ELON, N.C. -- When Elon head basketball coach Mike Schrage was an assistant at Stanford, he went to scout an AAU tournament one summer.
There was a skinny kid from Orlando, Fla., that quickly caught his eye – Grant Riller.
When he looked into Riller’s college scholarship offers, he was shocked to learn that he didn’t have a single one from a Power 5 Conference school.
“Riller could score the ball and I kept looking around and wondering what other people knew that I didn’t,” Schrage said.
Schrage, in his first season at Elon, got his first in-person look at Riller on Thursday night since that AAU tournament so many years ago.
Riller scored a game-high 30 points, his second consecutive 30-point performance, including the final 12 points to lead College of Charleston past Elon, 73-65, Thursday night before a crowd of 2,017 at the Schar Center.
It was the Cougars' sixth-straight victory and they improved to 11-6 overall and 5-0 in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Elon fell to 4-13, 0-4.
“Not a lot has changed about Riller’s game,” Schrage said. “He’s very efficient and he’s not the kind of scorer that has blinders on. He makes the right plays. He finds the bigs in the paint and will kick the ball out to his teammates. If he’s hitting his threes, he’s just very tough to guard. When he gets going downhill, he’s tough to stop. I thought we’d done a good job on him for the most part, but he hit some big shots down the stretch.”
Grant Riller scored a season-high 31 points and Brevin Galloway knocked down 7 3-pointers to lead College of Charleston past James Madison, 85-69, Saturday.
No shot was bigger than the 3-pointer Riller hit with the shot clock winding down to give the Cougars a three-point lead with the game still in doubt.
“Those are dagger and he’s been good at those all season,” Schrage said.
With former C of C great Joe Chealey at courtside, Riller put on a show during the final three minutes. Chealey, who plays for the NBA G League’s Greensboro Swarm 30 miles from the Elon campus, didn’t leave disappointed.
“That was a quiet 30 points, until the end,” Chealey said.
With the Cougars leading, 63-60, Riller made a driving layup and was fouled. After Riller’s free throw, the Cougars led 64-60 with 2:27 to play.
“We just can’t let Riller get to the rim like that,” Schrage said.
After an Elon turnover, Riller all but finished off the Phoenix with a 3-pointer from the top of the key as the shot clock expired to give the Cougars a 67-60 advantage with 1:42 to play. After two free throws from Elon’s Simon Wright, Riller nailed another long jumper to all but end the game.
“Grant made some big-time shots like he always does, so it’s nothing new,” said College of Charleston coach Earl Grant. “We put the ball in his hands to give him some space and he came up with two huge shots. He’s a special player. I’m glad he’s on our side.”
With the victory, the Cougars head to Williamsburg, Va., for a showdown with the Tribe.
Charleston and William & Mary (12-5, 4-0 in CAA) are the only two remaining unbeaten teams in CAA play. The Cougars have not won a game at Kaplan Arena since joining the league in 2013.
“They are all big games in this league and they are all tough games,” Grant said. “I know William & Mary is a good team; they’ve got a new coach and we’re excited about the challenge. We’ve got to come up with a great game plan and go out and execute it.”
Riller, who missed his freshman season with a knee injury, has seen the Cougars lose at the Kaplan Arena four times. He doesn’t want there to be a fifth time.
“We are going to enjoy this win, but come morning, we’ll lock in on William & Mary,” Riller said. “We know they are a good team. We know we’ve never won their before, but we’re going to try and change that on Saturday.”