Midway through the first half of the College of Charleston’s game with Delaware Saturday afternoon, guard Joe Chealey connected on a layup to give the visiting Cougars a 10-point lead.
Charleston appeared to be well on their way to ending their recent four-game losing streak, a skid that saw the Cougars lose those four games by a combined 10 points.
But a scoring drought to end the first half and another sluggish start in the second half doomed the Cougars — again.
Kyle Anderson scored 14 points to lead four players in double figures as Delaware defeated the College of Charleston, 71-68, Saturday afternoon at Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del.
It was the fifth straight loss for the Cougars (6-17, 1-9 in CAA). The Cougars’ last five losses have been by a combined 13 points.
Instead of building on the 10-point lead, the Cougars appeared to relax just before halftime and let the Blue Hens back into the game, as Delaware trailed 33-29 at halftime. Building on the momentum they created to end the first half, the Blue Hens used a 12-4 run to start the second half to take control of the game.
In a matter of about eight minutes from the end of the first half to the start of the second half, Delaware had completely shifted the momentum of the game.
“I think the problem for us started with about three minutes left in first half,” said College of Charleston coach Earl Grant. “I think that trickled over to the beginning of the second half. We were up 10 with about four minutes left and went into the locker room at halftime up four. The first three minutes of the second half we couldn’t seem to get going. Those seven or eight minutes changed the game.”
Grant said it was the team’s inconsistent defensive effort that ultimately failed the Cougars in the second half. The Cougars held the Blue Hens (5-16, 4-6) to just 29 points in the first half, but gave up 42 over the final 20 minutes of the game. The Blue Hens shot 52 percent from the floor in the second half.
“I think if you’re a good defensive team you don’t give up 71 points,” Grant said. “We just couldn’t get a stop. You don’t win games, 75-71. You win games 68-58. I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe we wear down, but I do know we’ve got to be better defensively.”
After scoring a career-high 16 points against Towson, sophomore forward Terrance O’Donohue was inserted back into the Cougars starting lineup, replacing freshman Donovan Gilmore. But O’Donohue got into early foul trouble and played just eight minutes without scoring a point.
“Terrance earned his way back into the starting lineup after the way he played against Towson, but things didn’t go his way tonight,” Grant said. “He looked like he was ready to go, but it didn’t go his way tonight. I can’t explain it. I’m going to have to go back and watch the film. We need one of them — Terrance or Donovan — to step up and be more consistent for us.”
The Cougars got off to a quick start, building a 10-point lead, and shooting 55.6 percent from the floor in the first half. Freshman Cameron Johnson, who scored a career-high 16 points, led the way with eight points.
“Cameron was very aggressive today in getting to the front of the rim,” Grant said.
After Canyon Barry, who finished with a team-high 17 points, scored on a layup in the opening seconds of the second half, the Cougars were held without a basket for nearly seven minutes. Charleston managed just three points over that stretch, all coming from the free throw line.
Delaware took advantage of the Cougars’ scoring drought, going on a 15-3 run. The Blue Hens continued to build on their advantage and took a 65-50 lead on Anderson’s 3-pointer with 2:28 to play.
The Cougars — like they have done most of the year — found an answer and chipped away at the Blue Hens’ lead. Chealey’s 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left cut the gap to 71-68.
Delaware was able to inbound the ball and run out the clock for the victory.
The Cougars will take on William & Mary at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at TD Arena.