CHARLESTON, SC - For the second time in his young career, freshman Evan Bailey led the Cougars in scoring as the College of Charleston men's basketball team downed South Carolina State, 50-47, at the TD Arena on Thursday night.
The win gets CofC back to .500 (4-4) on the season as the Cougars are now winners of two straight and three of their last four.
Bailey (Canton, Ohio) came off the bench and poured in 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc to fuel a 19-9 Cougar edge in bench points.
Senior point man Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.) found his way into double digits for the fourth time this season with 10 points on the night and contributed three assists.
The Cougars boasted a stingy, opportunistic defense and created 10 steals and 16 total turnovers, atoning for a 31% shooting effort in the offensive end. Six of the steals were swiped away by sophomore Canyon Barry (Colorado Springs, Colo.) who also scored six points and pulled down six rebounds.
Perhaps bearing the effects of a nine-day layoff occupied by academic and scholarly pursuits, the Cougars were plagued with early shooting woes and converted just one of their first seven field goal attempts.
CofC's defense prevailed, however, as the Cougars harassed the Bulldogs into committing eight first half turnovers. Around the midway point of the period, the Cougar defense made stops on six-straight SCSU possessions, spawning a four-and-a-half minute Bulldog scoring drought.
But the momentum ebbed, and the Cougars fell into a scoreless spell of their own while SCSU went on an 8-0 run to account for one of six first-half lead changes.
Bailey provided a much-needed spark for the Cougars off the bench and scored five unanswered points in a quick 26-second stretch which spurred a 12-4 half-closing Cougar run, sending The College into the locker room with a 25-20 edge.
Much like the first, the second half started tenuously for the Cougars as Charleston missed its first 10 field goals of the second period, and while CofC took five-and-a-half minutes to produce a point, the lead quickly evaporated.
SCSU built a five-point lead, but two more Bailey three-pointers and back-to-back baskets by Stitt put the Cougars back on top. A monstrous, two-handed slam by Donovan Gilmore (Greensboro, N.C.) electrified the 2,626-person crowd and suppressed the Bulldogs, contributing to a 13-1, nine-minute run which saw SCSU turn the ball over on five consecutive possessions.
The Cougars led by as many as eight, but SCSU chipped away to make it a one possession game before the Cougars thwarted the comeback effort with Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) and Joe Chealey (Orlando, Fla.) combining to make 6-of-7 free throws down the stretch to solidify the win.
The Cougars stay home, but face limited preparation time as they shift their focus to a Sunday afternoon clash with Campbell. Tipoff from TD Arena is slated for 2 p.m. and the game will be televised live locally on MyTV Charleston.
The Cougars now lead the overall series with South Carolina State, 11-8 (7-1 at home). CofC is now 19-13 all-time versus Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opposition (MEAC). As a conference, Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) teams are an impressive 8-1 against MEAC opposition this season. For the third consecutive game, first-year head coach Earl Grant went with a starting five consisting of Chealey, Stitt, Barry, Gilmore and Baru. The Cougars are 2-1 over that span. CofC forced 16 turnovers against the Bulldogs on 10 steals. In their last two outings combined, the Cougars have grabbed 20 steals. The CofC bench came up big, outscoring their South Carolina State counterparts, 19-9. Evan Bailey led all bench scorers with 11 points. Bailey's 11 points marks the second highest output of his young career. He scored 13 at West Virginia on 11/29/14 Freshman Donovan Gilmore continued to be a force on the glass, grabbing seven rebounds on Thursday night. Gilmore currently ranks second among all CAA freshman in total rebounding. The College is now 4-1 this season when holding teams under 60 points. Anthony Stitt's 10 points on Thursday night marks the fourth time this season the senior has dropped a double digit scoring effort. Senior Adjehi Baru grabbed another six rebounds on Thursday night. The Ivorian is currently tops amongst all active players in the CAA in career rebounding with 769.
College of Charleston Head Coach Earl Grant
On his team's win over South Carolina State…
"I'm proud of the team for finding a way to get the win tonight. Now with that being said, we need to do a better job of capitalizing after we get the rebound. I'd like to see us attack after we get the board… get out in to transition, run, dunk, find the open man and knock down the open three. At the end of the day, it wasn't pretty, but if we can get better at trusting the system, maintaining our discipline and improving our toughness, we're going to do well."
On his team's progression…
"We're learning how to win right now. It's important for us to keep our eye on the prize and while we need to get better on the offensive side, defensively we are really good. When you defend well, you have a chance to win games and right now we are defending very well."
On handling the Bulldogs pressure defense…
"South Carolina State is a team that has forced 24 and 26 turnovers in its last two games. We only had 10 tonight so I think that we did a really good job in that respect. We also rebounded the ball very well offensively, so you look at those two things and can see that we were doing some things well tonight. The only thing we didn't do well was knocking down our shots. We'll improve in that facet of the game though, and if we continue to defend well I think we'll be in a good place as a team."
College of Charleston Senior Anthony Stitt
On the team's performance…
"We just try to go out there and play our game. We didn't make enough shots tonight, but we played well defensively and limited our turnovers and that allowed us to come up with the win tonight. South Carolina State is a tough, determined team and they play hard. Ultimately though, we got the win and hopefully this will be a good learning experience for us as we continue to improve."
On handling the Bulldog's press…
"They're a little bit like West Virginia in that they try to speed you up. They're trying to force you to take quick shots, but I think we did a pretty good job of breaking the press and avoiding turnovers. I'm happy with how we played against the press tonight – we just need to knock down more shots."
On the play of freshman Evan Bailey…
"Evan did a great job for us tonight. His shooting was a big part of why we were able to get the win. Evan and Cameron (Johnson) have been strong for us all season and they bring a lot of energy to the floor with them. They changed the game tonight."
College of Charleston Freshman Evan Bailey
On his role within the team…