BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - College of Charleston overcame a five-point halftime deficit by stepping up its defensive pressure and shooting 56 percent in the second half to roll to its fifth-straight win in Southern Conference play with a 69-65 road victory at Samford on Thursday night at the Pete Hanna Center.
The Cougars (17-7, 9-3 SoCon) split the regular-season series with the Bulldogs (7-16, 5-5 SoCon) to avenge a 62-57 loss on their own home court a month prior on Jan. 10 at TD Arena.
Five players scored in double figures including the dominant inside play of sophomore forward Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast), who registered his sixth double-double of the season with a team-high 15 points and 10 rebounds, and redshirt junior forward Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) with 10 points and seven rebounds.
After jumping out to a 13-4 run in the first five minutes of the ballgame, CofC struggled to find a shot that would find the back of the net. The Cougars went 12-of-31 (38.7 percent) from the floor and 0-for-9 from beyond the arc in the first half of play. They went into the locker room trailing Samford, 31-26.
Junior reserve forward/guard Nori Johnson (Greer, S.C.) scored all of his seven points in the second half in which he helped spark the Cougars to a run of their own to regain the lead on his made layup, 43-42, with 9:36 remaining in regulation.
CofC never looked back after that point and stretched its lead out to as many as 12 points on two made free throws by Johnson with one minute left on the clock, 62-50.
Samford wouldn't go down without a fight and tossed up four desperation three-pointers, including three from Raijon Kelly in the final seconds, to force the Cougars to use their remaining timeouts to strategize and defend the last-second comeback by the Bulldogs. Kelly ended the night with a game-high 21 points.
Up next, CofC will complete its two-game league road swing at Chattanooga (9-14, 4-6 SoCon) on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. (ET) in Chattanooga, Tenn.
For the 20th time this season, CofC used the starting lineup of sophomore Anthony Stitt, senior Andrew Lawrence, junior Anthony Thomas, redshirt junior Willis Hall and sophomore forward Adjehi Baru (16-4).
With the win, the Cougars now lead 13-1 in the all-times with Samford in the final regular-season meeting between the two schools as CofC moves to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) next season. CofC also remains an unbeaten 3-0 when playing on the road at Samford.
CofC improves its road record to 8-2 on the season which remains the best in the SoCon and among the most road victories in the country.
Adjehi Baru registered his seventh career double-double and sixth of the season with a team-high 15 rebounds and 10 rebounds against Samford.
Anthony Thomas turned in his 10th double-figure scoring game of the season with 12 points, seven rebounds and a career-high tying four assists versus the Bulldogs.
Andrew Lawrence reached double figures for the third-straight contest with 10 points to tabulate 1,075 career points to date.
Anthony Stitt extended his double-digit scoring streak to a team-best five consecutive games with 11 points including 6-of-8 from the free throw line in the final stretch of the contest.
The Cougars shot a season-low tying 13.3 percent (2-of-15) from beyond the arc which tied its percentage against No. 5-ranked Louisville on Dec. 4.
CofC handled the basketball well for the fifth-straight contest as it made its second-fewest turnovers of the season with 10 against Samford.
For the 20th time this year, the Cougars won the battle of the boards, 34-20 (+14).
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the game and picking it up in the second half
"They started their best five players against us tonight based on our size. In the end, I thought we wore them down. Although, I can't really say that when they threw in those four threes at the end. Otherwise, we would have gotten out of here sooner and walked away with a double-digit game."
On few turnovers versus Samford
"We didn't have many assists, but that was due to the lack of shooting tonight. We went 2-for-15 from three, but we found a way. We fought ourselves quite a bit. I'm real proud of our team. We are 8-2 on the road. The defense in the end, if they don't make those threes, we hold another opponent in the 50s. Another thing that is impressive is that we are now 17-7."
College of Charleston Sophomore Guard Anthony Stitt
On the road win
"We knew what we had to do. We went in the locker room down by five. We weren't hitting shots in the first half, so we had to rely more on our defense. We had a great spark by Nori Johnson. He really played good defense in the second half and he really sparked us to the team victory. This was a big win for us just being on the road and putting us in a good position before playing Chattanooga and Davidson. We knew they (Samford) were going to give us their best shot and responded in the second half."
On the team's inside play against Samford
"The bigs (Adjehi Baru and Willis Hall) played great on the offensive glass tonight. They really dominated the glass. We beat Samford, 34-to-20. When we can control the boards, we have a good shot of winning the game."