Brown keeps Cougars running

College of Charleston’s Jill Brown leads the Southern Conference in playing time.

Jillian Brown hates to sit on the bench.

On those few occasions when the College of Charleston junior point guard isn’t in the game, she can’t seem to sit still. Brown set a school record a year ago, averaging more than 37 minutes of playing time per game. This year, she’s on pace to break that record.

Brown leads the Southern Conference in playing time, with more than 1,100 minutes of action — or nearly 38 minutes a game. She has played 40 minutes in 13 games and 39 minutes in five others. If the Cougars make it to the SoCon tournament title game this weekend in Asheville, N.C., Brown could surpass the 1,200-minute mark, which would be a league record.

The Cougars, the No. 4 seed in this weekend’s tournament, face Appalachian State today at 2:15 p.m.

Since arriving on campus three years ago, Brown has played in 87 games, making 82 starts. Sitting on the bench is just not an option for the Midlothian, Va., native.

“There are times in a game when I try to take her out and she just doesn’t want to come out of the game,” said first-year College of Charleston coach Natasha Adair. “She gets jittery if she’s on the bench for too long. She starts looking at me and she’ll just say, ‘OK coach, I’ve got to go back in.’ That’s just the competitor in her.’ ”

And unlike last season, when Charleston was content to walk the ball up the floor and run its half-court sets, the Cougars are pressing, trapping and pushing the ball up the floor.

“I like the way we play now, it’s the style I’ve been used to playing all my life,” Brown said. “From our very first practice, we’ve been doing a lot of running, a lot of conditioning drills, so everyone on this team is in shape.”

The point guard position is crucial in Adair’s up-tempo system. Brown sets the tone both offensively and defensively. She attacks at both ends of the floor, creating easy transition baskets with her defense — she has 161 career steals, which ranks seventh in school history — and distributing the ball to her teammates. Brown set the school’s Division I mark with 181 assists this season.

“Jill makes us go,” Adair said. “She’s a pass-first point guard and takes pride in both her passing and defense. She gets everyone involved in the offense.”

As a matter of fact, Adair would like to see Brown shoot more and has had to prod her to put up more shots to keep defenses honest. Brown is averaging just under five points a game.

“She’s learning,” Adair said. “She’s realizes that if teams are going to back off of her, she’s got to keep them honest and make them come out and defend her. That will open up the rest of the floor for everyone else.”

Brown is confident the Cougars can make a run at a SoCon tournament title this weekend.

“We need to play good defense, we need to rebound the ball and hit our free throws,” Brown said. “If we do that, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”