College of Charleston guard Joe Chealey hit a driving layup to give the Cougars a 33-26 lead with 17 minutes and 49 seconds left in Wednesday night’s game against UNC Wilmington.
The Cougars would have to wait another 15:43 before they would score another field goal.
During that 15-plus-minute stretch in the second half, the Cougars managed just four free throws as a nine-point Charleston lead evaporated into a 15-point deficit.
It was that kind of night for the Cougars, who tied a school record with their 19th loss on the season.
Jordan Talley scored 18 points and Addison Spruill added 16 points to lead UNC Wilmington past College of Charleston, 58-45, at Trask Coliseum in Wilmington, N.C.
The Seahawks (14-10, 9-4 in CAA) used a 22-0 run in the second half to rally for their second win over the Cougars this season.
It was another dismal shooting performance from the Cougars, especially in the second half.
The Cougars (7-19, 2-11) missed 16 of their first 17 shots to start the second half and shot just 27.8 percent from the floor during the game. From the end of the first half to Adjehi Baru’s tap-in with 2:06 left in the game, the Cougars missed 21 of 22 shots over a 16-minute span. Charleston made just four baskets on 25 attempts (17.3 percent) over the final 22 minutes.
Charleston’s shooting performance was nearly as bad as Saturday’s game against Drexel when the Cougars did not make a single 3-point shot (0 for 11) during a game for the first time in 15 years.
Despite the Cougars’ shooting woes, College of Charleston coach Earl Grant said the offense wasn’t the issue.
“It’s pretty simple, we got out-toughed,” Grant said. “I don’t care about the offensive part. Yes, we’ve got to score, yes, we’ve got to make shots, but we got out-toughed. We wore down during the guts of the game. We were up with 10 minutes left in the game and we just wore down. We got out-toughed, plain and simple.”
It was too bad because the Cougars squandered a solid first-half performance. After turning the ball over 20 times during their 58-56 overtime loss back in January at TD Arena, the Cougars committed just six turnovers in the opening half and led 30-24 at halftime.
“We did some good things in the first half, stuck with our game plan and executed,” Grant said.
The second half was a completely different story as the Cougars couldn’t score and went more than 10 minutes without a point.
“At some point we’ve got to learn how to get stronger and not weaker in the second half,” Grant said. “At the 10-minute mark we were leading and we need to find a way to get consecutive stops and consecutive rebounds. Yes, we need to make shots, but I thought as the game went on we wore down. Tonight was the worst I’ve seen of not having mental toughness, and that was very disappointing.”
Grant was left scratching his head after the game searching for answers to what had gone wrong in the second half.
“I told the guys that that’s the first time all season when I thought a team really outworked us down the stretch,” Grant said. “It comes down to hunger. At halftime we were clearly in control of the game. The first five minutes of the second half we were still in control of the game. We just didn’t have enough grit and fortitude down the stretch to grind out a win. That’s something that we’ve got to learn how to do. I’ve got to help teach these guys how to do that.”
Chealey scored 12 points and Canyon Barry finished with 11 points to lead the Cougars. Adjehi Baru had eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Cougars will face Towson at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at TD Arena.