Slumping Cougars edged by Dragons

For the third time in a week, College of Charleston lost a basketball game by a single basket.

One more basket per game over their last three games and the season could have an entirely different outlook. Seven points is all separates the Cougars from three victories in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The Cougars had chances to win all three games. A rebound here or a defensive stop there and the Cougars would be among the contenders in the CAA. But losses to Northeastern (69-67), UNC Wilmington (58-56) and Saturday’s narrow defeat to Drexel have College of Charleston coach Earl Grant searching for answers.

Damion Lee, the CAA’s top scorer, poured in 21 points, including a 3-pointer with 17.1 seconds to play, to lift the Dragons past the College of Charleston, 53-51, at Daskalakis Athletic Center in Philadelphia.

College of Charleston, which has lost 11 of 12 games, led for 35 of the 40 minutes against Drexel. But the Cougars failed to score a single point over the final three minutes of the contest.

“You gotta play for 40 minutes,” Grant said. “We did so many good things during this game. We’ve got to be more excited about finding a way to win instead of worrying about losing. Anytime it’s a one-possession game, our guys are getting tight. I don’t know if its youth or what, but we’ve got to find a way to mature. We led all game and made big shots down the stretch. It came down to allowing their best player an open look at a 3 and us not executing down the stretch.”

Trailing by 51-49 with less than a minute to play, the Dragons (5-14, 3-5) found Lee open on the left side of the Cougars’ defense. Lee, who played the entire 40 minutes, launched the shot as Adjehi Baru closed out on the junior guard.

“We tried to get Damion the ball a couple of times before that, but when the game is on the line, we want it in his hands,” said Drexel coach James “Bruiser” Flint.

On the Cougars’ next possession, point guard Joe Chealey tried to get ball into the post, but his pass was intercepted by Drexel’s Mohamed Bah. It was the only turnover of the game for Chealey, who had seven assists and three rebounds.

“Joe played so well today, had a great floor game, and just had an unfortunate turnover in that situation,” Grant said. “The play was designed for him to get to the rim and make the shot, make a pass or get fouled. We just didn’t execute that play.”

Even after the turnover, the Cougars sill had a chance to tie or win the game. Bah made one of two free throws with 4.2 seconds left.

Canyon Barry, who led the Cougars with 16 points and six rebounds, collected Bah’s miss and raced down the court. But Barry’s 17-foot leaning jumper feel just off the front of the rim as time expired.

It was another frustrating loss for the Cougars, who have come so close to breaking through in the last week.

“It’s a weird feeling walking into the locker room after these last three losses,” Grant said. “I’m disappointed, but I’m not mad. When I’m mad, I’ll get mad and they’ll know it. But I’m disappointed in myself. We’ve got to find a way to win those games. It’s humbling, and for whatever reason, we just can’t seem to get over the hump, but we’re going to keep fighting and chipping away at it. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve got to figure out a way to finish off games.”

Cameron Johnson finished with 11 points and four rebounds, while Baru had seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks for the Cougars.

It was only the second home win for Drexel this season. Tavon Allen had 14 points for the Dragons.

The Cougars will face Towson Thursday night on the road.