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Cougars use smothering defense to stuff East Carolina, 53-35

December 16, 2016 GMT

When College of Charleston coach Earl Grant looks at the video from Thursday night’s 18-point win over East Carolina, he’ll be able to find teachable moments defensively for the Cougars.

But those minor criticism will come in the next 48 hours before the Cougars travel to Louisiana and face LSU on Monday night.

Minutes after the Cougars defeated East Carolina, 53-35, Thursday night at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, N.C., Grant had little to complain about.

Joe Chealy scored a game-high 14 points and Jarrell Brantley added 11 points and eight rebounds as the Cougars cruised to their fifth straight win and improved to 8-3 on the season.

East Carolina’s 35 points were the fewest the Pirates have scored since becoming an NCAA Division I program.

“I thought the guys came out with a lot of energy,” Grant said. “They had a great approach all week. We just made it really hard on a very good East Carolina team on each possession. We put together really good defensive stops. It seemed like possession after possession we challenged every shot and that’s how we held them to 13 points in the first half. Just proud of their energy and effort all game.”

The Pirates came into the game averaging nearly 68 points a game with three players -- B.J. Tyson, Caleb White and Kentrell Barkley -- all averaging in double figures. Tyson was held scoreless, Barkeley finished with four points and White had 10.

“We knew all three of those guys were very capable of scoring in bunches,” Grant said. “We just wanted to contest every shot, regardless of who it is. We did a good job of contesting every shot and they had a hard time scoring.”

The Pirates managed just 11 field goals all game, including only four in the first half. East Carolina shot just 23.4 percent from the floor, including going four of 21 (19 percent) in the first 20 minutes of the game.

At one point in the second half, the Pirates had 16 points and had committed 18 turnovers.

“We want to make it as hard as we can on every offensive possession for whoever we’re playing,” Grant said. “We want to make them work for every shot and every point they get. I thought we did a great job of that challenging them on every possession.”

The Cougars were not without their offensive issues. Charleston shot just 33 percent from the floor, but more than made up for that by out-rebounding the Pirates, 43-32. Charleston sophomore Nick Harris had a game-high 13 rebounds.

“We try and rebound every first miss and I thought we did a good job of not allowing them many second-chance points,” Grant said. “Nick had another strong rebounding game.”

Trailing 3-2 early in the game, the Cougars went on a 19-4 run to grab a 21-7 advantage on Marquise Pointer’s put back with 2:19 to play before halftime.

White hit a 3-point just before halftime as the Cougars led, 23-13, going into the locker room.

Any hopes of an East Carolina rally were quickly put to rest to start the second half. The Pirates missed their first 11 shots as Charleston scored the first 19 points of the second half. Two free throws from Chealey gave the Cougars, 42-13, with 13:04 to play.

The Pirates chipped away at the Cougars’ lead, going on a 17-2 run and close the gap to 44-30 with 6:32 to play on short jumper from Jeremy Shepard.

Chealey answered with a 3-pointer and Brantley made a driving layup to end the threat.

“They came out and pressed us a little bit and we need to work on our press offense,” Grant said. “When you get up by more than 20 points, it’s easy to relax a little bit. I thought our guards did a good job of getting into the paint. We missed some shots, we probably left 12-to-16 points on the floor tonight.”

The Cougars will continue their five-game road trip with a game against LSU Monday and then take on Western Carolina on Dec. 22.