The late-game magic was back at the College of Charleston on Saturday, if only in a fantasy world. A basketball team led by legendary former Cougars head coach John Kresse won the annual Alumni Game, 58-54, by miraculously nailing two 3-point shots in the final 4.1 seconds.

Reality quickly set in when modern-day C of C players struggled to make layups, falling behind Wofford early and never catching up in a 68-59 Southern Conference loss on John Kresse Court.

It met relative expectations, a respectable performance from a callow injury-riddled team that had lost three straight games and lost effusive head coach Bobby Cremins one day before facing the sizzling Terriers.

Even with Cremins, who took a medical leave of absence Friday to address a "non-life threatening" problem, these slumping Cougars would be kayaking up a waterfall.

First, Wofford.

Now three straight road games.

Point guard Anthony Stitt is out with a broken hand and star recruit Adjehi Baru with an ankle injury. Forward Willis Hall is missing the whole season after knee surgery, and forward Trent Wiedeman is hampered with a sore ankle.

Charleston fell to 12-9 overall, 4-6 in the SoCon.

Bye-bye, SoCon tournament bye.

Byington gets it

Mike Young, the head coach at two-time defending SoCon champ

Wofford, mentioned all the Charleston wounded. He heaped praise.

"We've got a good basketball team," Young said, "and for them to give themselves a shot to win with one stab after the other speaks of the character in their lockerroom."

Wofford players took the court for pregame shooting drills, reminding each other, "Let's make them quit."

There were boos in the crowd of 4,151 when Charleston's Jordan Scott let Wofford freshman Karl Cochran beat him for a loose ball with the scrappy Terriers ahead, 13-6.

More boos as Charleston made only 20 percent of its shots in the first half.

The Cougars got tougher in the second half.

They just couldn't get a defensive stop as Wofford finished with points on its final seven possessions before running out the clock.

Interim coach Mark Byington gets it. He plans to make the most of injury problems by enhancing depth, hoping to get the team healthy in time for the start of the SoCon tournament on March 2 in Asheville, N.C.

"We can still win it," Byington said.

Young agreed.

"Oh, please," he said. "They have the talent."

'Stay positive'

Impressively, Byington intends to lead as his own man, with a mix of the Cremins motion offense "and things I've learned from other coaches."

"You'd like to have more practice time," Byington said. "You'd like to have more time to get on the same page. Obviously, the injuries have thrown a kink into everything."

So, consider the nine games between here and Asheville a Meeting Street science project.

"We just want them to stay positive," Byington said, "and get better."

Byington kind of sounds like an energetic Dabo Swinney sounded in a similar situation. Swinney had never been a head football coach before he was abruptly given an "interim" tag after Tommy Bowden was fired at Clemson.

Swinney also lost his first game. At home. To a conference rival (Georgia Tech).

Only to win enough hearts and minds with a nice rest of the regular season.

But this is a Charleston team with key players and its head coach on the mend, just as the schedule gets heavier.

The timing couldn't be worse.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter at @sapakoff.