Harris, Chealey lead College of Charleston past USC Upstate, 72-60
College of Charleston coach Earl Grant warned sophomore center Nick Harris all weekend about USC Upstate’s Michael Buchanan.
The 7-foot Buchanan came into Sunday’s matchup against the Cougars averaging nearly a double-double per contest for the Spartans.
Maybe someone should have warned the Spartans coaching staff about Harris.
Harris did not miss a shot from the floor, scoring a career-high 16 points and hauling down nine rebounds, while Joe Chealey finished with a team-high 17 points to lead College of Charleston past USC Upstate, 72-60, Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 2,892 at TD Arena.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Cougars, who improved to 4-3. The Spartans, who beat Charleston Southern and Charlotte last week, fell to 3-3.
Harris, a 6-10 sophomore, turned in his best all-around performance in a Cougars uniform. Harris was 8 of 8 from the floor and finished with five offensive rebounds.
“The guards were giving me the ball in perfect position, and that’s why I didn’t miss a shot,” Harris said. “I got a lot of dunks because they were driving in and kicking the ball right to me where I could dunk it. It would have been nothing without the guards.”
Harris had plenty of practice facing bigger, stronger big men of late. During the Charleston Classic, Harris defended Central Florida’s 7-6 center Tacko Fall. And while Harris certainly had his hands full with Buchanan, who finished with a game-high 21 points and six rebounds, the Dacula. Ga., native more than held his own despite giving up 50 pounds and a couple of inches.
“Buchanan is a very good player, he’s strong and coach kept telling us during the week that he was a good player and we couldn’t take him lightly,” Harris said. “He’s one of the biggest guys I’ve ever played against. It was a good challenge for me.”
Harris wasn’t the only inside force for the Cougars on Sunday afternoon. Jarrell Brantley finished with his seventh career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman Chevez Goodwin came off the bench to score a career-high eight points and four rebounds.
“I thought it was beautiful to see two big kids get almost 30 points and 20 rebounds,” Grant said. “We’ve been trying to emphasize getting the ball inside to Nick, Jarrell and Chevez and how much that’ll help our offense by throwing the ball into the paint.”
The Cougars also took care of the basketball, turning it over just seven times and handing out 15 assists. Cameron Johnson led Cougars with five assists, while Chealey added four and did not commit a turnover in 36 minutes of action.
“Really proud of the way we shared the basketball and didn’t turn it over,” Grant said. “A two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio is really good, and we will win a lot of basketball games playing that way.”
The Cougars’ defense was equally as good. The Spartans were averaging nearly 80 points a game and had scored 108 in the overtime victory over Charlotte.
“I thought we did a really good job defending them,” Grant said. “This is a team that can score.”
The only issue for the Cougars was their poor shooting from 3-point range. Chealey was 3 of 7 from behind the arc, while the rest of the team went just 4 of 18.
“We’re a really good shooting team; I see it every day in practice, so I’m not worried about that,” Grant said. “We’re getting good shots, and I’m confident that they will start falling. It’s not even December yet, and we want to be playing our best basketball in March.”
The Cougars led from wire-to-wire, getting off to a quick start as Brantley connected on two layups, Chealey hit a 3-poitner and Harris had a putback that gave Charleston a 9-2 lead just four minutes into the game.
The Spartans got as close as 12-10 on Buchanan’s dunk with 12:02 to play in the first half, but the Cougars went on a 15-2 run over the next five minutes and held a 27-12 advantage on Chealey’s jumper with 7:16 to play.
USC Upstate chipped away at the lead as the Cougars went into halftime up 34-26.
The teams traded baskets throughout most of the second half. The Spartans got to within four points twice, but each time the Cougars answered. Charleston used a 7-0 run in the final minute to pull away for the victory.
Senior Payton Hulsey missed his second straight game with turf toe for the Cougars.