NEWARK, Del. – Payton Willis matched his career high with 21 points, including 16 during a second-half College of Charleston rally, but the Cougars fell just short in a 70-67 loss at Delaware in the CAA opener for both teams.
The teams wrap up the two-game set in Newark, Del., tomorrow at 2 p.m.
The Cougars (2-6, 0-1 CAA) trailed by as many as 13 in the second half before storming back behind Willis and Zep Jasper, who scored 10 of his 13 points after intermission. CofC pulled within one on three occasions, the last time at 68-67 on a layup by Willis with eight seconds left.
Following a pair of free throws by Ryan Allen, Willis got a good look at a potential game-tying 3 from the right wing, but it rimmed out at the buzzer.
Willis hit six field goals, including three from long distance, and converted all six of his free throws to eclipse his previous CofC high of 16 points. He also had a 21-point effort against Wisconsin last season while playing at Minnesota.
Osinachi Smart posted a near double-double with eight points and a team-high nine rebounds, DeAngelo Epps scored a season-best nine points and matched his career high with five boards, and Keegan Harvey hit a pair of 3s in the first half and finished with six points.
Gianmarco Arletti led the Blue Hens (3-3, 1-0) with 21 points followed by Dylan Painter with 16 and Andrew Carr with 15.
· Sophomore Brenden Tucker made his first career start and was joined in the starting lineup by Zep Jasper, Payton Willis, Lorenzo Edwards and Osinachi Smart.
· Willis has scored in double figures in seven of his first eight games as a Cougar. His previous season scoring best was 16 against Limestone and Western Carolina, and he also scored 21 against Wisconsin during the 2019-20 season while playing at Minnesota.
· Willis made three 3-pointers against Delaware, the fourth time in the past five games he was made three shots from behind the arc, and he is 14-of-27 (51.9 percent) during that span.
· DeAngelo Epps had a season-high nine points and tied his career high with five rebounds.
· The Cougars saw their four-game winning streak at Delaware come to an end while losing to the Blue Hens for only the second time in the past 11 meetings. It was also just the second loss in eight CAA openers for CofC.
· After combining for only 56 points in the first half (33-23 Delaware lead), the Cougars outscored the Blue Hens 44-37 after the break. CofC shot 54.2 percent (13-of-24) and Delaware hit 50 percent (11-of-22) over the final 20 minutes.
College of Charleston Head Coach Earl Grant
On the game …
“I thought going into the game we needed to hold this team to 65 points. If you look at who scored for them, you had a couple of guys (Gianmarco Arletti and Andrew Carr) go 6-for-12 from 3 between them, and guys who played two or three minutes a game had out-of-body experiences against us. Some of it was our breakdown and that’s on us. We have to get fundamentally better and contest more shots.”
On the play of DeAngelo Epps …
“I though D Lo played well, did some good things for us and gave us some energy off the bench. He rebounded the ball, got to the free throw line and made his free throws and hit a timely shot. It was nice to see him do that, and we need him to continue to do it. For this team to be as good as we want to be, he needs to continue to grow and develop.”
On the offensive spark provided by Keegan Harvey …