College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik expected a tougher game the second time around against Wofford.
Wojcik got exactly what he expected.
After blowing out the Terriers by 29 points in January, Wojcik and the Cougars got a much more difficult challenge Thursday night.
Senior guard Andrew Lawrence finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in his final regular season game at TD Arena as the Cougars beat Wofford, 55-50, before a crowd of 4,428 on Senior Night.
Wojcik, who spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Michigan State, compared Thursday’s night game with Wofford to a Big Ten matchup featuring the top two defensive teams in the Southern Conference.
“It was a grind,” Wojcik said. “We knew it was going to be a grind to beat them. (Wofford coach) Mike Young has a built his program on toughness and defense and the kids always talk about how tough the Wofford teams are. It was a Big Ten game and we found a way to win and get going a little bit in the second half.”
It was a sluggish first half for the Cougars (21-9 and 13-4 in SoCon) who shot just 38 percent from the floor, including just one of 11 from 3-point range.
Lawrence, one of the SoCon’s top 3-point shooters, did not have a single point in the first 20 minutes, getting outscored by walk-on senior Bart Benton. Willis Hall was the only other Cougars player in double figures with 10 points.
“We struggled making shots, me especially, in the first half,” said Lawrence, who finished the night three of 10 from the field. “Bart gave us a huge spark to start the game. I tried to treat it like any other game. We knew Wofford had a good defensive team and we knew it was going to be a grind. Winning a grinding game like this isn’t always a bad thing.”
Benton knocked down a 3-pointer on Charleston’s first possession as all three Cougar seniors, including Lawrence and Matt Sundberg started against the Terriers.
“That’s a great memory for Bart,” Wojcik said. “We won by five points, so Bart hit a big shot for us. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
The Cougars found their offensive rhythm in the second half, shooting 58 percent from the floor and connecting of four of eight 3-pointers. Nori Johnson, Theo Johnson and Anthony Thomas hit 3-pointers during a crucial six-minute stretch early in the second half as the Cougars began to open up the game.
“We moved the ball better in the second half and we found guys in transition,” Nori Johnson said. “We pushed the ball. The shots just starting falling for us and Andrew did a good job of finding us in the second half.”
Wofford’s Karl Cochran did his part in keeping the Terriers in the game. Cochran finished with a game-high 23 points.
Charleston sophomore guard Anthony Stitt missed the game with a knee injury. Had Stitt, one of the top defenders in the SoCon, been healthy it would have been his job to defend Cochran. Stitt held Cochran to just four points on two of 16 shooting in the first meeting back in January. Stitt’s status for Saturday’s season finale is uncertain.
“Anthony really wanted to play,” Wojcik said. “He kept texting me (Wednesday night). I’ve coached a lot of good players, but Anthony is probably the best defender I’ve ever had at guarding guys coming off screens. We missed him tonight.”