College of Charleston won its third-straight game by dispatching Howard, 60-50, in its last non-conference game of the season on Saturday at TD Arena.
The Cougars (8-7) took a 6-4 lead five minutes into the game and led for the remainder of the contest, building their largest advantage of 19 with 6:28 left in the first half.
The Bison (3-14) came as close as 42-37 in the second half, but some timely three-pointers kept the Cougars ahead.
Shooting just 15-of-53 from the field (28.3 percent), Howard struggled to score against the stifling CofC defense for long stretches of play. The Cougars held the Bison without a field goal for 10 full minutes in the first half. Charleston held a 41-34 edge in rebounding and blocked five shots.
The Cougars hit seven three-pointers against the zone and drew 27 total fouls to go 23-for-32 from the charity stripe.
Graduate senior Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) continued his hot play with his third-straight double-double and fifth of the season. He scored 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass, to lead Charleston's attack.
Junior big man Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) tallied his own double-double with 12 points and 10 boards, manufacturing eight points from the free-throw line. Freshman Joe Chealey (Orlando, Fla.) had 11 points and three assists, while senior reserve Nori Johnson (Greer, S.C.) scored nine points on two threes.
Howard's Prince Okoroh scored over half of his team's points, pouring in a game-high 27 points on 9-of-25 shooting. No other Bison player scored more than five points. Oliver Ellison led the visitors with seven rebounds and three blocks, but eventually fouled out.
College of Charleston struggled to find a field goal early on, as Howard led 4-1 before back-to-back baskets from Hall at the 14:38 minute mark. The Cougars' aggressive pursuit of rebounds and loose balls forced Howard into foul trouble early. CofC was in the bonus early on and made 9-of-13 free throws in the first half, creating a 27-8 lead after a three-pointer from junior Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.).
CofC's defense held Howard without a field goal from the 13:02 mark to the 3:05 mark of the first half, leading to a 31-16 halftime lead.
Howard cut into the lead in the second half, using a three-pointer from Solomon Mangham and consecutive baskets from Prince to make it 39-33 with 11:09 remaining.
However, Chealey responded with a big three-pointer to counter the Bison's run. Charleston withstood another Howard run that made it 42-37 after a Prince jumper, but Chealey was Charleston's answer yet again, hitting another trey.
Free throws kept CofC with a comfortable double-digit lead with time running down, but a late Howard three-pointer was followed by two steals and points from Prince that brought the score to 56-50 with 1:33 left. The Charleston defense stiffened and did not allow another basket for the remainder of the game, hitting free throws to make the final 10-point margin.
Charleston will open CAA play against 2013 NCAA Tournament participant and defending league tournament champion James Madison on Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena. The game will be televised live regionally on CSS. Tickets are still available for purchase by calling (843) 953-COFC.
· For the third time this season, the Cougars went with the starting five of junior guard Anthony Stitt, freshman guard Johnathan Burroughs-Cook, senior small forward Anthony Thomas, graduate senior forward Willis Hall and junior forward Adjehi Baru (2-1).
· Redshirt freshman guard Canyon Barry missed his first game of the season after playing in 14 straight with 12 starts. He is out the next two-to-four weeks with a finger injury to his shooting hand.
· With the win, College of Charleston remains an undefeated 2-0 in the all-time series against Howard. Both teams last met in the championship game of the State Farm Good Neighbor Classic in December of 2002.
· Willis Hall registered a double-double for the first time this season by the first half with 14 points and 11 rebounds. He ended the game with 18 points and a game-high 17 rebounds. It marked his third consecutive double-double performance and fifth of the season and ninth of his career. Hall moved into 10th all-time in career rebounding (fifth in the program's Division I history) with 696 boards to date which surpassed former CofC big men Sedric Webber (694) and Jeremy Simmons (681).
· Adjehi Baru turned in his fourth double-double of the season, 13th of his career, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
· Joe Chealey came off the bench and recorded his fifth double-figure scoring game with 11 points on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc.
· The CofC defense held Howard to the fewest points (16) by an opponent this season at the half. The Cougars previously held Kent State to 17 first-half points on Dec. 21. The Bison also shot an opponent season-low 28.3 percent from the floor (15-of-53).
· Charleston is now 7-1 this season when holding opponents to fewer than 65 points in a ballgame (50 points versus Howard).
· CofC has strung together three wins in a row for the first time this season and has the most overall wins of any CAA team leading into conference play this coming week.
"A win is a win. We didn't shoot the ball well from the field, but with that being said I'm actually pretty pleased with how we shot the ball from the free throw line as well as the three-point line. Despite not having a ton of energy, there were a lot of good things tonight. We set a goal to hold them in the 30s, but we just couldn't quite do that in the second half. Ultimately, we give up 27 points to a guy who takes 25 shots. The defense was really good and we outrebounded them. It's the first time all season that we have three wins in a row and we have a winning record at 8-7 heading into conference play. I'm looking forward to James Madison on Tuesday night."
On the game's physicality …
"The one thing they (Howard) do is they play zone the entire time. They like to slow the game down and make it sort of ugly. They are long and athletic. (Prince) Okoroh is 220 pounds and he's strong. You have to give him credit. For us to outrebound them and to shoot the ball well in two of the three areas offensively is good. We played with physicality, but we also played with some finesse and skill as well."
On handling the Howard press late in the game …
"The press did affect us, however, it shouldn't have. We made some crucial mistakes. We had timeouts and we should have used them. We had a couple of turnovers including one in the half court as well. We'll try to clean that up and learn from it."
On Canyon Barry being out of the lineup …
"We have who we have and for us it's the next man up. Johnathan Burroughs-Cook's minutes could expand and Theo Johnson's minutes could expand as well. I was pretty comfortable putting Pat Branin in the game as well tonight – although I think he was shocked – but he plays hard every day. He's a good basketball player. The toughest thing to teach and motivate basketball teams to do is rebound and guard. It's easy to shoot. I was hoping we would hold them in the 30s and get our points per game allowed in the 60s – we're close. We'll be someone to contend with going forward, because there are two things we can do very well – guard and rebound."
College of Charleston Graduate Senior Forward Willis Hall
On playing in his final semester in a Cougar uniform …
"I'm just taking it day-to-day like I always have. I have goals and things in mind that I'm trying to accomplish. I try to make every day my best, and luckily, the ball has been bouncing my way. I've been knocking down shots and I'm hoping to keep it rolling. I'm just out there to play the game."
On the game …
"The first half was really good for us defensively. We were clicking, because our scout was really good. We were executing the game plan well. Things went a little downhill in the second half, but I think the biggest stat was that Adjehi (Baru) was 8-for-11 from the line. When a guy like that is knocking down eight points at the free throw line, with only three shot attempts, that is big time. We need him to knock those down and be consistent at the line, because that's going to happen to us a lot for the rest of the season."
College of Charleston Freshman Guard Joe Chealey
On the game …
"Any win is a good game for us to move forward from, especially this one. We had a really good crowd which was big for us as we move into conference play. I think it's good for us to win these types of games where we have to scrap. It's not as pretty as we'd like it to be, but we got the win and that's what's important."