Cougars' first CAA journey takes them to Hofstra, Northeastern

Charleston's Nori Johnson drives to the basket as Howard's Prince Okoroh follows during their game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2014 at the TD Arena. Paul Zoeller/Staff

The schedule makers in the Colonial Athletic Association didn't ease the College of Charleston into its first conference road trip.

The CAA threw the Cougars into the deep end.

The College of Charleston men's basketball team boarded a plane Friday morning for New York City, where the Cougars will play Hofstra at 4 p.m. Saturday. Soon after Saturday's game is over, the Cougars will pile into a bus for the 220-mile trip to Northeastern University in Boston for Monday night's game against the Huskies.

Then it's a 3:45 wake-up call Tuesday morning for the 970-mile flight back to the Lowcountry.

All told, the Cougars will travel nearly 2,000 miles during their four-day trip.

For more than a decade the Cougars had been used to road trips in the Southern Conference, where bus rides were measured in stops along I-26. The longest SoCon trips for the College of Charleston: 447 miles to Samford University in Homewood, Ala., and 415 miles to Chattanooga, Tenn.

The road trips will be longer, but the players said they are looking forward to the new venues of the CAA.

"I think everyone is ready to get up there and see different cities and play in different arenas," said senior forward Willis Hall. "I think it's going to be fun to play in different places. We've kind of been there, done that in the Southern Conference. Everything is going to be new this season. It's going to fun and I know I'm looking forward to it."

This weekend's excursion won't be the longest trip or the furthest north the Cougars have traveled since head coach Doug Wojcik took over the program last season. Charleston played in the Wooden Classic in California in November and a year ago traveled to Vermont.

"We've had a lot of firsts since I've been here," Wojcik said. "We were the first team to play as far North as Vermont, first team to play in California, first team to play in Texas (Baylor) and now, first team to play the furthest north in conference play at Hofstra and Northeastern. We have taken it all in stride."

In Wojcik's short tenure in Charleston he's established the Cougars as one of the top road teams in the nation. The Cougars are 14-3 in true road games over the last two seasons, including a 3-1 mark this season with their only loss coming to nationally ranked Louisville.

"We have fun on the road. This is a good group to travel with," Wojcik said. "We travel well. We get to the hotel and we really hunker down. We have four really good leaders in Willis (Hall), A.T. (Anthony Thomas), Adjehi (Baru) and (Anthony) Stitt. To me, there's nothing more enjoyable than winning on the road."

The Cougars are also playing some of their best basketball of the season. The Cougars are riding a season-high four-game winning streak, which included a 75-61 win over James Madison in the team's inaugural CAA game Tuesday night at TD Arena.

Charleston connected on a season-high 12 3-pointers against the Dukes in the victory. Stitt tied a career-high with 23 points and Thomas had the first double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds, of his career. Nori Johnson came off the bench to score a season-high 18 points, including five 3-pointers.

"Right now, everyone is rolling and everyone is feeling confident," Stitt said. "We are ready for conference play. Rome wasn't built in one day. We had to go through the learning stages. We had a couple of new freshmen we were getting integrated into our lineup. We had different players with (David) Wishon, Canyon (Barry), Joe (Chealey) and Johnathan (Burroughs-Cook), and that's four news guys in the rotation. I think we're starting to come together as a team."