Kent State converted a last-minute driving layup with under 20 seconds remaining and CofC could not convert on a driving shot by freshman Joe Chealey (Orlando, Fla.) with five seconds remaining, allowing Kent State to escape with a 58-54 victory on Saturday at TD Arena.
The Cougars (5-7) and Golden Flashes (9-2) played a physical brand of basketball with 74 combined rebounds and 48 total fouls. The game saw 10 ties and 16 lead changes with no team leading by more than five points.
Both teams improved their second-half shooting as CofC shot 57.1 percent in the final 20 minutes to finish with an 18-for-45 (40.0 percent) shooting day. Kent State shot 17-of-51 (33.3 percent) from the field, but also forced 21 CofC turnovers. Both teams doubled their point output in the second half after the intermission saw a 17-16 margin on the scoreboard.
Redshirt senior forward Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) scored 14 points and tallied a team-high nine rebounds. Senior Anthony Thomas (Winston-Salem, N.C.) reached a new season high with 13 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds including five on the offensive glass.
Junior big man Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) contributed to CofC's rebounding edge with nine boards and a career-high tying five blocks, scoring seven points.
Kent State was led by Kris Brewer's game-high 20 points, including two field goals in the final minute of play. Darren Goodson added 10 points with a 5-of-6 performance from the free throw line. Derek Jackson led the Golden Flashes with nine rebounds before fouling out late.
The first half saw hard-nosed hustle plays and tough defense from both teams, leading to a low-scoring grudge match. The Cougars were the first team to 10 points after a layup from Baru made it 10-9 at the 6:16 minute mark. Brewer responded with a three-pointer from the Golden Flashes to make it 12-10 with 5:23 to go.
Despite multiple opportunities at the line, each team had trouble converting late in the half. Canyon Barry turned a steal into a transition dunk and then made a block that sprung Thomas for a jumper with less than 20 seconds left in the first, putting Charleston up 16-14. However, Kent State's Devin Carter knocked down a three, only the second trey of the half, with time expiring for a 17-16 halftime lead.
The pace increased in the second half with the teams trading baskets and mini-runs. Kent State opened a 30-25 lead at the 13:20 mark, but Hall scored the game's next nine points on a three-pointer, two layups and two free throws to give College of Charleston a 34-30 lead.
Kent State quickly tied the game at 34, and despite a mostly one-possession game for the rest of the way, College of Charleston only held the lead at one more point after a Stitt layup (47-46) with 3:10 left.
Free throws from Barry tied the score at 50 with 1:44 remaining, but Brewer converted a three-point play at the other end to make it 53-50. Thomas countered with a drive for the Cougars and netted both free throws to bring the margin back to 53-52 with 43 seconds left. Brewer used a high ball screen to drive the lane again and score another layup (55-52) with 18 seconds left. Chealey opted to get the quick bucket, driving for a layup and forcing the Golden Flashes to hit free throws.
KSU's Kellon Thomas hit one, but missed his second free throw and the Cougars had life, trailing by just two points. Chealey drove to the identical spot but his layup rimmed out with five seconds remaining and Kent State held on for the win.
The Cougars will take a break for the winter holiday, before taking on crosstown rival The Citadel (4-8) on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. (ET) at McAlister Field House.
· For the second time this season and second consecutive game, the Cougars went with the starting five of junior Anthony Stitt, freshman Johnathan Burroughs-Cook, senior Anthony Thomas, senior Willis Hall and junior Adjehi Baru (1-1).
· Despite the loss, College of Charleston still leads 2-1 in the all-time series with Kent State. It was the Golden Flashes' first win in the three-game series with previous losses to the Cougars in the Postseason NIT in 2003 and ESPN BracketBusters in 2012.
· Willis Hall registered his third-straight game in double figures with a team-high 14 points and nine rebounds against Kent State. He has now tabulated 875 career points and 645 rebounds to date.
· Anthony Thomas registered season-highs in points (13) and rebounds (8) versus the Golden Flashes in his second start of the season.
· CofC and Kent State scored their lowest half of the season with 16 and 17 first-half points respectively.
· The Cougars have made five-or-more blocked shots in three of their last five contests including six versus Kent State for a total of five overall games this season. Adjehi Baru contributed a career-high tying five blocks against Kent State which tied five blocks versus Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 1.
· Kent State shot a season-low 33.3 percent from the field (17-of-51) against the CofC defense. Its previous low was 37.1 percent in a loss to Bucknell on Dec. 4.
· CofC outrebounded Kent State, 41-33 (+8), to mark its third-lowest rebound margin against an opponent this year.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the game …
"It was a disappointing loss. When you are not shooting the ball well, you can survive two of three things. You cannot survive 21 turnovers and you cannot survive 16-for-29 (shooting) from the free throw line. However, you can survive without making threes (2-for-14). At Old Dominion, we were 13-for-14 from the line. Tonight we only had four assists with 21 turnovers. That's not a good combination."
On the team's defensive intensity …
"We were terrific. We were attentive in rebounding. We were flying around. In the first half, we had one second-chance point. We were on the glass like crazy."
On the difference between the first half and second half for both teams …
"It is hard to say and predict what will happen in 40 minutes. It was a tale of two halves. They scored 41 points and we scored 38 points in the second half. We played hard and they played hard. Tonight, we just couldn't score the basketball. We are not converting and it is like there is a lid on the basket."
College of Charleston Senior Small Forward Anthony Thomas
On his performance against Kent State…
"I think I could have played better. I missed some free throws and turned the ball over a couple of times. As a senior leader and a captain, I expect myself to play better than that."
On mentoring the team's younger players …
"We have some pretty mature underclassmen, but we will keep talking to them, encouraging them, and bringing them along."
College of Charleston Redshirt Senior Forward Willis Hall
On maintaining a shooter's mentality …
"Personally, I always think the next shot is going in. You have to maintain that type of mentality and attitude no matter the court, no matter the position. You have to stay confident."