Cougars crush Hofstra, 67-49
College of Charleston basketball coach Doug Wojcik couldn't decide what he was more pleased with Saturday afternoon - the Cougars' defensive effort against Hofstra or the way the team shared the ball and shot from 3-point range.
OK, he was happy with both, but truth be told, Wojcik, who has built a reputation as one of the top defensive coaches in college basketball, was probably more satisfied with the Cougars' stifling defense, which held its fourth opponent to less than 50 points this season.
Willis Hall scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and Anthony Stitt added 16 points to lead the College of Charleston past Hofstra, 67-49, Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 3,131 at TD Arena.
Less than a month ago, Charleston (12-11, 4-4 in CAA) gave up 75 points to the Pride (7-16, 3-5) in a 75-71 loss during the Cougars' first road trip in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Cougars were determined not to let that happen again, especially with a large homecoming crowd on hand and the induction of former Charleston great Cedric Webber into the school's athletic hall of fame.
Hofstra shot a season-low 27 percent from the floor, connected on just 16 of 59 shots.
"We did a better job of shrinking the floor this game," Wojcik said. "We contested most of their shots, but they missed some layups. What we did better this game was cleaning up the rebounds and not giving them a lot of second opportunities. They are a very physical team and our ball screen defense was much better this game."
One of the keys for the Cougars was shutting down Hofstra forward Zeke Upshaw. Upshaw came into the game second in the CAA in scoring, averaging more than 19 points a game. Charleston's Anthony Thomas chased Upshaw all over the court, forcing the fifth-year senior to work for every shot. Upshaw finished with 14 points, but was just five of 14 from the field.
"Anthony did a great job on Upshaw," Wojcik said. "He did a phenomenal job up there in the first game. We just got into foul trouble in the first game. I thought Anthony had a great floor game as well. He only scores three points, but he has nine rebounds and four assists and only one turnover."
The game didn't start out exactly as Wojcik had hoped. The Cougars went without a single point for the first five minutes of the game and found themselves trailing by seven points early in the game.
"I don't think we started the game very focused," Wojcik said. "To think we were down 7-0 four minutes into the game and then to hold them to 14 points the rest of the first half wasn't on my mind at all. I thought everyone really responded after our first timeout."
After missing their first six 3-point attempts, the Cougars made 12 of their next 18, at one point hitting five threes in a row. Hall, Stitt and Nori Johnson were a combined 12 of 20 from 3.
"We were getting really good shots," said Hall, who recorded his eighth double-double of the season. "We had really good movement and gave each other those good lanes for driving and dishing the ball. We got a lot of step-in 3s today. I think our ball movement helped us be a little more consistent on our 3s today."
Trailing 7-0 early, the Cougars went on a 19-3 run to take a 19-10 lead on Hall's first 3-pointer at the 7:39 mark. Hall, a fifth-year senior, had missed his first three attempts from 3-point range up until that point in the game.
"It just took the old man a little longer to get going," Wojcik said with a chuckle.
The Pride went nearly seven minutes without a field goal in the first half and managed just one free throw over that stretch.
"We pride ourselves on our defense," Stitt said. "We tried to have a hand in their face on every shot."
Leading 30-21 at halftime, the Cougars extended their advantage to 41-23 on back-to-back 3s from Hall and Nori Johnson with 14:12 to play.
The Cougars built their biggest lead, 53-27, on Johnson's three with 8:03 to play.
"It was just a really good performance on a special day for the college," Wojcik said. "It started with Cedric Webber getting inducted into the hall of fame. We don't have football, so it's new to me to have homecoming in February. The kids really responded today."
Canyon Barry, who had missed the last eight games with a broken finger, returned to the lineup Saturday. Barry, a freshman, played 10 minutes and scored two points.
The Cougars will take on Delaware on the road Wednesday night.