chad Cooke with his first career points on a fastbreak layup with 25 seconds left on the clock.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the second-half comeback and road win to close out the regular season …
"We just haven't had that type of an offensive explosion like that in such a long time. It really goes with what I was asking the team on our marker board before the game. I wanted ‘momentum,' I wanted ‘confidence' and I wrote ‘March.' That is the exact shot in the arm we needed as we head into Asheville next week."
On the bench contributions in the second half…
"Nori (Johnson) was terrific defensively, making shots and diving on the loose balls. I'm really happy for him, because this is basically home for him and he was able to play in front of his family."
On the win heading into the SoCon Tournament in Asheville …
"We will enjoy this win. We will practice this week and get ready not knowing who we have in our next game. I think at this time of year, you ask, ‘do the guys want to be there? Do they like each other? Do they want to be there for us?' We have confidence and we are healthy. Now, we can prepare with a great state-of-mind going into next Saturday's 8:30 p.m. game."
College of Charleston Sophomore Guard Anthony Stitt
On the road win and gaining momentum going into the SoCon Tournament …
"We started off slow in the first half and were sluggish. We got it together in the second half and we changed the momentum and were able to get stops. They only scored 10 legitimate points in the second half and we were able to clean up on the glass. In transition, everyone was able to run and get easy buckets. With a big win like this, it is definitely a confidence booster. We are all on the same page now and we are all ready to go into the conference tournament full force."