WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – After 118 games at College of Charleston, Cougars senior guard Grant Riller has seen just about every defense imaginable.
Riller has had to navigate his way through man-to-man, zones, double and triple teams, and even the occasional box-in-one defenses throughout his four years at Charleston.
Just about every defense he's seen was designed to stop the Orlando, Fla., native from scoring.
And for the most part, most have failed.
Over the past two seasons, the 6-3 senior has scored in double figures in all but two games – and they came against Power 5 conference teams, with bigger, stronger and faster athletes than the ones he normally faces in the Colonial Athletic Association.
In his last 61 games, dating back to midway through his sophomore season, Riller has been the most prolific scorer in the CAA. He has scored in double figures 59 times, with 24 20-point efforts, eight 30-points games and a career-high 43-point night against Hofstra last year.
Coaches across the league have made stopping Riller’s their first priority. Most defenses are designed to limit Riller's touches with gimmicks and few have succeeded, especially lately.
Like many teams, William & Mary came into the game wanting to crowd Riller, not give him time or space to move, and then force him to drive into the lane where he’d be met by 6-10 Nathan Knight and 7-foot Andy Van Vilet to alter his shot.
The strategy worked to perfection.
Knight scored 21 points and hauled down 13 rebounds, and the Tribe outside shooters connected on nine 3-pointers to lead William & Mary past College of Charleston 67-56 on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 4,384 at Kaplan Arena.
In a battle of unbeaten teams in Colonial Athletic Association play, it was the Tribe (13-5, 5-0 CAA) that drew first blood with the victory, ending a six-game winning streak by the Cougars (11-7, 5-1).
It was the seventh straight loss for the Cougars at Kaplan Arena, the only venue in the CAA where Charleston has never won since joining the league in 2013.
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.
Riller, who came into the game averaging better than 22 points a game, was held to just 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting from the floor. Riller has a reputation as one of the most efficient offensive players in all of college basketball and was coming off back-to-back 30-point efforts against James Madison and Elon.
Kaplan Arena had been especially friendly to Riller over the years, as the CAA’s preseason player of the year has averaged better than 26 points in his three visits and better than 55 percent from 3-point range.
“We wanted him to earn everything,” said William & Mary coach Dane Fischer. “He can score at all three levels, but we wanted to crowd him, not give him space to get going downhill. He’s good enough where he can go get 20 points just making the plays he makes.
“We wanted to guard him with five guys and pack the paint. We were more worried about defending him the right way and not the result. If he makes a great play, he makes a great play. Good players make tough shots. We wanted him to make him work.”
It was Charleston's offense, not the defense that failed Saturday. The Tribe, which was averaging 76.6 points a game in CAA play, was held 11 points below their average.
“I thought our defense, for the most part, played well and traveled up to Williamsburg (Va.) with us,” said College of Charleston coach Earl Grant. “We had some breakdowns, some backdoor cuts, but they only had 65 points. It was more of our offense. I thought the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half, we didn’t execute.
“Give William & Mary credit, they had a good game plan. They were standing in the paint. Instead of driving and kicking the ball out to our shooters. We forced some shots and they were able to get in transition and get some easy baskets.”
Grant Riller scored 30 points, including the final 12 points, to lead College of Charleston past Elon Thursday night on the road.
The Tribe used a 13-2 run to close the first half to break open what had been a close, defensive game. Scott Thornton, Rainers Hermanovskis and Miguel Ayesa all connected on 3-pointers during the run.
“I thought that was a really important sequence for us at the end of the half and we did it with a couple of key guys sitting on the bench in foul trouble,” Fischer said.
Knight, who had just six points at halftime, scored or made free throws on eight straight possession in the second half.
“We felt like Nathan had the opportunity to take over the game a little bit in the second half,” Fischer said. “He led that charge for sure in the second half. And we didn’t get him the ball enough in the first half and that’s on us as a coaching staff.”
The Cougars will play their next three games at home, beginning Thursday night against Northeastern beginning at 7 p.m. at TD Arena.
Charleston will then take on Hofstra, which was picked to win the CAA in the preseason, Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.