COUGARS DEN: Looking back on the LSU win

CofC's Terrance O'Donohue pressures LSU's Ben Simmons at TD Arena where the Cougars upset the LSU Tigers on Monday night, winning 70-58. Wade Spees/Staff November 30, 2015

I wanted to wait a day before commenting on College of Charleston’s 70-58 win over LSU Monday night.

I wanted to reflect a little bit on the game make sure that anything I wrote wasn’t due to emotion.

First. I thought the crowd was fantastic. Someone commented that the crowd noise Monday night against LSU was similar to atmosphere during the Dayton game in the NIT during the Andrew Goudelock era.

Since I was at both games, I’d have to agree. Maybe it was a little louder for the Dayton game, but not by much and the students rushing the court after the win was totally cool

I loved their energy and enthusiasm.

Second. No coach or group of players needed a signature win more than CofC’s Earl Grant and this bunch. For everything they’ve been through over the past two-plus years, this is a coach and a team that deserved to win a game on a big stage against a Power 5 opponent with an NBA lottery pick in the lineup.

You could see the absolute joy on the faces of some of the older guys like Canyon Barry and Terrance O’Donohue, who have certainly been on a roller-coaster ride for the past two seasons.

No one deserved a break more than those guys.

Third. While I don’t think this validates Earl Grant as a head coach, I do think it shows the progress the program is making. Take into account the Cougars performance at Davidson, plus this win against LSU, and it’s easy to say that the program is headed in the right direction.

Not saying the Cougars are where they were under John Kresse or Bobby Cremins, but it’s starting to move in that direction. And to think they are doing it without Joe Chealey and Grant Riller shows that Earl has done a good job of bringing in some quality players and adding depth to the program.

Fourth. Nick Harris showed why so many have been so high on him since the beginning of last year. The first couple of games of the season I thought Nick looked lost on the court. But then you have to remember that he redshirted last season and had shoulder surgery in preseason. He’s just getting back into game shape.

Earl said he was trying to ease Nick into the lineup, but an injury to Donovan Gilmore in the first two minutes against LSU and foul trouble for Jarrell Brantley forced Nick into extended playing time.

His dunk on Canyon Barry’s miss, his ability to run the floor, and his ability to alter shots and be a true post presence makes the Cougars that much deeper and better. In 25 minutes, Nick had six points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

He’s going to be more PT as the season moves on.

Fifth. Marquise Pointer is going to be a very good point guard before it’s all said and done. Twelve points, six rebounds, four steals, one assist in 24 minutes. He’s shown he can hit the outside shot and he’s an excellent on-the-ball defender. In two years, this team will be built around Pointer, Brantley, Chealey and Cameron Johnson. That’s a very good nucleus.

Finally. Ben Simmons. The kid is legit. I heard some CofC fans comment that Simmons was “soft”. He’s 18 and this was only his fifth collegiate basketball game. Eighteen rebounds and two blocks are the kind of statistics that a “soft” player puts up.

Yes, he is skilled. Very skilled. He isn’t a classic a back-to-the-basket kind of talent. And yes, there were a couple of times when he drove to the rim and he laid the ball up when he could have dunked it. But he’s a player.

It was almost like the court was too small for his 6-10 frame. He ran like a guy six inches shorter and he is skilled like a shooting guard/small forward.

On the next level, he’s going to be a handful.

It will be interesting to see how the Cougars respond to a little bit of success. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them struggle Saturday against The Citadel. The Bulldogs will run and gun and they’d better be ready for it.