Barry, Chealey help Cougars snap skid

There are times when statistics don’t tell the entire story.

For the record, College of Charleston senior guard Pat Branin scored five points, handed out three assists and had a rebound against Elon on Wednesday night.

On the surface, those statistics wouldn’t raise many eyebrows, but a closer look reveals that Branin had a pivotal role in the Cougars’ victory over Elon, ending a three-game losing streak.

Canyon Barry scored 22 points and Joe Chealey added 16 points to lead College of Charleston past Elon, 77-63, before a crowd of 1,729 at TD Arena.

But the victory might have come without Branin on the floor. With guards Anthony Stitt and Cameron Johnson in early foul trouble, Branin entered the game in the first half and gave the Cougars a much-needed spark.

Coming into the season, Branin had seen limited action, playing mainly in mop-up situations. But when Stitt missed seven games after undergoing knee surgery last month, the Richmond native was inserted into the Cougars’ (8-20, 3-12 in CAA) rotation, averaging about 10 minutes a game.

With Stitt’s return, Branin’s minutes have decreased, but his confidence has remained high.

“I got some playing time in crucial situations earlier in the season when Anthony was out and that really helped me and gave me a lot of confidence,” Branin said. “I came in and just tried to play within myself and have a positive impact on the game.”

He did just that, scoring on a driving layup against the Phoenix zone defense and later knocking down a 3-pointer to go along with his three assists.

“We had some of our starters and main-minutes players in foul trouble and Pat was able to come in and there was no drop-off,” said Barry, who was four of seven from 3-point range. “He came in an executed and ran the plays well. He didn’t turn the ball over and was able to finish and hit a 3-pointer. That’s huge in a game like this and big for us because we needed a spark.”

Despite Stitt’s return, College of Charleston coach Earl Grant knew that Branin’s number would be called upon again. Branin’s earlier play with Stitt out of the lineup made it easier for Grant to have confidence in the senior guard.

“Pat is ready for these moments, he’s a senior,” Grant said. “He’s really good in practice. He’s been playing some key minutes for us already this season. I think that helped him grow and mature for moments like this. I was so proud of him and he played great for us tonight.”

Elon had no answer for the Cougars’ ball movement against their zone defense. The Cougars shot a season-high 56.3 percent from the floor and made eight of 19 3-pointers.

“We shared the ball tonight, we gave up good shots, made that extra pass to get that wide-open look and that was really nice to see,” Grant said. “We were turning down good shots for great shots and we were very unselfish.”

Charleston swept the two-game season series against the Phoenix (11-17, 3-12) this season. The Cougars beat Elon, 66-50, on Jan. 14.

Tanner Samson did his best to keep the Phoenix in the game, with 22 points on six 3-pointers. He had 17 points in the first half, but managed just one 3-pointer over the final 25 minutes of the game.

“I think our defense did a better job in finding (Samson),” Grant said. “He did a better job of contesting his shots and that’s really the key against a player like Samson. He’s going to hit some shots, you just want to make it difficult for him.”

The Cougars will take on James Madison at 7 p.m. Saturday.