This was not the season that College of Charleston coach Earl Grant had envisioned when he took over the program back in September.
Sure, there have been some extenuating circumstances this season for the Cougars. The program experienced more turmoil leading up to the season than any in the school’s history. They had to fire head coach Doug Wojcik in August after allegations of verbal abuse and then hired Grant less than three months before the Cougars opener.
Few expected Grant to be able to work miracles, but most expected the Cougars to win more than they have this season.
In the end, the Cougars have lost more game this season than any other in program history.
Towson’s Timajh Parker-Rivera scored 12 points to lead the Tigers past College of Charleston, 53-50, Sunday afternoon at TD Arena.
The Cougars (7-20, 2-12 CAA) lost for a school record 20th time this season. College of Charleston lost 19 games two times before, during the 1950-51 and the 1966-67 seasons.
“I have to take full responsibility for what’s happened,” Grant said. “We can’t seem to get over the hump and we’ve got to do a better job. I’ve been through this before with winning programs. It’s very humbling. I have to evaluate why we are not winning and then help the program win.
“I can have confidence in what we’re doing because we’re doing it the right way. It’s not a lack of effort. The kids want to win. Together as a team we’re going through this humility together. We’re going to have fight through it and find ways to improve.”
The Cougars have lost eight times this season by eight points or less. It was the fifth time they’ve lost by a single possession. Towson’s two wins over the Cougars have been by a combined seven points.
“We’ve probably had 11 or 12 really close games that could have gone either way,” Grant said. “There are a lot of good teams out there that have won 10 games by two or three points. We lost those games. I told my guys that there’s not much of a difference between a really good winning team and a team that’s losing. That’s why I have to take full responsibility for this season.”
Against Towson, it was free throw shooting and rebounding that doomed the Cougars.
The Tigers (12-15, 5-9) outrebounded the Cougars, 51-43, and collected 20 offensive rebounds, which led to 13 second-chance points. In their 74-70 loss to Towson on Jan. 29, the Cougars were outrebounded, 42-26. The Tigers have the No. 13-ranked rebounding team in the nation.
“We knew coming in that rebounding would be a key for us,” said Cougars forward Canyon Barry, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds. “They have a big, physical team and we gave up too many offensive rebounds. You can’t let a team like that get second and third chances to score.”
The Cougars struggled at the free throw line too, making just 9 of 21 attempts.
“We’ve got to do better at the free throw line,” Barry said. “There’s no excuse there.”
Despite the rebounding and poor free throw shooting, the Cougars still had a chance to win the game. Joe Chealey, who scored a team-high 13 points, hit a driving layup that gave the Cougars a 46-45 lead with 1:57 to play.
But the Tigers answered when John Davis got not one, but two offensive rebounds and scored on a layup to give Towson 47-46 lead with 44 seconds to play.
Towson sealed the victory by making 6 of 6 free throws over the final minute of the game.
Chealey had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but his 3-point attempt came up just short with five seconds to play.
The Cougars will face Elon on Wednesday night at TD Arena.