Eight days ago, College of Charleston was one Grant Riller jumper away from beating Central Florida on its home floor.
The assumption was that at a neutral gym, the Cougars would stand a better chance against the Knights.
It wasn’t the case.
Collin Smith scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead four players in double figures as Central Florida whipped a lethargic College of Charleston team 77-56 Sunday afternoon in the final day of ESPN’s Wooden Legacy tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Cougars (4-4) went 1-2 at the four-day tournament, beating Providence 63-55 on Friday and losing to Wake Forest 65-56 on Thanksgiving Day.
Playing in front of his hometown fans on Nov. 23, Riller scored 20 points in a 72-71 loss to the Knights at Addition Finance Arena in Orlando, Fla. His final shot that would have given the Cougars the victory just missed at the buzzer.
Riller, who finished with a team-high 17 points Sunday, never got the chance to play the hero for the Cougars as Central Florida led the entire game.
“I’ll have to look at the film to see exactly what our issues were, but our energy level wasn’t where it needed to be and should be,” said College of Charleston coach Earl Grant. “In a four day, three-game tournament, it comes down to which team has them most energy on that last day. I thought for whatever reason, Central Florida had more energy that we did today.”
The Cougars looked like a completely different team than they were just two days earlier when they handled Big East member Providence easily.
“It was a completely different team from Friday as far as our energy level,” Grant said. “I thought we were making some progress in terms of focusing on each game and really being sharp.”
The 7-0 Collin was the difference in the paint for the Knights, scoring at will and kicking the ball out to open shooters when the Cougars’ defense collapsed on him.
“The big guy was a load, and we really didn’t have an answer for him,” Grant said. “He dominated the game, and you have to give him some credit. It was hard to slow him down. As he made an impact in the paint, we tried to get the ball out because there was so much pressure in the paint, giving them some inside-out 3-pointers. They were rhythm 3-pointers, and that opened the game up. He got our big guys in foul trouble early.”
The Cougars quickly found themselves down by double digits but cut the lead to 33-27 on back-to-back 3-pointers from Jaylen McManus and Sam Miller with 2:54 to play in the first half. The Knights ended the half on a 7-2 run to grab a 40-29 lead at halftime.
“I’m very disappointed because we’re a much better team than we showed today,” Grant said. “We only had 10 turnovers, but the turnovers we did have were awful.”
McManus finished with eight points and five rebounds, while Zep Jasper had seven points.
The Cougars will have eight days off for exams this week. Charleston will face Coker on Sunday, Dec. 8, at TD Arena at 2 p.m.
“We need to get some rest and get back into the gym and work on the things that will make us a better basketball team by building on the positives and working on the negatives,” Grant said.