College of Charleston women's basketball coach Natasha Adair wanted the Cougars to surge their way into the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Cougars, who were picked to finish seventh in a preseason poll, gave two-time defending conference champion Delaware all they could handle in the semifinals of the CAA Women's Basketball Tournament Saturday afternoon.
Delaware senior Kelsey Buchanan recorded a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, and made a clutch jumper with 39 seconds left, to help lift the Blue Hens past third-seeded College of Charleston, 60-52, in the semifinal of the CAA Women's Basketball Tournament at the Show Place Arena.
It was anything but an easy win for the Blue Hens, who trailed for most of the first half against the Cougars, who forced 24 turnovers.
"We've come a long way," Adair said. "This is a team that was picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches poll. We finished third in the conference and made it to the semifinals of the CAA Championship. It's something our seniors can take pride in. This will be their legacy. We talked about surging in to the CAA - I think we did that."
The Cougars (17-14) couldn't overcome a poor shooting night - converting on just 27.7 percent of their shots from the floor - or the size advantage of the Blue Hens, who outrebounded Charleston, 60-33.
"First and foremost, I'm proud of my team," Adair said. "I think we played with energy, and I think we played with heart. We wanted this one. It is disappointing because I think we had it in our hands - we just didn't squeeze hard enough."
The Cougars got out to a quick start, eventually taking a 17-6 lead early midway through the opening half.
The Blue Hens (20-9) utilized a 17-2 run over the next eight minutes to jump ahead, 23-19, following a Jodi Salyer jumper at the 5:57 mark.
Despite shooting just 22.9 percent (8-35) in the first half, the Cougars led at halftime, 27-26, thanks in large part to 14 turnovers from the Blue Hens that resulted in 10 CofC points.
Charleston's one-point halftime lead did not last long, as the Cougars lost their advantage for good at the 19:21 mark of the second half, following two free throws from Joy Caracciolo. The Cougars stayed within striking distance over the course of the second half, never trailing by more than six until the final 19 seconds.
Despite their shooting struggles, Charleston got within two, 52-50, with 2:26 left, after Mikaela Hopkins scored off a nice assist from senior point guard Jill Brown.
Buchanan hit a jumper from the top of the key with 39 seconds remaining that pushed the lead to four points, 54-50, to put the game out of reach