Bench blasts Wofford as Cougar women stalk SoCon bye

Jillian Brown had seven assists against Wofford to set the Cougars' single-season assists record at 171. (Photo by Tanner Hoisington)

The College of Charleston’s women’s basketball team spent most of the month of January losing, punctuated by a heartbreaking final minute at Wofford on Jan. 23, when the Terriers came from three down with 43 seconds to play to steal a victory and send the Cougars to a season-worst six-straight loss.

Since that game, Charleston has been on a roll, and on Monday, those Terriers were the latest team to feel the bite of these new-look Cougars.

Charleston held off a series of late-game comeback attempts by Wofford to win their final home game of the season, 69-60, on Senior Night at TD Arena.

“I was proud of our team’s effort, and I was proud of their fight,” head coach Natasha Adair said after the game. “To send our seniors out of here with a win – and kind of a gritty win – this give us momentum. One of the things we’re going to do is stick together, and we showed that tonight, and we fought to the end.”

The Cougars (13-14, 9-9 SoCon) will now close the regular season with two straight road games, at Western Carolina on Saturday and at Furman on Monday, knowing that two wins will guarantee them a bye in next month’s Southern Conference Tournament. Charleston is tied in the loss column with Samford for fifth place in the league, and holds a tiebreaker over the Bulldogs after splitting with second-place Davidson. The Cougars, who finished 7-23 last season, were picked to finish 10th in the 11-team SoCon by the league’s coaches in October.

Even though the early-season loss to Wofford was close, the Cougars were dominated in just about every “hustle stat.” The Terriers led that game in points off turnovers, second-chance points and fast-break points. On Monday, Charleston turned the tables in all three categories, including a massive 28-19 edge in points off turnovers.

But it was the Cougars’ bench, which outscored Wofford’s 42-16, that held the Terriers’ rallies at bay.

Afreyea Tolbert had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Wofford on Monday. (Photo by Tanner Hoisinton)

Afreyea Tolbert had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Wofford on Monday. (Photo by Tanner Hoisinton)

“I’m proud of Mikaela Hopkins, who came in and stepped up. Afreyea Tolbert down the stretch of the season has been consistent; she had another double-double tonight. It was a group effort,” Adair said.

Hopkins, Charleston’s 6-5 sophomore center, had 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in 19 minutes. Tolbert had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and senior Latisha Harris had 11 points and eight rebounds before being called for a technical for her fifth foul.

Junior Jillian Brown put her name into the College of Charleston record books Monday night. Her seven assists lifted her to 171 for the season, which broke the school’s single-season Division I record, set by Tonia Gerty in 2009-10. She is also currently 10th on the Southern Conference’s all-time assists list. Brown leads the SoCon, and is 16th in the nation, with 6.3 assists per game.

“I think our teammates really had the seniors’ backs tonight,” said Cathryn Hardy, after playing her last game in TD Arena. “We all knew that we weren’t losing this one.”

“This time of year, wins are ugly. But we made enough plays to come away with the victory,” Adair said.

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