Alabama Prove to Much For CofC, Down Cougars 109-96 in NCAA Tournament

Despite Five Charleston Players in Double Figures, SEC Team Dominate Several Crucial Stat Categories

Jeff Walker, Sports Writer

Ten days removed from their overtime win in the CAA Tournament and riding a 12 game winning streak, the College of Charleston men's basketball team carried a lot of momentum with them to Spokane, Washington and a first round matchup against Alabama in March Madness. Hoping to avoid a repeat of last year, where the Cougars fell in their opener against San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament, Charleston carried a complement of fans with them to the west coast, hoping to slay a giant.

Sadly, although the Cougars accounted for 62 second half points it wasn't enough as both teams are high scoring squads, with the Crimson Tide pulling away for a 109-96 win over CofC. After claiming the CAA regular season title and the winning the league tournament, Charleston end their season at 27-8 overall.

Five CofC players finished in double figures with Ben Burnham going 6 of 11 for a team high 19 points. Frankie Policelli went 3 of 9 from long range for 15 points. Kobe Rodgers and Reyne Smith added 14 and 13 respectively, with Smith pumping in three of CofC's 10 3-pointers. Freshman James Scott held his own under the basket chipping in 11 points off the bench.

For CofC it was a tale of two halves. While Charleston held a slim 19-13 lead early in the contest, the Cougars went cold as Alabama found their zone getting behind several runs that pushed them up to a double digit lead with 3:10 remaining in the first period, eventually taking a sizeable 17 point (51-34) advantage into the locker room at the break.

Alabama didn't relent in the second half. While both teams traded baskets for the first four minute battle, the Crimson Tide soon showed their SEC dominance pushing past the 20 plus margin, going up by as many as 31 points (95-64) on a 3-pointer by Bama's Aaron Estrada. As the Tide began to substitute players in the final couple of minutes the Cougars were able to chip away a the lead, getting to within 13 points before time expired.

Despite scoring 109 points Alabama had only three players in double figures with the offensive leader Mark Sears finishing with a game best 30 points after going 9 of 13 from the field and 9 of 11 from the free throw line. Latrell Wrightsell Jr. and Estrada added 17 and 13 points respectively.

Although the Cougars outrebounded the Tide 42-34 including grabbing 17 offensive boards, just about every other crucial stat went the way of Alabama, with the Tide outscoring Charleston 37-31 off the bench and 46-40 in the paint. What really hurt the Cougars was going 2 of 15 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes of play, finishing 10 of 33 overall.

For Charleston fans they will look to next season with hopes the Cougars can dominate again in the CAA and make a third consecutive trip to the big dance. 4th seeded Alabama (21-11) continue in the NCAA Tournament where they will meet the 12th seeded Antelopes of Grand Canyon University a surprise 75-66 winner over 55th seeded St. Mary's. That contest takes place 7pm ET Sunday night.