For the first time in two decades, College of Charleston jumped into the Top 25 rankings propelled by a 13-game winning streak.
The No. 23 Cougars survived Towson with a 76-74 overtime win on New Year’s Eve and are determined to stay on the ascent with a trip to North Carolina A&T on Wednesday at Greensboro, N.C.
Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said his club is aware of the bull’s-eye that comes with entering the Top 25.
“We’ve done everything we can to put ourselves in the best position,” Kelsey said. “We’ve been really good because our basketball team has been so consistent no matter what.”
The Cougars (14-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) have been on the verge of cracking the rankings and blasted Hampton 89-61 last week.
Croatia native Ante Brzovic is a challenging matchup at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds, and scored a season-high 22 against Towson. Pat Robinson III converted a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left in overtime.
Kelsey downplayed the streak and said “in terms of practice and preparation, one way or another we’re going to try (to win again)” no matter what the rankings indicate.
It will be an historic game either way.
This is the inaugural CAA home game for N.C. A&T (6-9, 1-1), a new member in the league after a season in the Big South Conference.
N.C. A&T brings some momentum into the matchup after snapping a four-game losing skid with Saturday’s 81-79 victory at Hofstra. The winning points came on Tyrese Elliott’s tip-in at the buzzer.
“To be in a high-level league like this and get our first win on the road against one of the best teams in the conference in Hofstra makes me so proud of our guys and our coaching staff,” N.C. A&T interim coach Phillip Shumpert said.
The only loss for the Cougars came in the opening week of the season at then-No. 1 North Carolina.
In eight games this season, Charleston has connected on at least 10 3-pointers. The critical number for the Cougars might be turnovers. They survived a season-high 24 on New Year’s Eve.
N.C. A&T’s Duncan Powell, the highest-rated recruit in program history, was named CAA Rookie of the Week for his efforts the past two games. He shot a combined 12 of 16 from the field and 10 of 14 on free throws in those games.
“I love seeing Duncan Powell coming into his own,” Shumpert said. “I’m proud of how he’s playing physically and rebounding the ball. We’re definitely going to need that in a league where teams play physical basketball.”
Powell posted career highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds in the game at Hofstra.
The Aggies are trying to become more versatile and will need to buckle down defensively. Charleston leads the CAA with 80.5 points per game and 13.4 offensive rebounds per game.
“We have to continue to fight on the interior defensively,” Shumpert said.
Charleston has five players averaging double-digit point totals, led by Dalton Bolon’s 12.3 points per game. Nine players log 16 or more minutes of playing time in each game.
This will mark the second N.C. A&T home game of the season against a Division I opponent. The Aggies topped cross-city rival UNC Greensboro in the first one.
–Field Level Media