Cougars come from behind advance to CAA Championship

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The College of Charleston men’s basketball team defeated Towson University in come from behind fashion in the semi-finals of the North Charleston based CAA Tournament, winning 67-59 to clinch a spot in the finals against University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

Joe Chealey surpassed the 20 point plateau for the second straight game, propelling the Cougars to a 67-59 victory over Towson. (Photo by Michael Wiser)

The Cougars struggled to get much going on the offensive end in the first half, shooting just 8-24 from the field. Led by Grant Riller’s nine points in the opening period, Charleston trailed 26-21 at the half.

“We just tried to stay the course and trusted the game plan,” Riller said. “I felt like we did a great job of staying on track and not getting too low.”

Trailing 36-29 at the 11:31 mark in the second half, Joe Chealey took over for the Cougars, hitting his first of three second half three-pointers, the third of which gave the Cougars the final lead of the game at 47-46 with six minutes to go. Chealey finished with a game-high 29 points in the eight point victory.

“The crowd really helped us out tonight,” said CAA Coach of the Year Earl Grant. “In the middle of the game in the second half, they really started to yell and we made a few shots and made some big stops.”

Shooting 13 of 19 from the field in the second half, the Cougars rallied from behind to overcome a second-half deficit for the second night in a row, after defeating James Madison in similar fashion in the quarterfinals.

Cameron Johnson made an impact down the stretch, scoring all seven of his points in the final five minutes of the game. (Photo by Michael Wiser)

“If we continued to win, we knew it would be a buildup of excitement in Charleston,” Grant said. “Hopefully, it will be an even better crowd tonight.”

With the win, Charleston is just a win away from punching its first ticket to the NCAA Tournament since 1999. Meeting the No. 2 seed Cougars in the CAA Championship is the No. 1 seed UNCW, in a decisive third game of the season series after splitting the previous two match ups.

“We are thankful to have this opportunity to play in the championship game,” Chealey said. “UNCW is a great team. We both split in the regular season, so both teams know that we can win. That’s kind of what you want in the championship game – to have the two top teams playing against each other. It will be a great atmosphere. We will look to make a few more plays.”

The much anticipated conclusion of the CAA Tournament takes place Monday (March 6, 7 p.m.) and will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network

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