Cougars, Hofstra in crucial matchup

College of Charleston basketball coach Doug Wojcik knew there would be parity in the Colonial Athletic Association this season.

Wojcik just didn't expect this much.

While Delaware is unbeaten in its seven conference games and UNC Wilmington has yet to notch its first league win, the rest of the CAA is cluster of seven teams all battling for position in the standings.

The Cougars, who are 11-11 overall and 3-4 in the CAA, and Saturday's opponent, Hofstra (7-15, 3-4), are two of those teams fighting to remain relevant in the regular season. The Cougars and the Pride tip off at 4 p.m. Saturday at TD Arena.

The Cougars are in dire need of a win to keep pace in the CAA, having dropped their last two conference road games to James Madison (58-56) and William & Mary (74-63).

"I think it's safe to say that Delaware has separated themselves from everyone else in the league at this point in the season," Wojcik said. "UNC Wilmington is having a tough time right now, but they're still a good team. But everyone else has three or four league wins and it's a big cluster of teams that are pretty evenly matched. A bounce here or there is really the difference in these conference games.

"Every team can win on any given night and every team can lose on any given night. There's very little margin for error right now."

The wintry weather earlier in the week in the Lowcountry did not affect the Cougars' preparation for Saturday's game against the Pride. The Cougars, who arrived early Tuesday morning after their game with William & Mary on Monday night, were scheduled to take Tuesday and Wednesday off even before school officials shut down the campus.

"It hasn't bothered us too much, although it was strange to walk around campus and not see any students," Wojcik said.

Hofstra defeated the Cougars, 75-71, back on Jan. 11. Hofstra forward Zeke Upshaw led the Pride effort with 22 points as the Pride rallied from a 10-point deficit to eventually win the game. Upshaw hit back-to-back 3-pointers during a crucial 10-0 run just before halftime that got the Pride back into the contest.

"Upshaw is a fifth-year guy that has given everyone in the league trouble," Wojcik said. "He hit a couple of 3s at the end of the first half that gave them some momentum going into the locker room. He can put the ball on the floor and he shoots very well. He's a very difficult matchup."

Upshaw is second in the league in scoring, averaging 19.2 points a game. The task of slowing Upshaw down Saturday will fall to Cougars senior forward Anthony Thomas.

"Honestly, I thought Anthony did a pretty good job on Upshaw in the first game," Wojcik said. "We got into foul trouble against them and that kind of changed a lot of things we like to do defensively."

Pride center Stephen Nwaukoni also hurt the Cougars with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.

Charleston's Nori Johnson led all scorers with 25 points, trying a season-high with seven 3-pointers. Wojcik doesn't expect the Pride to give Johnson that much room to operate Saturday.

"I think the word is out on Nori," Wojcik said. "Teams are just not going to give him time and space to get his shot off anymore."