CofC beats Northeastern 83-76 to earn NCAA Tournament berth

Source: Live 5 News
Source: Live 5 News

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Senior Joe Chealey scored 23 of his team-high 32 points after halftime as top-seeded College of Charleston rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to capture its first CAA Men's Basketball Championship with an 83-76 overtime victory over second-seeded Northeastern.

The Cougars (26-7), who trailed by five with 40 seconds remaining in regulation, punched their ticket into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. The win on Tuesday night avenged a title game defeat from exactly one year ago to the day.

Chealey came alive for his team late with eight points in the final 1:17 of regulation, including the game-tying basket with 10 seconds left that made it 65-65. After NU sophomore Donnell Gresham nailed a pair of free throws with 40 seconds remaining, Chealey drove the length of the court and forced up a shot from behind the arc, drawing a foul that sent him to the line. After he calmly made all three free throws to bring the Cougars within two, a Huskies' turnover led to Chealey's driving layup that sent the game to overtime.
In the extra period, the Cougars maintained their newfound momentum and took control with 2:09 showing on the clock as junior guard Marquise Pointer drilled his third trey of the game to extend his team's lead to 75-69. The Huskies closed the gap to three points with a Bolden Brace trey, but once again Chealey had the answers, going 4-of-4 from the free throw line to seal the victory and start the celebration..

CofC sophomore Grant Riller was named Tournament Most Outstanding Player after scoring 20 points and adding four steals, while Chealey went a perfect 16-of-16 from the charity stripe for half of his 32 points. Junior Jarrell Brantley recorded his third double-double of the championship with 18 points and 11 boards as the Cougars won for the 14th time in the past 15 games.

Seeking its second CAA trophy and first since 2015, Northeastern (23-10) saw its nine-game winning streak come to a close with the loss. Junior Vasa Pusica finished with 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 6-of-11 from 3-point range, and sophomore Shawn Occeus hit 4-of-6 treys and contributed 19 points. Sophomore Maxime Boursiquot was the only other Husky in double-figures with 12 points.

Boursiquot, Pusica, and Donnell Gresham accounted for 20 of NU's first 22 points as the Huskies built a six-point lead with 6:38 remaining in the first half. After a trey from Riller closed the gap to one (22-21), Occeus spearheaded a quick 14-2 run to end the period, accounting for all three of his first-half 3-pointers, and Northeastern entered the break with a 36-23 advantage.

Northeastern expanded the lead to 17, 44-27, with 16:35 left when Charleston began the biggest comeback from a halftime deficit in CAA championship game history. Still down by 10 with seven minutes to go, the Cougars reeled off nine consecutive points and trailed just 58-57 after a Chealey jumper with 3:21 remaining. Pusica drained a trey and hit two free throws to put NU up 63-57 with 1:24 on the clock, before the Cougars made their final charge.

CAA All-Tournament Team
Jarrell Brantley, College of Charleston
Joe Chealey, College of Charleston
Nathan Knight, William & Mary
Shawn Occeus, Northeastern
Vasa Pusica, Northeastern

Most Outstanding Player: Grant Riller, College of Charleston

Bill Murray was spotted at the game cheering on the Cougars as they came back to the lead during overtime.