COUGARS DEN: CofC needs to stay out of ‘play-in’ game

Payton Hulsey drives the hoop in the College of Charleston win over Northeastern Thursday night 68-61 in OT.(Michael Wiser)

It’s the final week of the regular-season and College of Charleston is looking to stay out of the Colonial Athletic Association’s “play-in game” at next week’s tournament in Baltimore.

Currently the Cougars are in sixth place and are out of the “play-in game” on March 4.

But that could all change after Thursday night when the Cougars face Northeastern.

A Cougars win and they clinch sixth place and avoid the “play-in game”. A loss, however, and chances are they are forced to play in that extra tournament game. Now there’s still a chance the Cougars could get sixth place even with a loss, but a lot of things have to fall into place, like the Huskies losing to Drexel on Saturday and the Cougars beating Hofstra.

There are too many scenarios to get into. Suffice is to say the Cougars need to take care of business Thursday night in Boston.

In the understatement of the season, CofC head coach Earl Grant called it a “huge game” and hoped the Cougars would play their best basketball of the season this week against Northeastern and Hofstra (Saturday’s opponent).

Despite the fact that the Cougars have already beaten both of these teams, I’d say they were underdogs going into both games.

For those of you who were at the Northeastern game on Jan. 28 (a 68-61 OT win for the Cougars) at TD Arena, you know how physically talented the Huskies are. Remember the Cougars were down by 20 points with about 14 minutes left in the second half before they finally got things going offensively. Northeastern freshman Jeremy Miller hit a couple of 3-pointers that night. The Huskies had issues scoring down the stretch, as the Cougars outscored them 28-8 in the final 15 minutes of regulation.

For my money, Northeastern has the best talent in the league and the Cougars didn’t have to play against Quincy Ford, a 6-8 forward/guard who is averaging 16.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a game back on Jan. 28. Ford missed the CofC game that night with an injury.

Ford is a beast and a difficult match-up for the Cougars, much like Jarrell Brantley can be for CofC. Ford and David Walker make a dynamic one-two punch for the Huskies.

The issue for the Cougars won’t be defense if Saturday’s 59-55 OT loss to UNC Wilmington is any indication. Grant called their defensive effort the best he’s ever seen in a decade as an assistant and head coach at the collegiate level. That’s a mouthful considering where he has coached – Wichita State and Clemson.

The problem for the Cougars has been on offense. Payton Hulsey has tried to be more aggressive in the last two games and is actually looking to be another scoring threat. Missed FTs aside, I thought Payton played very well against UNC Wilmington.

I’m not sure the Cougars can go up there and beat the Huskies on their home floor on senior night, but every time I count them out, they surprise me.

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (16-11, 8-8 in CAA) at NORTHEASTERN (15-14, 7-9).

When: Thursday.

Time: 7 p.m.

Where: Matthews Arena

Radio: WTMZ 910-AM

Internet: http://portal.stretchinternet.com/northeastern/

Series History: Northeastern leads 3-2

Last Meeting: CofC defeated Northeastern, 68-61, in overtime on Jan. 28 at TD Arena.

THE COACHES

College of Charleston: Earl Grant is 25-35 in 2nd season at CofC.

Northeastern: Bill Coen is 160-159 in 10th season at Northeastern.

PROJECTED COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON STARTERS

#21 Marquise Pointer, G, 6-0, 205, Fr. (11.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 30.0 min)

#12 Cameron Johnson, G, 6-4, 196, So. (11.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 32.4 min)

#3 Payton Hulsey, G, 6-5, 215, Jr.-Tr. (4.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.4 apg, 28.0 min)

#5 Jarrell Brantley, F, 6-7, 245, Fr. (11.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 27.9 min)

#23 Nick Harris, F, 6-10, 245, RS-Fr. (4.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.3 apg, 20.0 min)

PROJECTED NORTHEASTERN STARTERS

#15 Caleb Donnelly, G, 6-1, 181, RS-Sr. (4.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 19.4 min)

#4 David Walker, G, 6-6, 196, Sr. (18.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, 38.2 min)

#12 Quincy Ford, G/F, 6-8, 225, RS-Sr. (16.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 34.5 min)

#33 Zach Stahl, F/G, 6-5, 215, Sr. (10.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 29.4 min)

#11 Jeremy Miller, F, 6-10, 232, Fr. (8.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.4 apg, 21.0 min)

APM