College of Charleston downs Old Dominion, 51-44
College of Charleston guard Canyon Barry had not made a shot all night.
Struggling with his shooting touch, the freshman wasn't in the Cougars' starting lineup for the first time this season against Old Dominion on Wednesday night.
But when the Cougars needed him most, Barry came through with the biggest basket of his young basketball career.
Willis Hall scored 14 points and Anthony Thomas added 10 points and five rebounds to lead the College of Charleston (5-6) past Old Dominion (4-7), 51-44, at Ted Constant Convocation Center.
Leading 44-41 with less than a minute to play, Barry knocked down a 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down to put the Cougars up 47-41 with 41.2 seconds left in the game.
"It was a huge three, it's a game-winning three," said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. "It's a game-winning shot. It was a huge shot. I'd just like to see Canyon get a little more excited about it. I think he's a little too hard on himself. He remembers the bad plays more than the good plays. People have to remember he's only played 11 college games."
After losing to winless Marist on Sunday at home, Wojcik decided to shake up the Cougars' starting lineup. Anthony Thomas replaced Barry, the Cougars' leading scorer, while Jonathan Burroughs-Cook took the spot of Joe Chealey.
Thomas, who started 35 games a year ago, has come off the bench in the first 10 games this season. The senior from Winston-Salem, N.C., responded with another solid effort, grabbing three offensive rebounds, including a tap-in and a putback in the final six minutes that proved to be crucial points for the Cougars.
"If I'm a starter or if I'm coming off the bench, my mentality is still the same," said Thomas, who played 28 minutes. "I understood what coach (Wojcik) was trying to do. He wanted guys who were here last year to come out and play defense like we did last year. We took the shot clock down a couple of times and they had some smaller guys on me. I don't think they expected me to crash the glass as hard as I did."
The Cougars turned in their best defensive performance of the season, holding the Monarchs to a season-low 44 points and 31.4 percent shooting from the floor. Charleston recorded nine blocked shots as Adjehi Baru had four and Davis Wishon added three blocks and seven rebounds off the bench.
"I think we competed hard all night," Thomas said. "I think that's what we've been lacking some this season. We haven't competed as hard as we've needed to win games."
Neither team was very sharp offensively, but the Cougars did manage to connect on 13 of 14 free throws.
"Free throw shooting was the difference in the game," Wojcik said. "We miss one free throw all night and it's the last one we took. I told the guys at the eight-minute mark, not to worry about the points. I'd won plenty of games like this. We did so many other things to win this game."
Charleston struggled again at the beginning of the game as Old Dominion grabbed a 12-8 lead on Aaron Bacote's two free throws with 10:57 to play.
The Cougars answered with a 13-2 run over the next seven minutes to grab a 21-14 advantage on Hall's two free throws with 3:32 to play. It would be a lead they'd never relinquish.
The Cougars, who led 23-18 at halftime, led by as many as nine points, 27-18, early in the second half, but couldn't put the Monarchs away.
Old Dominion closed the gap to 39-37 on Bacote's layup with 3:47 to play, but Anthony Stitt answered with a 3-pointer to put the Cougars back up 42-37 with 3:13 left.
The Monarchs were able to cut the lead to three points twice down the stretch before Barry's 3-pointer sealed the victory.
"This was a step in the right direction for us," Thomas said. "We just needed a win tonight and we got it."
The Cougars will take on Kent State at 3 p.m. Saturday at TD Arena.