The second time through any conference basketball schedule is always going to be a tough stretch for any team. The opposition has played against you once already, knows your weakness and strengths, and has made the proper adjustments in anticipation of the second game.
But College of Charleston coach Earl Grant views the Cougars matchup against UNC Wilmington on Wednesday night at Trask Coliseum as an opportunity to see how much his team has improved against a full-court press defense.
The Seahawks (13-10, 8-4 CAA) forced the Cougars (7-18, 2-10) into a season-high 20 turnovers in their 58-56 overtime victory on Jan. 21 at TD Arena.
“We’ve had two really good days of practice and we needed to get back into the gym and work on some things,” Grant said. “Certainly, the press bothered us in the first game. We had 20 turnovers, but really only five came against the press. The other 15 were kind of uncharacteristic of us. We need to take care of the ball and make good decisions and make sure we get a shot on every possession.”
The return of senior guard Anthony Stitt should help the Cougars against the full-court pressure that UNC Wilmington has employed under first-year head coach Kevin Keatts. Stitt was out of the lineup in the first game after undergoing knee surgery.
As a result, sophomore Joe Chealey was forced to play 44 minutes against the Seahawks and appeared to be fatigued in the latter stages of the game.
“No doubt Joe kind of wore down as the game went along, I’m not sure he came out of the game the last time we played them,” Grant said. “Just having Anthony back, a veteran guy who makes good decisions with the ball, will be a huge benefit for us. Anthony can bring the ball up the court and that should help take some of the pressure off of Joe.”
The Cougars are hoping to improve upon their dismal shooting performance against Drexel this past Saturday. Charleston shot just 29.1 percent from the floor and missed all 11 of their 3-pointers in their 59-45 loss to the Dragons. It was the first time in 15 years that the Cougars had not made a 3-point basket in a game.
“We didn’t look at the film from the Drexel game that much,” Grant said. “I know what the issue was against them, shooting. We missed so many shots around the basket and then didn’t hit a 3-pointer. With about five minutes to play Drexel had 48 points. So, our defense was good. We had 16 offensive rebounds, so our effort wsa good. We got a bunch of open looks at the basket. We just couldn’t throw it in the ocean. We make a few more shots and that’s a different game.”