College of Charleston coach Earl Grant warned anyone who would listen this week against taking any team in the Colonial Athletic Association lightly.
The Cougars were going to face Delaware, a team that had managed just six wins in 25 games and only one in the conference this season.
The Blue Hens’ record didn’t seem to matter Thursday night.
Kory Holden scored a game-high 17 points and Marvin King-Davis had 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead Delaware past College of Charleston, 62-59, Thursday night at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del.
It was just the second league win for the Blue Hens, who improved to 7-19 overall and 2-13 in the CAA. The Cougars fell to 16-10 and 8-7. A victory over the Blue Hens would have clinched at least a .500 mark in the CAA for the first time since the Cougars joined the league in 2013.
A poor-shooting performance in the first half ultimately doomed the Cougars. Charleston was just nine of 29 from the floor in the opening half and only three of 11 from 3-point range.
“We just didn’t play well in the first half,” Grant said. “I thought we settled for some things from the perimeter against their zone and it took us a while to figure out where the ball needed to go. We had some good looks in the first half, we just didn’t knock them down.”
While the Cougars were not hitting shots, the Blue Hens were grabbing offensive rebounds and getting second chance points. Or Holden, one of the CAA’s top scorers, was knocking down 3-pointers. Holden scored 14 points as Delaware raced to a 33-22 halftime lead.
“Delaware has some guys who are very capable of scoring the ball,” Grant said. “They’ve been in a lot of close games, especially here lately. Their last four or five games have come down to the final couple of minutes against really good teams in our conference. There are no easy wins in this league, especially on the road. We were not tough enough tonight to win a road game.”
The Cougars came out of their offensive funk in the second half, scoring 37 points over the final 20 minutes.
“I thought we moved the ball better and found some soft spots in their zone,” Grant said. “I think you look at a team’s record and you make an opinion on how hard or easy the game is going to be and that’s a mistake. We played well in the second half, we just didn’t do the things we needed to do in the first half to win.”
Trailing 57-49 with 2:20 to play, the Cougars made one final push.
Jarrell Brantley, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, finished off a three-point play to cut the gap to 57-52 with 2:07 to play.
After a Delaware miss, Charleston’s Cameron Johnson went coast-to-coast scoring a layup to make it a one possession game, 57-54, with 49.5 seconds to play.
But the Cougars couldn’t come up with another stop as Delaware’s Anthony Mosely sank three of four free throws down the stretch.
Still, the Cougars had a chance to tie the game in the final moments and send it to overtime. Marquise Pointer’s half-court heave hit the backboard and nearly went in at the buzzer.
“We had a chance to send it to overtime and maybe win it, but that would have been robbery,” Grant said.
The Cougars will face UNC Wilmington on Saturday night at 6.