SoCon: Turbulent season for C of C comes to halt
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- A tumultuous season for the College of Charleston ended with a head-shaking 93-81 loss to Appalachian State on Friday in the opening game of the Southern Conference men's basketball tournament at U.S. Cellular Center.
The Cougars, who beat the Mountaineers with great outside shooting earlier in Boone, N.C., couldn't buy a 3-point basket against Appalachian State until it was too late. And the Mountaineers hit better than 50 percent (8 for 15) from beyond the arc after going 3 for 19 in the previous meeting.
Appalachian State's offensive production, coupled with the combined 29-rebound effort of Isaac Butts and Andre Williamson, allowed the Mountaineers to build an insurmountable 18-point second half lead.
Charleston, after going 0 for 9 on 3s in the first half, finally got its first long-range goal three minutes into the second half, a Nori Johnson basket that tied the game at 37. The Cougars didn't hit another 3 until 13 minutes later when Johnson ignited a late rally that saw the Cougars cut ASU's lead to
eight points. Five of the Cougars' six 3-pointers came in the final 3:19.
The Cougars ended their season at 19-12, while Appalachian State improved to 13-17. The Mountaineers will play North Division champion Greensboro today.
"The game in some ways resembled our season and some of the things we went through," said interim coach Mark Byington, who was 7-4 after replacing Bobby Cremins on Jan. 27 when Cremins began a medical leave of absence. "I told them I was proud of a good year. This was a game where things didn't go our way, but they kept fighting, kept playing as hard as they could. We were a possession away from doing something really good.
"I think App State deserves the credit. They have a senior-oriented team, and some of the seniors stepped up and made plays. They saw the ball go in, and that kind of gives them confidence. It gives them energy. We saw a different team than we saw a couple of weeks ago."
Appalachian State coach Jason Capel called it the best 40 minutes of basketball the Mountaineers have played this season.
"We dialed in from the opening tip. I think that started this week in practice. ... I thought we came out with great confidence and we played as a team on both ends of the ball," Capel said.
"We talked about wanting to be physical and wanting to have bodies on guys at all times. We did that. I thought we took the fight to them."
Appalachian State hit 53 percent (8 of 15) from 3-point distance and 53.1 percent overall (34 of 64). The Mountaineers had five players in double figures, led by freshman Mike Neal with 21. Senior Omar Carter scored 19, freshman Tab Hamilton had 17 and seniors Butts and Williams added 11 and 10, respectively.
"People are going to make runs," said Cougars guard Andrew Lawrence. "They made a lot of great shots."
The Cougars were led by Trent Wiedeman, who scored 19 points. Antwaine Wiggins and Lawrence had 16 each, while freshman Anthony Stitt scored 14. Charleston shot 43 percent from the floor (33 of 76) and was outrebounded, 50-31.
"We're not a great rebounding team. Butts is tough. He outweighs our center by about 90 pounds and he muscles around and grabs it. Williams is very athletic and plays hard. That's one of the strengths of their team and one of the weaknesses of our team, and it showed today," Byington said.
The Cougars lose only one senior from this year's team, Wiggins, and also expect to get back junior Willis Hall, who missed the year with a torn ACL.
"Whatever outside distractions there might have been, they stayed focused and they played hard. There were a lot of highlights this season for the team. Today is a bad feeling, but this team has a lot of things they should be proud of," said Byington, who added that next year's coaching situation will be decided later.
"First and foremost, we want to see coach Cremins get better. If coach Cremins comes back, then obviously everybody will be happy. My future will be determined later on. I love these guys. I love this team. The Charleston basketball program is in a really good place right now, academically, the type of people they are, the type of young talent we have."