NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Redshirt junior guard Joe Chealey scored 25 of his 29 points in the second half and junior Cameron Johnson scored all of his seven points in the final five minutes of play as second-seeded College of Charleston earned its first-ever trip to the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship game with a 67-59 victory over third-seeded Towson in the semifinals on Sunday night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Chealey, who added six rebounds and three assists, accounted for 16 points alone during a clutch stretch for the Cougars, turning a seven-point deficit with 12:07 left, into a one-point lead with 6:01 remaining.
Towson senior William Adala Moto finished with 16 points and eight boards, and brought his team within one (55-54) with 2:12 left after splitting a pair of free throws. CofC answered with consecutive treys from freshman Grant Riller and Johnson – sandwiched in-between two missed Towson free throws – that made it a seven-point advantage with 1:12 to spare, before the Cougars held on for the historic win from there.
CofC (25-8) makes its first-ever appearance in the CAA title game, and takes on top-seeded UNCW (28-5) on Monday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m. (ET) on CBS Sports Network.
Riller had 12 points, four assists and three boards, while sophomore Jarrell Brantley chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds in the win – the team’s sixth straight.
The Tigers (20-13), who played in the semifinals for the first time since 2014, got a strong effort of the bench from Eddie Keith with 14 points and a pair of three-pointers in the loss. Towson outrebounded CofC on the offensive end, 15-5, but shot 35.2 percent from the floor as a team.
Towson opened the second half missing its first six shots, but held on to a 30-25 lead. Chealey and the Cougars kept fighting back, and his first trey of the game with 11:31 left made it 36-32. He was just getting started.
The redshirt junior ignited his squad, and the Cougar faithful, hitting two more three-pointers during the critical 18-10 run, with the final trey giving CofC a 47-46 lead with just over six minutes left. CofC shot 68.4 percent from the floor in the second half, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
The first half was a defensive struggle, to say the least, with Towson holding a slim 26-21 lead. Keith had nine and Adala Moto had eight, though Towson had 10 made field goals. CofC, meanwhile, made just 8-of-24 shots from the field as a team, with Riller again leading the Cougars at the half with nine points.
The winner of tomorrow night’s title game will earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.