It hasn't been the kind of season that College of Charleston forward Willis Hall had hoped for back in October when the Cougars first stepped onto the floor at TD Arena for practice.
College of Charleston vs. William & Mary
When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Baltimore Arena (14,000) in Baltimore, MD.
Records: CofC 14-17; William & Mary 18-11
TV/Radio: CSS/WTMZ 910-AM
Notes: The Cougars split their season-series with William & Mary during the regular season. . The Tribe beat the Cougars, 74-63, on Jan. 27 on the road, while CofC routed William & Mary, 87-54, on Feb. 19. . The Cougars shot better than 60 percent in the victory, including going 21 of 26 from the floor in the second half. . College of Charleston is 27-14 (.659) all-time in conference tournament play as members of the Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) from 1993-98 and Southern Conference from 1998-2013. . Defensively, CofC currently ranks No. 1 in the CAA in scoring defense (62.5 ppg) which is also No. 25-best in the country. CofC also ranks No. 58 in field-goal percentage defense (40.7%).
The Cougars, who were picked to finish third in their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association, ended up in sixth place with a losing record in the CAA and overall.
But a long run in this weekend's CAA basketball tournament would help to erase the memories of an inconsistent season for the Cougars. The sixth-seeded Cougars will take on third-seeded William & Mary on Saturday beginning at 8:30 p.m. in the opening round of the CAA tournament in Baltimore.
"Everyone gets a shot in the tournament. It's a new chapter," Hall said. "It's a new chance and it comes at you pretty quick. Everyone comes into the tournament with a new chapter to be written. Everything before is in the past and you can't do anything about it. All you can do is maintain focus for those days and take care of business."
Like in any conference tournament, teams will be more intense defensively and harder to score against. Points will be at a premium. That should work in Charleston's favor as the Cougars featured the top scoring defense and the best rebounding team in the CAA during the regular season.
"When you can defend and rebound like we do, it gives you a chance any night out on the floor," Hall said. "If you catch a good offensive team on a bad shooting night, especially with how we defend and rebound, it is going to give us an advantage. Those are two staples for us. As long as we click offensively and do what we know how to do and stay efficient, we've got a real good chance."
The key for the Cougars, at least defensively, will be limiting All-CAA guard Marcus Thornton. Thornton, who averaged 18.6 points a game, scored 26 points during a 74-63 loss to the Tribe in late January on the road. Thornton was held to just nine points in an 87-54 Cougars rout on Feb. 19.
"Marcus Thornton is a really good player, especially for being a junior," said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. "He gets his own shot in a very disciplined system. He knows where his teammates are at all times, but can break it off from a ball screen and rise up and shoot. He has the freedom to do that and he plays the minutes to do that. He's a terrific athlete."
To beat William & Mary and advance in the tournament, the Cougars will have to make their share of shots, an issue they've struggled with all season.
"When we've made shots we've been a pretty tough team to beat," Wojcik said. "We're going into a new arena, so teams are going to have to adjust to new shooting backgrounds. If we can make a few shots, average something like 70 points, a game I like our chances of winning the whole thing."
Only Towson and Delaware, the two top teams in the CAA, swept the Cougars during the regular season.
"We want to go up there and be loose, be prepared and see what happens," Wojcik said. "There isn't anyone in our path we haven't played with and had a chance to win and beat this year."