Ben Burnham Rises To The Challenge, Leads Cougar Attack With 20 Pts., CofC Improve to 7-3 in CAA
Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Less than 48 hours after falling at home to UNCW for a second time, the College of Charleston men's basketball team hit the road again as they do battle against William & Mary. Despite entering entering the contest 8-14 overall and 3-6 in the CAA, the Tribe gave the visiting Cougars all they could muster, before CofC narrowly escaped with an 84-83 victory. With the win Charleston improve to 16-7 on the year and 7-3 in league play.
Veteran junior forward Ben 'Benny Buckets' Burnham carried the team on this shoulders during his 21 minutes of action. Burnham went 7 of 11 from the floor including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc for a team best 20 points. He grabbed seven of Charleston's 36 rebounds.
Although Reyne Smith shot just 2 of 10 from the field, they were long balls, and that coupled with his 4 of 4 from the line late in the contest gave him 10 points on the afternoon and helped secure the W. Four additional players chipped in eight points apiece including Ante Brzovic, Frankie Policelli, with James Scott and Bryce Butler who did their damage off the bench.
It was a hostile environment as William & Mary faithful came out loud and proud for the home town team. That worked early on as the Tribe shot better than 70 percent in the first eight minutes of action, going up 21-12 over the Cougars.
CofC found their rhythm late in the first period, eventually putting together an 11-0 run including three triples by Smith, Burnham and Khalil London that had them up 36-33 with under four minutes remaining in the half. William & Mary would close out the half on an 11-5 run including a half court shot by Chase Lowe to enjoy a 44-41 lead at the break.
The Tribe came out with the same mojo as Gabe Dorsey hit from long range inside the first 30 seconds of action to put his team up by six. The Cougars would slowly eat away at the margin, tying the contest at 47 all on a short jumper by Burnham. It would be part of 12 unanswered by the Cougars that had they move ahead 53-47 with just under 17 minutes remaining.
William & Mary fired back with to make it a one point game, before another run by Charleston including five points from Burnham found them up by nine (65-56) at the midway mark. Seven straight capped off by a 3-pointer by Dorsey cut the margin to two.
Up by seven points on four occasions in the final five minutes of play, the Cougars mostly held onto a one or two possession lead down the wire, enjoying an eight point margin (79-71) on a couple of free throws by Smith with 32 seconds on the clock.
But there was no quit in the Tribe. A long ball by Dorsey, followed by a Cougar turnover that lead to another triple by Sean Houpt made it 79-77 with 16 seconds showing, and fans becoming a bit noisier. With William & Mary forced to foul, CofC made five of six including two each from Smith and Brzovic to secure victory.
Dorsey closed out the contest with another from long range, as the Tribe came up one point short of sending the game into overtime. CofC radio announcer must be psychic. Just before second half action began, he said all the Cougars had to do is outscore their opponents by four points. He hit the nail head on!
Lowe who had the last second theatrics as the first half ended, finished with a game high 21 points, going 6 of 12 from the floor, adding 8 of 11 from the line. Dorsey went 3 of 9 from beyond the arc for 16 points. Matteus Case and Houpt chipped in 15 and 12 respectively for William & Mary.
The overall stats indicated it was a close game with the lone stat the Cougars prevailed in was a 35-17 margin in point off the bench. Charleston was without Kobe Rodgers who was injured late in the contest against UNCW. It was the first time this year that every player who got in the game scored.
As he does almost every time CofC Head Coach Pat Kelsey praised his players and the opposing team. "Give them credit (William & Mary). It was a great atmosphere. It's been a tough place to play over the years. It's great to come out with a win."
Regarding Burnham and Smith, Coach Kelsey added, "Benny was great. When he gets into a groove there's no stopping him." As for the clutch foul shots from Smith. "Reyne has got ice water in his veins. I'm really proud of this kid." Coach added, "Everyone stepped up today."
Smith echoed Kelsey's comments. "I think we responded well, especially after a really disappointing loss on Thursday. We did a good job of not panicking down the stretch."
Charleston, now 16-7 and 7-3 in CAA play, will return to TD Arena on Thursday, February 8 to take on North Carolina A&T. Action is set for 8:00 p.m. The game will be the second of the Cougars' four league contests on CBS Sports Network.