Cougs Drop First Game in Myrtle Beach Invitational, Fall to 1-2 Overall
Jeff Walker, Sports
Less than a week from coming off a road trip loss to Duquesne the College of Charleston men's basketball team took their 1-1 record to the grand strand of South Carolina to compete in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, opening up against Vermont. The Catamounts carried with them a 2-0 record, but with wins over Merrimack and Plattsburgh State, going up against CofC would prove a bigger test for their season.
Both teams came off record years with Charleston going 31-4, winning the CAA and falling in the first game of the NCAA. Vermont finished the 2022-23 season 23-11 including a 14-2 mark in the American East conference, advancing to March Madness before falling to 2nd seeded Marquette 78-61 in their opening contest.
All that behind both teams, it was a 40 minute battle of the big cats as the Catamounts erased a 15 point first half deficit to regain the lead 61-60 in the final three minutes using that momentum and the foul line to cruise to a 73-64 victory over the Cougars, as the Charleston had no answers down the stretch.
Matt Veretto finished with a game best 18 points for Vermont, with TJ Long adding 15 for the winning team. What helped the Catamounts was the fact they made 11 of 28 (40%), while the Cougars managed to make just 3 of 25 from long range.
While CofC held their own in the first 20 minutes of play, they relied on points in the paint (24) to outpace Vermont for the first half lead. Down the stretch the shots just didn't fall and a program that prides itself on the long ball managed to make just 3 of 23 from beyond the arc.
Long drained a long ball as Vermont tripped the scoreboard first. Ben Burnham had a quick five points as the Cougars had the early advantage. Four from the foul line by the Catamounts put them back on top. Seven minutes into the contest it was tied at 14 apiece. After a two minute offensive drought by both teams, Charleston threw up seven unanswered beginning with Kobe Rodgers grabbing a rebound for a put back followed by three the hard way by Butler and two from Burnham.
When 'Benny Buckets' connected from the corner for his first 3-pointer of the season, and freshman Mayar Wol knocked down his second ever shot in a Cougar uniform CofC started to roll, up 30-18 under the six minute mark. Despite trailing by 15 points, Vermont was able to find some offense late heading into the locker room down 36-27 at intermission.
A rebound for a dunk by James Scott put CofC up by 10, however Vermont came out with a bit more fire after the break, cutting the lead to four 45-41 behind a couple of shots from the beyond the arc from Long. The Cougars managed to push the margin to three possessions on several occasions before Long and Veretto got hot from 3-point land and at the charity stripe. Forced to foul the Catamounts secured the win at the line, finishing 20 of 28 at the charity stripe.
The Cougars were lead in scoring by Burnham and Ante Brzovic with 12 points apiece. Rodgers and Bryce Butler chipped in 10 points each in a losing effort. The Cougars did win the battle of the glass out-rebounding the Catamounts 43-38, hauling in 13 offensive boards. Charleston have roughly 24 hours to regroup as they take on the loser of the contest between Saint Louis and Wyoming. Tip-off is set for 2:30pm.