ELON, N.C. (COFC) - Redshirt junior forward Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) turned in his third career double-double to lead the College of Charleston to a 56-54 road win at Elon in its Southern Conference opener held on Saturday night at Alumni Gym.
Hall registered a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds to give the Cougars (5-2, 1-0 SoCon) their fourth consecutive victory and to close out a tough three-game road stretch at 3-0 which also included an upset of then No. 21-ranked Baylor on Nov. 24.
CofC looked to avenge a 99-98 double-overtime loss to the Phoenix (5-3, 1-1 SoCon) a year ago at the very same venue. Both teams came into the contest as the divisional leaders in the North and South.
Elon started the first half on a 14-6 run as the Cougars were marred by turnover after turnover. They limited their miscues and took their first lead of the game on a layup by sophomore guard Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.), 18-17, at the 8:02 minute mark. The Phoenix responded by rattling off five-straight points to take a 22-18 advantage.
Hall scored four of the team's last seven points to send CofC into the locker room with a 29-24 halftime lead.
In the second half of play, the Cougars led by as many as nine points, but Elon capitalized on more turnovers and went on a 9-0 run to tie up the ballgame on a Tanner Samson lay-in off a missed three-pointer by Austin Hamilton with 2:50 remaining in regulation, 52-all.
A slam dunk by sophomore forward Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) with 1:30 left to go and two free throws made by senior point guard Andrew Lawrence (London, England) and Stitt in the final seconds sealed the win for the Cougars.
CofC will next host No. 5-ranked Louisville (6-1) on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
For the fourth time this season and fourth-straight contest, the Cougars used the starting lineup of sophomore Anthony Stitt, senior Andrew Lawrence, junior Anthony Thomas, junior Willis Hall and sophomore Adjehi Baru (4-0).
With the win, the Cougars improved to 12-5 in the all-time series with Elon. They have won five of the last six meetings between the two schools. It also marked CofC Head Coach Doug Wojcik's first career Southern Conference win.
CofC is now 12-3 all-time in its SoCon openers since joining the league in 1998.
Willis Hall registered his third career double-double with a game-and season-high 19 points and 12 rebounds. It also marked his fifth career double-figure rebounding game.
Andrew Lawrence knocked down two of the team's four three-pointers in the game to move into ninth all-time in career three-pointers ahead of former CofC player Thomas Mobley (158) with 160 career treys to date.
The Cougars have now won three road games in a row for the first time since the 2009-10 season when opening up league play on the road at The Citadel on Jan. 9, 2010, at Samford on Jan. 14, 2010 and at Chattanooga on Jan. 16, 2010.
For the seventh consecutive contest, CofC won the battle of the boards, 35-31 (+4).
The CofC defense held Elon to its second-lowest shooting percentage of the season from the field (34.5%).
The Cougars are now 4-1 on the season when games are decided by five points or less.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On Willis Hall's double-double performance
"He's a guy who is a winner. He gives Adjehi (Baru) and Nori Johnson courage. I always say this, 'who do you want to lose with?' If you lose tonight's game and have to be on the bus five hours back, 'who do you want to ride the bus home with?' I'd take Willis Hall any day of the week."
On the team's defensive performance against Elon
"They just kept guarding the three-point line. Elon shot 34 percent. (Jack) Isenbarger is in good shape. (Anthony) Stitt did a good job on him. It was just a great performance there by Stitt. We are getting better. I'm really proud of Adjehi (Baru) getting the minutes he is playing and not fouling. It was one of those games where we were fighting ourselves and turning it over, especially 19 turnovers. And to win on the road? They had a good crowd and it was a big game for them. It's a huge tiebreaker game now. It's not the first and second teams in the North and South (Divisions) anymore, it's the top four teams. We now own the tiebreaker over Elon. I thought our kids really responded, not in the middle of it (the game) with the turnovers, but in the end we found a way to win."
On Adjehi Baru's development
"He is a special kid. Bottom line he believes in me and I believe in him. He has responded."
College of Charleston Redshirt Junior Forward Willis Hall
On winning three-straight road games including tonight's league opener at Elon
"We played really good teams early and we got tested. I won't say we failed, but we really learned who we are. We are developing and getting better at that, now that we know ourselves well. We just have a great group of guys. We struggled there in the beginning, but we found a way. It can come from a different person every single night. We were able to stay in it long enough to win the game and pull it out."
On the team's point guard play
"We are blessed with those two guys (Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt). They have incredible skills, especially with their poise and getting everything done on the court. It's toughest on point guards on the road. It gets rowdy out there and it was getting loud tonight. It can be really hard to get everyone together, while Coach (Wojcik) is yelling a play. They always handle everything beautifully and work well together."