Cougars downed on road by Dukes

James Madison's Jackson Kent eyes the basket as Charleston's Joe Chealey, and Adjehi Baru, right, defend in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Harrisonburg, Va. (AP Photo/The Daily News-Record, Michael Reilly)

The College of Charleston backcourt has been, for lack of a better term, consistently inconsistent this season.

It's a major reason why the Cougars have had a roller-coaster season with flashes of sheer brilliance followed by periods of complete frustration.

One game after the Cougars backcourt played a crucial role in a 75-70 win over UNC Wilmington on Wednesday night, it struggled in a two-point loss to James Madison on Saturday afternoon.

James Madison freshman Jackson Kent scored a career-high 17 points and Andre Nation chipped in 15 points to lead the Dukes past the College of Charleston, 58-56, on Saturday at the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va.

The Dukes (7-13, 2-4 Colonial Athletic Association) snapped a four-game losing streak, while the Cougars fell to 10-11 and 3-3.

On Wednesday against UNC Wilmington, Nori Johnson, Anthony Stitt and Anthony Thomas combined to score 43 points and dished out eight assists. The trio combined to knocked down 9 of 14 shots from 3-point range in that victory.

Against the Dukes, the trio combined for just 11 points and committed seven turnovers with just two assists.

The uneven execution from the Cougars backcourt continues to baffle and frustrate College of Charleston head coach Doug Wojcik.

"The game came down to the inconsistent play of our backcourt," Wojcik said. "We had five assists and 13 turnovers, so that means we're not sharing the ball. We were 5 of 21 from 3-point range. James Madison got 44 points from their backcourt and our starting backcourt scores 11. It's the 44 points to the 11 points from the perimeter players where our inconsistency exists. Right now, we're too inconsistent to win on a consistent basis.

"We're trying to get everyone on the same page and playing well together at the same time. So, that's our struggle right now. That's the bottom line."

Despite their issues in the backcourt, the Cougars still had a chance to escape with their 16th road victory in the last two years under Wojcik on the final play of the game.

With less than 10 seconds to play, Charleston freshman guard Joe Chealey found a wide-open Adjehi Baru underneath the basket for what would have been the tying basket. But Baru couldn't handle the pass cleanly and was quickly double-teamed. Baru found Stitt in the corner, but his 3-point attempt bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.

"We set a ball screen with Adjehi and had a potential lob for him," Wojcik said. "It was there, Ajdehi was open, we just didn't throw the ball. When that didn't work we found him in the post. In the end, we get the ball in the post, but we don't finish. We do get a 3 from Anthony in the corner that we just don't make."

Fouls plagued the Cougars in the first half as Thomas and Stitt found themselves with two fouls less than four minutes into the game. Both ended the first half with three fouls.

"It was a very difficult half for us," Wojcik said. "For the first time in my career I played guys with three fouls in the first half. In the second half, we got some calls, but by then the damage had been done."

Chealey's 3-pointer gave the Cougars a 23-19 lead with 2:57 to play in the first half, but the Dukes finished the half on a 9-0 run to take a 28-23 lead going into the locker room.

James Madison opened up a 37-31 lead on three-point play from Nation at the 15:28 mark.

The Cougars came storming back with an 11-3 run of their own and grabbed a 42-40 lead on Theo Johnson's 3-pointer with 12:24 to play. Willis Hall, who scored a game-high 22 points, highlighted the run with two putbacks. Hall, a senior, recorded his 1,000th career point during the game.

The two teams exchanged baskets as Thomas gave the Cougars a 48-45 lead with 9:08 to play, but Kent answered with seven straight points to give the Dukes the lead for good at 52-48 with 7:22 left.

The Cougars would make it a one-possession game three times over the final four minutes but could never get the equalizer.

"We were making stop after stop, but we were letting guys like Jackson Kent have a factor in the game," Hall said. "When you let guys make plays like he did, it makes a huge difference."

It (Kent's play) wasn't a surprise to us. He is a great player and had an incredible game. We knew guys like him, (Andre) Nation, (Ron) Curry and (Andrey) Semenov, we knew they would be dangerous."