It’s easy to make every shot you take when you’re dunking the ball all the time.
Adjehi Baru scored a career-high 20 points and Andrew Lawrence, after missing a game with a sprained ankle, returned to the lineup to add 17 points to lead the College of Charleston past Old Dominion, 76-65, Tuesday night before a crowd of 3,418 at TD Arena.
The Cougars’ win should go a long way in helping erase the memory of the last two lopsided home losses to Louisville (80-38) and Division II Anderson (65-49) in the past two weeks.
Baru, who came to the Cougars (6-4) as one of the most highly touted recruits in the program’s history, is starting to fulfill the potential that made him a top-50 prospect coming out of high school in Richmond, Va.
Baru, just a sophomore, has three double-doubles already this season and was just a rebound short of getting his third straight. The Ivory Coast native connected on all eight of his shots from the floor, which included five dunks, and was 4 of 5 from the free-throw line. He added a blocked shot and a steal for good measure.
“He was an absolute beast tonight,” Lawrence said. “I’m really proud of him. I felt like every time he had the ball in the paint he was scoring. I’m really, really proud of him. He took his game to another level tonight.”
College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik was equally impressed with Baru’s performance.
“He had a great game,” Wojcik said. “We were able to get the ball into the post and he was able to finish.”
Baru just shrugged off the accolades.
“I’m really happy because everyone came to play tonight,” Baru said. “We really needed that win. We needed to get that win to relax a little bit after those two bad losses. Everybody got back together and tried to do their best tonight.”
The return of Lawrence seemed to help the Cougars’ offense, which struggled against Louisville and Anderson. Lawrence, who had six assists, five steals and four rebounds against the Monarchs, missed the Anderson game with a sprained ankle.
“Good players make good coaches,” Wojcik said. “He just helps us so much with ballhandling and spacing. He’s our most experienced player and he’s the quarterback.”
The Cougars’ post-exam funk appeared to be in full force again during the first half. The Cougars struggled to find any rhythm offensively, missing open shots and turning the ball over seven times.
The second half was a different story. The Cougars connected on seven of their first eight shots, including a Baru dunk on their opening possession, and took control of the game.
Three straight 3-pointers, including two from Anthony Thomas, who finished 13 points and four assists, broke open the game during the first four minutes of the second half.
“We missed a lot of shots that we normally make in the first half,” Lawrence said. “Those shots started to fall for us in the second half and our defense created some turnovers and we got some easy baskets. We kind of put it all together in the second half.”
The Monarchs made a brief run and pulled to within, 45-42, on DeShawn Painter’s free throw with 12:51 left.
But the Cougars went on a 12-2 run over the next four minutes to secure the victory.
Trent Wiedeman, who missed six games with a sprained right ankle, rolled his left ankle midway through the second half and did not return to the game.
“It was tough see Trent go down again,” Wojcik said. “We won’t know anything for a couple of days. I don’t think it’s as serious as the last time.”