A pair of impressive road wins to open Colonial Athletic Association play bring College of Charleston home to TD Arena for the first time since before the holidays.
Who: Towson Tigers at College of Charleston Cougars
When: Thursday, Jan. 2, 7p.m. ET
Where: TD Arena
Watch: LIVE on FloHoops
The Cougars opened the CAA slate with a pair of double-digit-point wins on the road over Drexel and Delaware. The showdown with the Fightin’ Blue Hens in Newark showed the full depth of a Charleston bunch poised to contend for the conference crown.
While the Cougars return home off to an ideal CAA start, Towson rolls in playing some catch-up. The Tigers opened with Northeastern and Hofstra, last season’s CAA Tournament and regular-season champion respectively, and dropped both.
An 0-3 hole to begin the conference season would not necessarily spell an early end to an title aspirations Towson has -- but it would eliminate the Tigers’ margin for error in the next two months.
Towson Tigers At A Glance
Towson’s challenging non-conference schedule set a fitting stage for the beginning of the Tigers’ CAA slate.
Pat Skerry’s bunch drawing the 2019 CAA Tournament champion, the conference’s reigning regular-season champion and highest-rated team per KenPom.com, and now the top first-place vote-getter in the preseason CAA poll is quite a way to start.
Towson dug a deep hole early against Northeaster, but in Monday’s contest with Hofstra, battled the Pride down to the wire. The Tigers need to build on that effort against a tough Charleston side.
Names To Know
Brian Fobbs came into the opening CAA weekend hot, but faced two difficult contests to begin the conference season. He’s averaging a little over 15 points per game, though 15 was his total against Northeastern and Hofstra.
Foul trouble limited the Tigers’ top scorer on Monday, though Fobbs did pull Towson within six points in the final minute on a sick dunk along the baseline.
Allen Betrand, Towson’s second-leading scorer, is coming off a strong showing against Hofstra. If both Fobbs and Betrand can get rolling offensively, Towson has the firepower to keep pace with Charleston’s talented backcourt -- particularly with Nicolas Timberlake heating up in Towson’s last few games.
Towson’s methodical offensive approach can be feast-or-famine. A more uptempo offense than the almost 20 seconds per possession the Tigers average can miss shots without as much consequence, since it will see more possessions.
The Tigers make opposing defenses work, but need shots to fall. Against Northeastern, an 8-of-26 first half doomed Towson.
Making the defense work with long possessions can work to Towson’s benefit, but the Tigers will need to come out hitting to test Charleston.
Dennis Tunstall and Nakye Sanders have excelled with on-ball defense in the lane. Towson will need their length to limit Charleston’s scorers.
Nearly 11 percent of the Cougars’ possessions result in blocked shots. The Tigers’ rim protectors will have opportunities. Creating turnovers has been a season-long struggle for Towson, but may need to be an X-factor on Thursday.
Charleston Cougars At A Glance
Like Towson, Charleston faced a tough non-conference schedule. The Cougars looked sharp to open conference play, so the challenging slate appears to have had the intended effect.
A part of that is the depth Charleston showed in its road swing at Drexel and Delaware. Grant Riller dealt with foul trouble at Delaware, but three other Cougars scoring in double-figures helped carry the load with the team’s star on the bench.
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Even though limited in stretches at Delaware, Grant Riller still posted 22 points against the Blue Hens. Backcourt mate Brevin Galloway continued his strong offensive play of late with 14 in the win.
“He's been really good with anticipation, getting steals and being active on defense. They turn into offense most of the time,” Cougars coach Earl Grant said following the game. “We just told him, 'you are a green-light shooter and you are a big-time shot maker. If you have a good look, you need to take them.'”
Jaylen McManus and Zep Jasper are both coming off double-figure performances. Their
Like Towson, Charleston will make opposing defenses work with lengthy possessions to find the best possible shot rather than the first available. However, the Cougars’ efficiency in making shots has made Charleston more consistent.
The Cougars rank No. 93 among all Div. I teams in adjusted offensive efficiency -- and that’s before Riller has caught fire from behind the 3-point line. Galloway and Sam Miller have buoyed Charleston’s outside shooting, and the Cougars have shot 51.8 percent from inside the arc.
Charleston’s perimeter defense has been its strength. The Cougars are holding opponents just north of 30 percent shooting from beyond the arc, while Galloway and Riller ratchet up the pressure on the ball.
Galloway ranks among the country’s very best in generating turnovers, averaging 2.4 steals per game. Continuing that trend would buck the norm for Towson, which ranks 15th in the nation in possessions resulting in steals.