Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt had struggled all game shooting the basketball.
But with less than a minute left in regulation and the score tied with Furman, College of Charleston basketball coach Doug Wojcik had no doubt who he wanted taking the crucial shot — Stitt or Lawrence — in the waning seconds.
Stitt scored 14 points and Lawrence added 13 points, including a huge 3-pointer with 26.6 second to lead the Cougars past the Paladins, 60-56, Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 3,888 at TD Arena.
During the Cougars’ (10-4, 2-0 SoCon) recent four-game winning streak, Stitt and Lawrence had been nearly unstoppable. The two had combined for 40 points in the Cougars’ last two wins over Vermont (62-50) and Marist (85-75). Lawrence and Stitt had averaged more than 16 points each over the last four games.
“Sometimes, I call a play from the bench and wonder why I made that call,” Wojcik said. “With the way that Andrew and Anthony have been playing lately, I was going to ride them and let them make a play for us. You’ve got to trust those guys.”
With four minutes left in the game, neither player was in double digits. Shots that the duo had been making all season were not falling against the Paladins (3-10, 0-2 SoCon). Stitt, the Southern Conference’s top 3-point shooter, had missed all three of his 3-point attempts and Lawrence couldn’t finish around the rim.
“I had a horrible game offensively. I was missing layups, nothing was going in for me,” Lawrence said. “It was frustrating, but I knew eventually they’d start falling for me. My teammates gave me the confidence to take that 3. They told me in the huddle before that last timeout that I was going to hit the shot, and they were right.”
With the score tied at 54, Lawrence got the ball, dribbled to the top of the key, picked up a screen from Adjehi Baru, faded a step or two to his right and drained the 3-pointer with a Furman defender in his face.
“Andrew Lawrence is a veteran player in this league and you kind of expect him to make a shot like that in that situation,” said Furman coach Jeff Jackson. “It was a tough shot. We had a guy in his face. Give credit to Lawrence for making one more play than we did.”
Lawrence’s heroics were set up in part by another big 3-pointer, this one from Willis Hall, that got the Cougars to within, 54-52, with 2:17 left to play. Hall finished with six points and 11 rebounds.
“Willis played 31 minutes and took three shots; we probably need to get him more shots,” Wojcik said. “Big 3-pointer from Willis that really got us back into it.”
Early on it looked like the Cougars would cruise, leading 24-11 midway through the first half on a three-point play from Anthony Thomas.
“We played really well defensively in the first half, we just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Lawrence said. “It’s a conference game and we know we’re not going to blow anyone out. Give Furman credit, they fought back.”
Led by Colin Reddick’s career-high 25 points, the Paladins pulled within 27-22 at halftime. Furman used a 12-3 run midway through the second half to grab a 43-40 lead on Reddick’s layup with 7:51 to play.
The Paladins led 54-49 with less than three minutes left, but the Cougars finished the game on a 11-2 run.
Thomas finished with 10 points and four rebounds.
The Cougars host Samford next Thursday at TD Arena.
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