The College of Charleston has become accustomed over the years to being on the other side of games like this.
The Cougars (5-4) have built a national reputation as a giant killer, beating big-name opponents from major conferences on a regular basis.
This time, Anderson University, a Division II team, turned the tables on the Cougars.
Chandler Hash scored 19 points and Denzail Jones added 17 points to lead Anderson past the College of Charleston, 65-49, Thursday night before a crowd of about 2,218 at TD Arena.
It was the Cougars’ first loss to a non-Division I team since a 70-67 defeat to Belmont Abbey in 2001. Fans, players and coaches in maroon were stunned by the final outcome.
“I thought we were ready to play, but the numbers don’t lie,” said College of Charleston forward Willis Hall. “I didn’t sense anything during warm-ups, but the score doesn’t lie.”
The Trojans, who lost Wednesday night to Limestone, 65-55, were never intimidated by their surroundings or by facing a Division I team. The Trojans (7-2) loaded into three vans early Thursday afternoon and arrived in Charleston just 90 minutes before tip off.
“We don’t get many games like this against Division I teams, so when we do get them we try to take advantage of them,” said Anderson coach Jason Taylor. “I’m so happy for our players, they deserve a win like this. We’ve played in big games before, so we were prepared. Nobody really knows what our level is because we don’t get the media attention. I told our guys the last two or three years that we could compete in (Southern Conference) league.”
The Trojans backcourt of Jones and Hash dominated the action, combining for 36 points, going six of nine from 3-point range, and committing just four combined turnovers for the game.
“They had a tough game against Limestone, but bounced back and played very well tonight, but they’ve been doing that all year,” Taylor said.
Playing against a team from a lower level appeared to be the perfect formula for the Cougars to forget all about their 42-point loss to nationally-ranked Louisville more than a week ago.
“That’s a very tough loss for us,” said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. “It’s very disappointing. Give Anderson a lot of credit, we had a hard time guarding them, especially off the dribble. Turnovers hurt us again, as did free throws. We just did a poor job of finishing plays.”
The Cougars were forced to play without senior guard Andrew Lawrence, the team’s leading scorer, who is averaging 12.4 points a game. Lawrence injured his ankle against Louisville.
“Andrew makes a huge difference for us,” Wojcik said. “Handling the basketball, passing the basketball, scoring. He makes a difference in our spacing.”
The Trojans couldn’t miss in the first half, at one point making seven straight shots to open up a double-digit lead on a dunk by Bo Holton, a former Citadel player, 23-11 midway through the first half. Jones connected on a 16-foot jumper to give the Trojans their biggest lead of the first half, 30-14, with 7:11 left before halftime.
The Cougars, who shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, closed with a flurry and cut the gap to 35-30 on Adjehi Baru’s dunk with 22.4 seconds left before intermission.
But the Cougars could never find any rhythm offensively in the second half, shooting just 21.4 percent (six of 28) from the floor.
“You’re going to have games like that where you don’t shoot well,” Wojcik said. “There just seemed to be a lid on the basket in the second half.”
The Cougars finished with more turnovers (19) than field goals (16).
Baru led the Cougars, recording his second straight double-double, going for 11 points and 14 rebounds. It was Baru’s third double-double of the season.
Nori Johnson came off the bench to chip in 10 points.