College of Charleston coach Earl Grant could make plenty of excuses for the Cougars' recent losing streak.
There's the fact that Grant took over the Cougars program after a tumultuous summer less than two months before the team's opening game. He's had almost no time to install his offensive and defensive systems and the Cougars have only three seniors on the roster.
But Grant isn't about to make any excuses for the Cougars. The former Stall High School star is convinced that this team's best basketball is still ahead of them.
College of Charleston's skid reached six Monday night as Ron Curry scored 19 points and Yohanny Dalembert added 14 points to lead James Madison to a 61-50 win at TD Arena.
The losing streak for the Cougars (5-10, 0-2 CAA) is the longest in more than three decades. The Cougars dropped seven in a row during the 1977-78 season, two years before John Kresse took over the program.
"This has been humbling, but I've got to keep it in perspective," Grant said. "There's been a lot going on here lately. I've only been with these kids for about four months. I know we've got some good players, but we're a little bit behind everyone else.
"Hopefully in two months we'll catch up and play our best basketball. I'm not discouraged at all. We've got to keep plugging away. We can point fingers and complain or we can get our ax out and keep swinging. I'm going to keep swinging."
Anthony Stitt, one of those three seniors, is doing his part to keep the team moving forward. Stitt, who finished with 10 points and three assists, said he has tried to be more vocal during practices, meeting and timeouts.
"I'm trying to talk to the guys more, keep their spirits up," Stitt said. "I want to make sure our body language is good. If we make a turnover, we can't put our head down and we need to try and go get it back on defense. I've seen a lot of leaders over my four years here and they all said the same thing. We need to keep working, stay together and eventually we're going to start winning."
After losing by 30 points (75-45) to William & Mary on Saturday, Grant wanted to see a better effort from the Cougars and got it. After getting badly outrebounded by William & Mary,43-24, the Cougars won the rebounding battle with the Dukes, 33-30.
"I thought the guys played hard enough to win," Grant said. "It was a much better game effort-wise and we did a good job rebounding."
The problem for the Cougars was turnovers, not so much the number, which was 13, but when they occurred.
"We had some bad turnovers," Grant said. "We had a lead and then turned the ball over four out of five possessions. Towards the end of the first half we turned the ball over. We talked about becoming a more mature team."
The two teams exchanged baskets to start the game, but the Dukes used a 6-0 run to take a 17-11 lead on Delembert's layup with 10:54 to play in the opening half.
The Cougars answered with a 15-1 run and took a 26-18 lead on Terrance O'Donohue's two free throws with 4:53 to play before halftime.
"We had that eight-point lead and we've got to find a way to make it a 14-point lead," Grant said. "That's what I mean when I say we need to mature. We have to take care of the basketball better. I've got to coach them better and we've got to find a way to make a couple of shots."
The Dukes finished the half on a 7-0 run to cut the gap to 26-25 at halftime.
The Cougars went nearly 10 minutes without a single point and 11 minutes without a basket from the end of the first half to early in the second half.
James Madison came out strong in the second half and slowly built a double-digit lead.
Three straight baskets from Delembert and a putback from Andre Nation gave the Dukes a 47-35 advantage with 7:27 to play.
The Cougars were able to close the gap to 51-45 on Stitt's layup with 56.4 seconds to play, but could get no closer.
Charleston will next face Hofstra at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at TD Arena.