It wasn’t always pretty, but it was a win and a big one for the College of Charleston.
Andrew Lawrence hit two free throws with 0.6 seconds left to play to lift the College of Charleston over Western Carolina, 67-65, Wednesday night at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee, N.C.
The Cougars (20-8, 12-4 SoCon) have won 20 games for the fourth time in five seasons, and with the victory and assured themselves of a first-round bye in next month’s Southern Conference tournament in Asheville, N.C. The Catamounts fell to 11-17 and 8-8.
The Cougars, who won at the Ramsey Center for the first time since the 2007-08 season, led by as many as 12 points late in the second half. With 80 seconds left to play, Charleston appeared to have the game in hand after Lawrence sank two free throws to give the Cougars a 65-56 advantage.
But, Western Carolina’s Trey Sumler, who finished with a game-high 24 points, scored nine answered points, including a driving layup with 4.6 seconds to play to tie the game, 65-65.
“For most of the game, we did a good job on Sumler,” said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. “Give Sumler credit, down the stretch he hit some tough shots and got them back into the game.”
Instead of calling a timeout, the Cougars inbounded the ball to Lawrence, who raced down the floor and caught the Catamounts’ defense unprepared. Lawrence’s running one-handed shot missed, but the senior was fouled and sent to the free-throw line with under a second to play.
Lawrence made the first free throw and then intentionally missed three straight times. But each time Lawrence attempted a free throw, Sumler was called for a lane violation, forcing the Cougars captain to shoot again.
“With under a second left, we wanted Andrew to miss the free throw,” Wojcik said. “Making a full-court shot is a lot tougher than having a set play out of bounds after a made free throw.”
Charleston trailed by as many as nine points in the first half, but used a 24-6 run to take a 37-28 advantage on Lawrence’s 15-footer with 18:18 left in the game.
The Cougars took their largest lead, 63-51, on Trent Wiedeman’s jumper with 3:08 to go.
Wiedeman finished with a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. Adjehi Baru added 13 points and nine rebounds, while Lawrence and Anthony Stitt had 12 points each.
The Cougars will face Gardner-Webb at TD Arena Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.