All-conference honoree Joe Chealey scored 18 of his game-high 22 points after halftime and ignited a second half rally that gave College of Charleston a 66-59 victory over Drexel in Sunday’s opening quarterfinal game of the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship, presented by Jersey Mike’s Subs.
The victory sends top-seeded and regular-season CAA co-champion College of Charleston (24-7) into Monday’s tournament semifinals where the Cougars will meet the winner of Sunday’s second quarterfinal game between fourth-seeded William & Mary and fifth-seeded Towson. The loss dropped eighth-seeded Drexel, a Saturday first-round tournament winner, to 13-20.
Drexel began the final half with a 21-9 scoring burst to lead 48-39 with 10:50 to play before Chealey connected on three-point field goal attempts on consecutive Charleston possessions to get the Cougars to within 48-45. Junior forward Jarrell Brantley scored on driving layups on back-to-back CofC possessions for a 52-48 Cougar lead at 5:24 before five straight Drexel points – a three-pointer by junior guard Tramaine Isabell and a layup by sophomore guard Kurk Lee – gave the Dragons their final lead, 53-52 with 4:22 left.
Chealey then scored on a driving layup with 3:55 to play to put Charleston in front to stay 54-53. Senior guard Cameron Johnson had a three-pointer and Chealey a 15-footer for a 59-53 Cougar edge with 2:38 left, and Drexel got no closer than four points again.
Chealey hit on 8-of-18 shots from the field and had five rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes. He was joined in double-figure scoring by teammates Grant Riller and Brantley with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Brantley also had 11 rebounds and three assists for his fourth double-double.
Charleston shot 48.0 percent during the second half after hitting on but 13 of 31 first-half shots. Drexel hit on five of its first six second-half shots while rallying from a 30-27 halftime deficit but finished the period only 13 of 29 from the field. College of Charleston finished shooting 44.6 percent (25-56) and Drexel 39.7 percent (23-58). The Cougars had a 40-35 rebounding advantage.
Lee led Drexel with 15 points on 7-of 11 FG shooting. Isabell added 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds and senior forward Austin Williams had 12 points and nine rebounds.
The first half was close throughout with neither team leading by more than five points – a 28-23 Charleston edge at 1:55. Riller had 13 first-half points for Charleston on 6-of-9 shooting, but his teammates hit on only seven of 22 shots (31.8 percent) and Drexel shot but 34.5 percent (10-29). Williams had six points and six rebounds and Isabell five points and seven rebounds for Drexel, which had a 24-19 rebounding advantage.
College of Charleston’s victory gave No. 1 seeds a 31-1 all-time record in CAA Tournament quarterfinal games.