Resilient Cougars down CAA leading William & Mary

Anthony Stitt gave the Cougars a spark during their win over William & Mary on Thursday night. (Photo by Sam McCauley)

Anthony Stitt gave the Cougars a spark during their win over William & Mary on Thursday night.
(Photo by Sam McCauley)

When the College of Charleston fought back from an early 10-point deficit to take a lead into halftime, it seemed like it could be a special night for the Cougars. After the student chosen for the Papa John’s challenge drilled his shot from half court, it seemed that anyone wearing Charleston maroon could do no wrong.

In perhaps the biggest upset of the season, the Cougars downed CAA leading William & Mary, 80-72, for their first conference win at TD Arena in 2015.

When Charleston roared back to take a three-point halftime lead, the fun was just beginning.

The Cougars began the second half with energy, jumping out to a 10-point lead on an Anthony Stitt layup with 14 and a half minutes remaining. Stitt scored 10 points in his return to the lineup after missing seven straight games with a knee injury.

Charleston extended their lead to as many as 12 points in the second half. William & Mary closed the Cougars’ lead to seven with three and a half minutes left, but Joe Chealey knocked down a three to end any threat from the Tribe.

Charleston found a plethora of scorers in this game, something that is usually the team’s achilles heel. Five players scored in double figures, while Cameron Johnson narrowly missed joining the club with nine points.

“It feels good to see the players reward for their hard work after having so many close games where we have been losing by two and three points,” head coach Earl Grant said. “It was good to see 80 points on the board with so many guys contributing. It was good to see us share the ball the way we did and really shoot with confidence.”

Johnson was the unsung hero in this game, as he guarded CAA preseason player of the year, Marcus Thornton, for most of the night. Thornton scored 15 points, but was just 1-6 from three-point territory.

“Thornton is a heck of a player,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t just me, it was a team effort. Adjhei [Baru] helped a lot with double teams. My teammates were talking the whole time and made me feel like I could press up on him and not worry about being beat.”

Canyon Barry led Charleston with 19 points. Chealey added 16, while both Adjhei Baru and Evan Bailey scored 12 a piece.

The Cougars will next face Drexel at TD Arena on Saturday at 5 p.m.

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