The College of Charleston battled back from an early 12-point deficit and hung on for an 80-73 win over Kent State in an ESPN BracketBuster game played at the M.A.C. Center in Kent, Ohio.
The Cougars managed to build up a 19-point second half lead only to have the Golden Flashes find the range from beyond the 3-point line and whittle it to two points. But Charleston hit 8 of 10 from the free throw line, including its final six, to up its record in BracketBuster games to 5-1.
Charleston improved to 17-11. Kent State saw a seven-game winning streak end as the Golden Flashes fell to 19-7. The Cougars return to Southern Conference action Thursday at 8 p.m. against Georgia Southern in their final home game of the season. Charleston ends its regular season at 3 p.m. Saturday at The Citadel.
The Cougars got a career-high 27 points from sophomore Nori Johnson, who was the eighth man in the rotation when the season began but has now started the last 12 games. Senior Antwaine Wiggins, who ended up at point guard because of Andrew Lawrence's foul troubles, added 17 points, 10 of which came from the foul line. And sophomore Trent Wiedeman earned his ninth double-double of the season and 13th of his career with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Kent State jumped out to a 17-5 lead before the Cougars finally began to get untracked offensively. Charleston went on an 8-0 run and finally tied the game at 23 when Wiggins got a steal and hit Johnson who knocked down the second of his five 3-pointers. Kent State immediately moved back in front. But Charleston enjoyed a productive final minute with Matt Sundberg hitting a long 3-pointer, Wiedeman hitting two free throws and Jordan Scott getting a steal and a free throw to give the Cougars a 36-33 halftime lead.
Byington, now 5-3 since taking over for Bobby Cremins who is out on a medical leave of absence, called the win "unbelievable."
"(Kent State) was 11-1 at home, and I can see them in the NCAA Tournament," Byington said. "It was a great, great road win. I'm proud of our guys. Nori was great."