The College of Charleston's 78-69 victory over Holy Cross Friday at TD Arena offered Cougar fans a glimpse into what could be a roller-coaster ride of a season -- periods of brilliance from talented players that were offset by the team's inexperience.
Charleston roared out to a 9-0 start, was up by 18 points less than 10 minutes into the game, enjoyed a 24-point lead with four minutes left in the opening half and walked off the court at intermission with a commanding 40-19 lead.
But Holy Cross, picked to finish third this year in the Patriot League, turned things around on the Cougars at the start of the second half. The Crusaders outscored Charleston, 11-2, to start the second half and continued to hammer away, cutting the Cougars' lead to 15 five minutes into the second half and pulling within 11, 66-55, with five minutes left in the game.
But timely baskets by senior Antwaine Wiggins and junior Andrew Lawrence helped Charleston hold Holy Cross at bay. The Crusaders finally got their deficit down to single digits, 72-63, with 1:07 left, but didn't have enough time to really put a scare into Charleston.
"It was like a tale of two cities," College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins said. "The first half we looked like a basketball team. The second half, at times, all heck broke loose.
"We got very careless. I don't know if we took things for granted. I'm disappointed we didn't play like we did the first half. The second half, I think we got rattled. This gives us a great opportunity to work on things.
"We had a lot of respect for Holy Cross. They came out fired up in the second half. We didn't finish it. We started to come a little unglued."
Wiggins, the team's only senior, said he thought the Cougars played well overall.
"It was a challenge," he said. "In the first half we were beating them by a lot. In the second half, they came back strong. Coach told us to stay together and keep our heads up. Sometimes we want to fuss and blame each other."
"We're definitely a young team," said sophomore forward Trent Wiedeman. "Andrew Lawrence wasn't on the court a lot in the second half, and I think that contributed."
Wiggins led Charleston in scoring with 18 points. Lawrence, who sat out much of the second half with cramps, added 16.
Wiedeman had his fifth career double double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. And highly acclaimed freshman Adjehi Baru scored 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked two shots and had a steal.
Holy Cross also had four players in double figures, led by R.J. Evans' 16 points and seven rebounds.
Cremins praised the sellout crowd of 4,963, 15th largest ever at TD Arena, and hoped for the same support in the Cougars' next game, a nationally televised matchup against Morehead State at 8 a.m. Tuesday, part of a 24-hour ESPN basketball marathon.