The College of Charleston’s men’s basketball team won their second game in a row against Western Carolina, 62-58, on Thursday night.
“By no means, was it a pretty win, but we will take it,” said interim head coach Mark Byington.
Sophomore Nori Johnson crushed his previous career high of 15 points against Davidson in January with 17 points and an additional 5 rebounds and 2 assists. He went 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and 5-of-11 from the floor.
Freshman Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) followed with his own career high of 17 rebounds and an additional 9 points for the night, while senior Antwaine Wiggins and junior Andrew Lawrence (London, England) each had 15 and 12 respectively.
Johnson, who put the Cougars first on the scoreboard with one point from a free throw, started the long journey that resulted in two teams fighting back to back. The Western Carolina Catamounts then took the lead for the next 11 minutes of the game, forcing the Cougars to retaliate.
“We started off pretty sluggish, said Johnson. “For whatever reason it was, we weren’t playing defense with pressure. Everybody seemed a step slower. After a few minutes, we got our second wind and everybody got it together.”
Both teams continued to shoot back and forth, keeping the lead between them only by a few points at a time. However, CofC wasn’t able to keep the lead for long and finished the first half trailing by four.
As the second half began, the Cougars managed to stay on top of the Catamounts, advancing by two points off of a 3 point jumper by Johson four min
utes in. With those three points came extra adrenaline as WCU fought to take back the lead once more.
With a little over four minutes left of the game, a three point jumper by Wiggins and a steal from sophomore James Carlton sealed the win for the Cougars as the momentum gave them the power to finish the game off strong and walk away with a win.
“In the second half, we definitely came out and made a push. Western gave it their all and gave us their full effort. I salute them. We were fortunate to get the win tonight. We shot the ball 20 percent going into the second half. On offense, we started to take our time and it created more open shots for us – hitting the three-ball. It’s tough, but when you can come out with a win like this going through tough circumstances like we today with so many injuries, it makes memories. It gives us a good feeling. We know when everybody comes back together and gets healthy, we will be a problem and team to reckon with.”
The Cougars shot 27.1 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from beyond the arc, and made 22 free throws.
“We made enough plays on offense in the second half,” said Byington. “Our defense carried us and our defensive rebounding carried us. Offensively in the first half, we never got into a rhythm. We weren’t getting high-percentage shots in the first half… In the second half, I felt like we got more comfortable. We ran our offense more. We stuck with it and our guys made plays later in the shot clock and maybe that’s what the team needs to do to be successful. We are still young and we don’t know how good we can be. We saw some glimpses of how we could be at the beginning of the season. Right now, they are sticking together and playing hard. That’s all I can ask for.”
Lawrence, who had six rebounds and six assists, marked his sixth-straight contest with six or more assists in a game.
“I’m really glad with how our guys performed today,” said Lawrence. “I was disappointed I couldn’t make more shots tonight, but it’s all about the win. Everyone keeps getting better and we are trying to get guys back healthy. We have done a great job of sticking together through everything. I’m really proud of the guys and happy we got the win.”
The Cougars will celebrate Homecoming Weekend playing against rival Davidson on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. at TD Arena.