CHARLESTON, S.C. - Samford overcame a nine-point deficit with under five minutes remaining in regulation to top College of Charleston, 62-57, on Thursday night at TD Arena.
The loss was the first for the Cougars (10-5, 2-1) in Southern Conference play this season, and the first win for Samford (4-12, 2-1) in 13 tries in the all-time series between the two former Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) schools.
A steal and layup from sophomore big man Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) gave the Cougars a 53-44 lead with 4:54 left to go. However, the Bulldogs scored the next seven points and then took a one-point lead on a three-pointer from Clide Geffrard, Jr., with 1:26 on the clock.
The Cougars turned it over on their next possession and Samford's Connor Miller hit a three-pointer to make it a two-possession game with just 24 seconds remaining. CofC had a chance to tie the game, but a three-pointer from senior Andrew Lawrence (London, England) with eight seconds to go, bounced off the front of the rim.
As a team, the Cougars shot 43.8 percent (21-of-48) from the field and hit 12-of-15 free throws. Samford was also efficient from the field, hitting 44.2 percent (23-of-52) from the floor and nailing an opponent season-high 8-of-16 three-point attempts.
Baru led the Cougars with his third double-double of the season, pouring in a game-high 18 points and 11 boards, while also blocking three shots. Baru set a new career high with eight made free throws as he went 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Lawrence scored 14 points with two boards and two assists, while junior small forward Anthony Thomas (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and redshirt junior forward Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) each added seven.
Samford was led by Raijon Kelly's 15 points to go with four assists. Will Cook shot 5-of-7 from the field to finish with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Geffrard also reached double digits with 10 points.
The Bulldogs held a slight edge for most of the first half thanks to good ball movement and easy buckets in the paint. Samford scored six in a row capped by a steal and layup by Russell Wilson to build a 20-14 lead with 7:40 left. Free throws from Baru cut the lead to 26-24 at the 3:07 minute mark, but Tyler Hood responded with a three-pointer to give the visitors a 29-24 lead at halftime.
The Cougars finally retook the lead at the 13:14 minute mark of the second half with an offensive tip-in by Hall that followed an Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.) trey. Hood tied the game with his second three-pointer just three minutes later, but junior forward/guard Nori Johnson (Greer, S.C.) answered with a jumper and the Cougars kept the run going.
Baru converted a layup and a free throw, grabbed a defensive rebound and then hit two more free throws to put CofC up 49-43 with 7:20 remaining. Baru's offensive rebound and layup just two minutes later proved to be the high-water mark with the Cougars up nine at 53-44.
Samford opened its comeback run with a trey from Cook and then two layups from Tim Williams. Geffrard's three-pointer with 1:26 remaining capped the comeback and put Samford up for good. College of Charleston committed a turnover and missed a three-pointer in the final minute as Samford held on for the road victory.
CofC will have a quick, one-day turnaround to prepare for a Saturday, Jan. 12 meeting with Chattanooga (7-9, 2-1 SoCon) at 4 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena.
For the 11th time this season, CofC went with the starting lineup of sophomore Anthony Stitt, senior Andrew Lawrence, junior Anthony Thomas, redshirt junior Willis Hall and sophomore forward Adjehi Baru (9-2).
Samford claimed its first-ever victory in program history over the Cougars in 13 tries since both teams first met in Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) play in 1993-94. CofC still leads the all-time series 12-1 and 5-1 since the Bulldogs joined the Southern Conference in 2008-09.
Adjehi Baru registered his fourth career double-double and third of the season with a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds. He also went to the charity stripe 10 times in the ballgame and converted a career-best eight free throws.
Andrew Lawrence scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive contest with 14 points in 37 minutes of action against the Bulldogs. He has now tabulated 954 career points to date and is 46 shy of the 1,000th career point mark.
CofC shot a season-low 32 percent in the first half from the floor (8-of-25) against Samford next to its previous low of 32.3 percent in the first half against St. John's in the first round of the ESPN Charleston Classic on Nov. 15. They countered that percentage by shooting an improved 56.5 percent in the second half of play.
The Cougars trailed at halftime for only the fifth time this season and are now 1-4 when doing so this season.
All three of CofC's SoCon games have been decided by five points or less including at Elon (+2) on Dec. 1, against Furman (+4) on Jan. 5 and versus Samford (+5) on Jan. 10.
Coming into the game, the Cougars ranked No. 15 in the nation and tops in the league holding opponents to just 27.8 percent from beyond the arc. Samford shot an opponent season-high 50 percent (8-of-16) from three-point land against CofC.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the loss
"It was a really tough loss for us, especially fighting all day and fighting ourselves to a certain extent. We fight back and it's a nine-point lead with four minutes to go. We throw that long pass and turn it over and they knock down the three. There are a lot of plays throughout the 40 minutes of the game, but that certainly was a big one. We have shown better poise on the road. We were still up six at that point and we didn't show poise down the stretch. Give them (Samford) credit. They shot the three well. We didn't defend the three-point line very well tonight. They were 50 percent from three - that's our worst outing defensively from the three-point line on the season and we only had five assists on 21 buckets and 13 turnovers. We shot free throws well. I thought Nori Johnson, Theo Johnson and Adjehi Baru played well. Andrew (Lawrence) and Anthony (Stitt) struggled in the first half to some extent and came back and played better in the second half. All bets are off and we are back at ground zero."
College of Charleston Senior Point Guard Andrew Lawrence
On the loss after a nine-point lead with 4:54 to go in regulation
"Down the stretch, we had some reckless turnovers. Give them (Samford) a lot of credit. They made a lot of tough shots down the stretch. The way they played today - they are a lot better than their record indicates and today they proved it. Every game in the SoCon is tough. When you have a team down, you have to put them down. We failed to do that in our last two games, even in the Furman game when we were up 11 and we let them come back. Once you have a team down, especially at home, you can't give them any hope. That's something we have done and we have to get better at as a team."
College of Charleston Sophomore Forward Adjehi Baru
On the turnovers at the end of the ballgame ...
"We got too excited. We made bad decisions. I made a bad turnover giving it to their wing player instead of my point guard. We just have to play together in our next game."
Samford Head Coach Bennie Seltzer
On the road win
"I'm so proud of our guys, because they did fight. We got down nine and we never wavered. We continued to talk and did the things that me and my staff have been harping on these guys to do all season long. In terms of holding each other accountable, talk on defense and getting 50-50 balls. Our guys put together a good game tonight."