College of Charleston basketball coach Earl Grant has been preaching toughness since the first day he took over the program back in September.
Since Wednesday’s 58-45 loss at UNC Wilmington, Grant and the Cougars have been working on getting tougher both mentally and physically, especially during the second halves of games.
The Cougars’ toughness will certainly be challenged Sunday by Towson, which has one of the top rebounding teams in the country and has established a reputation for physical play at both ends of the floor.
The Cougars will take on Towson at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at TD Arena. The game will be televised nationally by NBCSN.
Grant was visibly upset after Wednesday night’s loss to the Seahawks. It wasn’t the double-digit defeat that bothered Grant so much as the way the Cougars played.
“It’s pretty simple, we got out-toughed,” said Grant after the game. “I told the guys that that’s the first time all season when I thought a team really outworked us down the stretch We got out-toughed, plain and simple. It was the worst I’ve seen of not having mental toughness, and that was very disappointing. It comes down to hunger. We just didn’t have enough grit and fortitude down the stretch to grind out a win.”
The Tigers come into Sunday’s game ranked No. 13 in the nation in rebounds per game (39.6) and are outrebounding opponents by a margin of 8.9 boards. The Tigers outrebounded the Cougars, 42-26, in their 74-70 win back on Jan. 29. The Tigers, who had 13 offensive rebounds, had more defensive rebounds (29) than the Cougars had total rebounds (26).
The Cougars have spent the last three days in practice trying to improve their toughness.
“We will continue to practice hard and go through tough drills to get the guys accustomed to playing that way (tougher) for long periods of time.” Grant said. “Towson is a physical team. They don’t shoot it great, but they have a lot of big, physical guys. You better be tough in that game, because they will definitely try to pound you around the basket and push you around for rebounds. We certainly have to be tougher (Sunday).”
Grant is also concerned about the Cougars’ ability to finish games. The Cougars led for most of the first half against UNC Wilmington and were still leading midway through the second half, but faltered down the stretch.
“We are usually pretty solid in the first half,” Grant said. “The second half and middle of the game is where we usually wear down. In the guts of the game, the team that gets stronger is the team that is going to win. One team is going to wilt and one team is going to gain strength from each other by making winning plays, big baskets, big stops, big rebounds and going after loose balls.”