Seeing as he has sat on both benches in this crosstown rivalry, Earl Grant knew this game would be a dogfight.
The College of Charleston edged their downtown counterpart The Citadel, 59-55, on Tuesday night at TD Arena, earning Grant his first home victory of his coaching career.
With The Citadel leading 55-54 with 47 seconds remaining, Grant drew up a play for senior Adjehi Baru, who found freshman Donovan Gilmore under the basket for the score plus the foul. Gilmore converted on the free throw and gave the Cougars a two-point lead.
The Citadel had a chance to send the game into overtime or win with a three-pointer, but Bulldogs’ guard Ashton Moore missed the front end of an one-and-one free throw opportunity to seal the win for Charleston.
“I put it in the hands of my senior [Baru] and he made the play,” Grant said. “He made a savvy play under pressure to catch the ball, see the double team and get it to his freshmen teammate. I thought it was an unbelievable play.”
The Cougars, coming off a blowout loss at West Virginia on Saturday, jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead, before The Citadel took a timeout to regroup. The Bulldogs tied the game up and it was a back and forth affair throughout much of the first half.
The Citadel took a 33-28 lead into the break after closing the half on a 12-1 run.
Charleston dominated early in the second half, using a 12-2 run to take a nine-point lead with six minutes remaining. The Bulldogs stormed back, eventually knotting the game at 50 with just under three minutes left.
Sophomore Joe Chealey gave the Cougars a 54-52 lead at the free throw line with a minute on the clock, but Moore drilled a three on the following possession to put The Citadel in front, 55-54, setting up Gilmore’s deciding shot.
“I had great leadership from my seniors, Adjehi Baru and Anthony Stitt, and my freshmen came in and gave me a lift as well,” Grant said. “I don’t know how much I’m going to celebrate this win, because I need to figure out ways for us to get better, but I am excited because it beats the alternative, you lose.”
Canyon Barry led the Cougars with 14 points and five rebounds. Gilmore finished with 11 points, while Baru added nine points and nine rebounds. Freshmen Evan Bailey and Cameron Johnson combined for 11 points off the bench.
The Cougars have now won 22 of the last 25 meetings against the Bulldogs, including the past eight matchups.
Charleston has nine days off before facing South Carolina State at home on December 11.