COUGARS DEN: Home finale Saturday against UNC Wilmington

CofC's James Bourne. The College of Charleston Cougars played Southern Wesleyan in an exhibition game Thursday night at TD Arena. Wade Spees/Staff November 5, 2015

I will admit that I was one of those people rolling my eyes when College of Charleston coach Earl Grant went into “coach talk” mode and told the media on Wednesday that the Cougars couldn’t take Delaware for granted.

Well, I did.

They’d won just one game in the Colonial Athletic Association up until Thursday. Like many I assumed they were a team that couldn’t wait for the season to be over. Despite beating Drexel last week, the Blue Hens had been blown out by Elon and William & Mary and lost by double-digits to Hofstra as well recently.

The Blue Hens could score, Kory Holden and Marvin King-Davis are solid players, but they were having trouble guarding the door.

The Cougars defense was fine in the 62-59 loss to the Blue Hens, but a poor-shooting first half ultimately doomed CofC.

That’s been their biggest issue all season, scoring. When they score 65 points this year, especially in the CAA, they’ve been nearly unbeatable. The Cougars are 5-1 in the CAA when scoring 65 or more points. Their only loss was to William & Mary back in early January.

Jarrell Brantley and Marquise Pointer have certainly done their part. They are two of the top freshmen in the CAA this season and Cameron Johnson has picked up his scoring this season. But if either of those three guys are off, the Cougars struggle offensively.

Evan Bailey has tried to pick up the scoring slack and he’s had really good games, but he’s still playing a little too much at power forward for my liking. When he’s forced to defend in the paint, he struggles on both ends of the floor.

Speaking of top freshmen, we’ll see three of the top CAA freshmen Saturday in Brantley, Pointer and UNCW’s Chris Bryce. Bryce is averaging in double figures for the Seahawks.

Not sure who I’m going to vote for freshman of the year.

It’ll be a tough choice between Brantley and Pointer. I think both have had excellent seasons. I’ll probably have to wait until the end of the season before making a decision.

This will be James Bourne’s last game at TD Arena.

I think he’s been a solid addition to the Cougars roster. He hasn’t put up spectacular numbers, but he’s come in and done exactly what Earl Grant had hoped. He’s an excellent leader with a big body that can bang and grind in the post.

From all accounts, he’s very popular with his teammates and has been embraced by this team in only one season.

UNC WILMINGTON (20-6, 12-3 in CAA) at COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (16-10, 8-7 in CAA).

When: Saturday.

Time: 6 p.m.

Where: TD Arena

TV/Radio: MyTV/WTMZ 910-AM

Series History: : CofC Leads 10-9

Last Meeting: UNCW def. CofC, 65-55, on Jan. 30, 2016 in Wilmington, N.C.

THE COACHES

College of Charleston: Earl Grant is 25-34 in 2nd season at CofC.

UNCW: Kevin Keatts is 38-20 in 2nd season at UNCW.

PROJECTED COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON STARTERS

#21 Marquise Pointer, G, 6-0, 205, Fr. (11.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 29.5 min)

#12 Cameron Johnson, G, 6-4, 196, So. (12.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 32.4 min)

#3 Payton Hulsey, G, 6-5, 215, Jr.-Tr. (4.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 27.6 min)

#5 Jarrell Brantley, F, 6-7, 245, Fr. (11.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 27.4 min)

#23 Nick Harris, F, 6-10, 245, RS-Fr. (5.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.3 apg, 19.9 min)

PROJECTED UNCW STARTERS

#10 Denzel Ingram, G, 6-0, 180, RS-Jr. (12.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 31.4 min)

#12 C.J. Bryce, G, 6-5, 180, Fr. (10.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, 23.8 min)

#1 Chris Flemmings, G, 6-5, 175, RS-Jr. (16.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 30.3 min)

#0 Craig Ponder, G, 6-1, 185, RS-Sr. (10.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 25.0 min)

#15 Devontae Cacok, F, 6-7, 210, Fr. (3.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.1 apg, 10.0 min)

BATTLE OF THE GUARDS

Four of the Top 15 guards and ball distributors in the league hail from College of Charleston and UNCW. The Cougars are represented by junior Payton Hulsey (8th, 3.5 apg) and freshman Marquise Pointer (11th, 3.0 apg), while the Seahawks boast sophomore Jordon Talley (4th, 4.4 apg) and junior Denzel Ingram (10th, 3.2 apg). Hulsey, a junior college transfer from Eastern Florida State College, is 10 assists away from recording a 100+ assist season and ranks No. 60 nationally with a 2.65 assist-to-turnover ratio.

They Said It

“It’s our last game at home and the last time our fans will be able to see us at TD Arena. We will have a lot of former players back for alumni weekend. We are playing against a great team in UNCW. They have a lot of offensive weapons. All of our players should be excited, because this is one of the biggest games you can play in all year, especially against the top team in the CAA. We will get our rest, come up with a good game plan and be ready to compete on Saturday.” – CofC coach Earl Grant.

“I love the College of Charleston. It’s been an easy transition for me. When I was deciding on where to play my fifth year after Winthrop, this was an opportunity to be able to provide veteran leadership, mentor the younger players and help turnaround the program. The fan base, coaches and teammates truly embraced me. This is my family and I love them all like brothers.” – CofC forward James Bourne.

APM