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Chealey, Brantley lead Cougars past Hofstra, 76-72; CofC notches 20th win

February 17, 2017

College of Charleston coach Earl Grant talked a lot about trust this week during practice as the Cougars prepared for their Northeast swing against Hofstra and Northeastern.

After dropping two straight games last week to Northeastern and William & Mary, Grant emphasized “trusting” the process and “trusting” teammates and “trusting” the defensive system.

Grant realized, however, that that trust also much come him as well. Grant wanted to get his bench more involved this week so his key players got some much-needed rest for the final push to the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in two weeks.

Grant went to his bench early and often and got an inspired performance from Marquise Pointer, Chevez Goodwin, Jaylen McManus and Evan Bailey. While the bench scored only 14 points, it was more than enough for the Cougars.

Joe Chealey scored 18 points and Jarrell Brantley finished with 17 points to lead College of Charleston past Hofstra, 76-72, Thursday night at the Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex in Hempstead, N.Y.

It was first win at Hofstra since the Cougars joined the CAA four years ago and gave Charleston it’s 20th win of the season. The Cougars improved to 20-8 overall and 11-4 in the CAA. The Pride fell to 13-15 and 5-10.

“I was really excited to see so many guys give great effort tonight,” Grant said. “We had a lot of effort plays and I think that was a huge difference in the game. I had made up my mind that I wanted to trust the bench. I wanted to be first one to show a sign of trust and get some of those young into the game early.

“I was going to get some guys into the game no matter if we were up by 10 points or down by four. I wanted make sure that come guys were not playing 38 minutes. It was a total team effort tonight.”

Pointer came off the bench and scored 10 points, including two crucial 3-pointers, and Goodwin added four points and two rebounds.

“We needed to get those guys more involved and get them some minutes,” Grant said.

The extra rest appeared to help the Cougars’ starters and top scorers in Chealey, Brantley and Grant Riller.

Chealey finished with six assists and three rebounds and a couple of assists, while Brantley made eight of 11 shot attempts from the field. The Cougars finished with 15 assists

“I thought we shared the ball and Joe really made a point of sharing the ball and getting everyone involved,” Grant said. “Joe had a different look in his eye today. I knew he wanted to come out here and lead this team. He was really poised from the beginning. Six assists, that’s a huge number for Joe and it usually means we’re going to play well.”

If not for the 3-point shooting of Hofstra’s Brian Bernardi and Justin Wright-Foreman, the Cougars would have cruised to an easy victory. Wright-Foreman finished with a game-high 26 points, while Bernardi added 21. Combined they were 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The rest of the Pride was 0 for six.

“We tried to guard the three-point line,” Grant said. “I don’t think they had many open looks, maybe a couple. Most of the threes they made we had people right up near them. At the end of the day, they just made them. I thought we did a pretty good job of contesting their shots, they’re just good players making plays.”

The Cougars had another solid shooting night, shooting 54.5 percent from the field.

“We wanted balance, we didn’t want guys just standing out there settling for threes,” Grant said. “We attempted 14 threes, which was great. We talked about getting some post feeds and getting into the gaps of their zone defense. We wanted to do a better job on the offensive boards and I think we did that tonight, while making sure we had balance.”

Hofstra held a 31-26 lead with four minutes left in the opening half, but the Cougars finished the half on a 14-3 run to grab a 40-34 lead going into the locker room.

The Cougars steadily built on that lead in the second half, taking a 64-49 advantage on Riller’s layup with 8:46 to play.

But the Pride answered and clawed their way back into the game. Bernardi’s 3-pointer with 14.8 seconds to play cut the gap to 73-72 with 14.8 seconds to play.

That would be the final points of the night as Chealey made three of four free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.

Charleston will travel to Boston to face Northeastern Saturday afternoon beginning at 1 p.m.