As the final seconds were ticking off the clock Saturday afternoon at TD Arena, freshman guard Joe Chealey drove the length of the floor for what would be the game-tying basket.
As Chealey went up for the layup, Kent State's Kris Brewer swiped at the ball. Chealey's shot, which came with five seconds to play, rolled off the rim and the Golden Flashes came up with the rebound to secure the victory.
Those final few seconds were a microcosm of the first half of the Cougars' season - close, but not quite enough to finish the job.
Brewer scored 20 points and Darren Goodson added 10 to lead Kent State past the College of Charleston, 58-54, before crowd of 2,361 at TD Arena.
The Cougars (5-7) will take an eight-day break for the Christmas holidays before returning to the Lowcountry for a cross-town match-up with The Citadel on Dec. 29 at McAlister Field. The Golden Flashes improved to 9-2.
In a game that featured 16 lead changes, 10 ties and 48 fouls, the Cougars couldn't overcome 21 turnovers and a poor night at the free throw line. After missing just one foul shot in a 51-44 win over Old Dominion Wednesday night, the Cougars were just 16 of 29 (55.2 percent) from the free throw line against Kent State.
"When you're not shooting the ball well, you can survive two of three things, but not all three," College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik said after the game. "You can't survive 21 turnovers and 16 of 29 from the free throw line. We could have survived not shooting well from 3-point range (2 of 14), but not all three. It was a disappointing loss, but they all are."
Trailing 55-52 with 17 seconds to play, Chealey got the Cougars to within a point, 55-54, with his driving layup with 13.7 seconds to play.
The Cougars immediately fouled Kent State guard Kellon Thomas, who made one of two free throws, with 13.2 seconds to play.
The Cougars got the rebound and Chealey raced down the floor.
"We got what we wanted the last two possessions," Wojcik said. "Joe was supposed to drive the ball and get to the rim or kicked it out for a three on our next-to-last possession. He scores, we're down a point. We foul, they make one of two from the line and we've got a chance to tie the game. Joe's shot just came up a little short."
Wojcik certainly can't fault the Cougars effort. The Golden Flashes, who came in averaging more than 77 points a game, shot just 33 percent from the floor. The Cougars, who blocked six shots, outrebounded Kent State, 41-33.
"Our effort was terrific, just terrific," Wojcik said. "We got after it. We were attentive. We were flying around giving great effort. We were all over the glass, but we had just one second chance basket in the first half. We're just not converting. It's like there's a lid on the basket. We played hard. It comes down to free throw shooting and turnovers."
It was an ugly first half that saw neither team break the 20-point barrier. The two teams were a combined 11 of 49 from the floor as Kent State led 17-16 going into the locker room.
"We started the game poorly and so did they," Wojcik said.
The two teams traded baskets throughout the second half as neither could manage to pull away from the other. The Cougars and Golden Flashes each managed to build a five-point leads only to have the other team answer.
After Brewer gave Kent State a 30-25 lead, Willis Hall, who led the Cougars with 14 points and nine rebounds, scored seven straight points to give the Cougars a 34-30 lead.
"We just couldn't make that one extra play to put some distance between us," Hall said.
Under Wojcik, the Cougars are 12-3 in true road games and 14-12 at home. It's a statistic that the head coach wants to improve upon.
"We've been a great road team in a year-and-a-half I've been here," Wojcik said. "We lost a lot in front of our home crowd and that's very disappointing. You win on the road and you're a tough team. We've got to find a way to win at home. Our fans have been terrific. They've hung in there. They deserve a few more wins."
Anthony Thomas finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Adjehi Baru and Anthony Stitt had seven each.