Cougars down Dukes, 75-61

Anthony Stitt led the College of Charleston over James Madison with 26 points in the Cougars' 75-61 win at TD Arena on Tuesday, January 7, 2014. Wade Spees/Staff

James Madison coach James Brady had seen the video. It was just impossible to miss on film.

The College of Charleston just can't shoot the ball, especially from 3-point range.

That was until Tuesday night.

Playing in their inaugural game in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Cougars put on a shooting clinic on how to score against a zone defense.

Anthony Stitt scored a season-high 23 points and Nori Johnson added a season-high 18 points as the College of Charleston connected on 12 3-pointers to beat James Madison, 75-61, Tuesday night before a crowd of 4,163 at TD Arena.

The Cougars (9-7, 1-0 in CAA) actually shot better from 3-point range - 12 of 23 for 52 percent - than they did from the rest of the floor (13 of 36 for 36 percent). Stitt and Johnson combined to go 10 of 17 from 3-point range with each connecting on five 3-pointers. The 12 3-pointers tied a season-high for the Cougars, who won their fourth straight game.

Great perimeter shooting hasn't been the norm for Charleston this season. The Cougars came into the game shooting less than 30 percent from 3-point range. The Dukes (6-10, 1-1) came out in their 3-2 zone and dared the Cougars to shoot from the perimeter.

Stitt was more than happy to oblige, nailing three straight 3-pointers on the Cougars' first three possessions to start the game.

It would set the tone for the rest of the night.

"Give College of Charleston all the credit in the world," Brady said. "They shot the ball tremendously. That was a tremendous shooting performance from them. We watched a lot of game film, the last seven games in fact, and they were not hitting those shots on a consistent basis. Stitt and Nori Johnson knocked down their shots and you have to give them credit."

The Cougars spent most of the last three days working against zone defenses and practicing for shots they assumed they'd get against the Dukes. The extra work paid huge dividends Tuesday night.

"We were ready, really prepared for their zone," said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. "All we did the last three days was shoot shots we thought we were going to get against their zone. Sometimes we got better looks than we even thought we'd get."

Another key for the Cougars was their work on the glass. Charleston pounded the Dukes on the boards, outrebounding James Madison, 44-27, including collecting 18 offensive rebounds, which led to 24 points in the paint.

"We have a lot of toughness on this team," Wojcik said. "We've been a really good rebounding team all season. I think you can win night-in and night-out playing good defense and rebounding the ball. Some nights you're not going to shoot the ball well."

The Cougars won despite getting just two points from senior forward Willis Hall, who had three straight double-doubles coming into the game and was named the national player of the week on Tuesday by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

"I think that shows you that we've got some depth on this team," Wojcik said.

With Stitt knocking down 3-pointers, the Cougars were able to build an early lead. But James Madison's Andrey Semenov, who finished with 19 points, and Charles Cooke kept the Dukes in the game with their outside shooting.

Charleston used a 17-9 run to end the first half and take a 38-31 lead at halftime.

The Dukes clawed their way back into the game to start the second half. A layup and a 3-pointer from Cooke, who led the Dukes with 21 points, closed the gap to 45-44 with 14:16 to play.

Three minutes later Semenov's 3-pointer tied the game at 49 with 11:46 to play.

But the Cougars answered with a 15-3 run over the next five minutes as Johnson scored 12 of his 18 points during that stretch including three 3-pointers.

"We ran a play after a timeout and Nori hit a three for us and that was a huge shot," Wojcik said. "Nori is playing with a lot of confidence right now."

Charleston's Anthony Thomas finished with his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

"I thought Anthony had phenomenal game," Wojcik said.

James Madison sophomore guard Andre Nation, who was suspended for the first 15 games for violating "athletic department" policy, played for the first time this season. Nation, the Dukes' leading returning scorer, played 30 minutes and finished with seven points, all coming in the first half.

"I thought he was good early, but then got winded. He had some cramping in the second half. You saw in the first 10 minutes how good he is, but he just ran out of gas."

The Cougars travel to New York City to face Hofstra on Saturday.