Who needs Trent Wiedeman when you’ve got Willis Hall on your team.
Hall scored 19 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as the College of Charleston rallied to beat Elon, 56-54, Saturday night in the Cougars’ Southern Conference opener at Alumni Gym on the North Carolina school’s campus.
It was the fourth straight win for the Cougars (5-2, 1-0 SoCon) and their third straight road victory. Elon fell to 5-3.
Wiedeman, a preseason All-SoCon selection, has missed the last four games with a severely sprained right ankle. The junior forward is not expected to return to the Cougars’ lineup for at least a month.
With the absence of Wiedeman, Hall has become one of the Cougars’ top offensive options in the paint.
“He’s a guy who is a winner,” said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. “He gives Adjehi (Baru) and Nori Johnson courage. I always say this: ‘Who do you want to lose with? If you lose tonight’s game and have to be on the bus five hours back, who do you want to ride the bus home with?’ I’d take Willis Hall any day of the week.’ ”
The Cougars didn’t make it easy on themselves as they got off to a sluggish start, falling behind 13-4 early in the game.
“We struggled there in the beginning, but we found a way to pull it out,” Hall said. “It can come from a different person every single night. We were able to stay in it long enough to win the game and pull it out.”
The Cougars used a 25-11 run to end the first half to take control of the game and grab a 29-24 lead at halftime.
Charleston held a nine-point lead with 6:38 remaining, but Elon clawed back into the game with a 9-0 run to tie at 52 on Tanner Sampson’s putback.
But Baru’s dunk with 1:30 left put the Cougars ahead for good, 54-52.
“He is a special kid,” Wojcik said. “Bottom line — he believes in me and I believe in him. He has responded.”
Lucas Troutman’s layup got Elon to within 55-54 with 23 seconds left, but Cougars guard Anthony Stitt hit one of two free throws and Austin Hamilton missed a 3-pointer for Elon at the buzzer.
Ryley Beaumont led the Phoenix with 14 points.
“We played really good teams early and we got tested,” Hall said. “We really learned who we are. We are developing and getting better at that, now that we know ourselves well. We just have a great group of guys.”