Cougars Clinch SoCon Regular Season Title

Junior Antwaine Wiggins scored a career-high 24 points and senior All-America candidate Andrew Goudelock added 23 to lead the College of Charleston men’s basketball team to a 75-49 rout of Samford on Senior Night at Carolina First Arena.

It marked the seventh-straight win for the Cougars (22-7, 14-2) who clinched the Southern Conference regular-season title and the league’s automatic NIT bid for the first time since 1999. They have now won 10 of their last 11 games of the season and have two games remaining prior to the 2010 SoCon Tournament to be held on March 4-7 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

CofC, the nation’s 10th-best shooting ballclub, went 49.2 percent from the floor behind Wiggins’ 10-of-18 performance versus the Bulldogs (12-17, 4-13), who dropped their fifth-straight in league play. The Cougars led by as many as 30 on a jumper by freshman James Carlton  with 2:12 to go in regulation, 71-41.

Senior Donavan Monroe  contributed 11 points, while Jeffrey Merritt paced Samford with 14. CofC scored 21 of their 75 points off of 16 turnovers by the Bulldogs and outrebounded them, 41-33.

The Cougars will close out the regular season on the road at Appalachian State on Thursday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. (ET) in Boone, N.C., and against North Division leader Western Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 26, at 4:30 p.m. (ET) in Cullowhee, N.C.

POSTGAME NOTES
• For the first time this season, CofC used the starting lineup of senior Donavan Monroe, senior Andrew Goudelock, senior Jordan Turok, sophomore Willis Hall and senior Garrett Campbell. It marked the first career starts for Turok and Campbell, both former walk-ons and now scholarship players for the Cougars.
• With the victory, the Cougars remain an unbeaten 11-0 in the all-time series with Samford. They clinched the Southern Conference regular-season title for the first time since going a perfect 16-0 in 1999 and earned the league’s automatic NIT bid.
• Junior Antwaine Wiggins turned in a career-high 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the floor and 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc versus Samford. It marked only his second 20-point game of his career.
• The Cougars have now won nine consecutive Senior Nights dating back to a 73-71 victory over Georgia Southern on March 1, 2003.
• Andrew Goudelock registered 23 points and is currently on a season-best 15-game double-digit scoring streak. He has now tabulated 2,372 career points to date which ranks first all-time in the CofC record books and sixth all-time in the SoCon record books. It marked his 43rd 20-point game of his career.
• CofC outrebounded their opponents for the 17th time this season (16-1) and in five of its last six SoCon games.

POSTGAME QUOTES
College of Charleston Head Coach Bobby Cremins
On the game …
“That was a nice evening. I’m really happy for our seniors. We still have a lot of basketball we have to play. These kids, they sacrificed. It was tough playing in those (CBI) tournaments and always having to go on the road. Now, to secure an NIT bid, is great. I would love to not play in the NIT, there is a bigger prize available, but our first goal has always been to win the regular-season championship. Like I said after the game, ‘you are not a champion until you win a championship,’ that’s the way it is. We all know what is ahead. We have to address the next two games, because they are very important. We talked about this before, usually one team gets in, but you never know. The pressure will continue to be on these guys. I can’t say enough what a run it has been. The last few weeks, I think about being in the emergency room with Jeremy (Simmons). To see this team respond, and Drew (Goudelock) and Donavan (Monroe) had a lot to do with it. They know what we lost and they have stepped up. The families have been here all weekend and everyone is emotionally drained. Tomorrow will be a good day off and then we have to get back to work.”

On the play of Antwaine Wiggins …
“How about Antwaine tonight? It was great to see him play like that. That three he made before the half, I thought he was out of bounds and the next thing I know, it went in.”

College of Charleston Senior Guard Andrew Goudelock
On the game …
“It was a special moment for all the seniors and a special moment for me especially. It’s been a great ride here, a lot of memories. It’s kind of a bittersweet ending, because we don’t want to leave, but you have to do what you have to do. We just came out and tried to have fun tonight.”

On the team’s current winning stretch …
“This is by far the best we’ve played since I’ve been here. We’re focused defensively, offensively and rebounding. It seems that every night we’re blowing teams up. Usually in the past, we would get leads on people, especially my sophomore year, but they would come back and win by like five. This team has really been focused. We’ve have that drive, that killer instinct in us, so when we get up, we just put teams down. It’s hard for teams to come in here and play us, let alone playing us on the road. It’s still tough for them. Like Donavan (Monroe) said, it’s something we’ve talked about. We’ve been living together since our freshman year, so we’ve had plenty of time to talk about what we want to accomplish by the time we’re seniors and in our senior years. Its kind of like you’re living out a dream in person.”

On the emotions of Senior Night …
“We all felt the emotions going around. We love that. We love our fans. It’s gotten better every year, the new arena, so many new things have come. It’s a real family atmosphere. I don’t think people understand how much of a family atmosphere it is until you come here and sit here in this arena. It’s not like a lot of places that I’ve been.”

On what’s next for the team …
“We have to keep going. We are going to try to get our rest tomorrow, then we have to go right back at it. Just because we cinched the regular season, doesn’t mean anything. That’s just one goal out of many goals we have as a team. We have to keep getting better. This doesn’t stop anything. We still have a long road and a lot of things we want to accomplish. It doesn’t stop right here.”

College of Charleston Senior Point Guard Donavan Monroe
On ending Senior Night on a high note clinching the SoCon regular-season championship …
“It’s great. I can’t ask for anything else. I’m always going to remember these four years here at CofC. When we were freshmen, we were always planning for the future. Like, ‘man, when we get this our senior year, we’re going to be great and good’. It’s something we already talked about way back in the past, and now we’re living it out. Hopefully, we can just keep this going, until the tournament and hopefully into the NCAA Tournament.”

On how the situation with Jeremy Simmons changed the team …
“We all felt it and something went through everyone. We knew we had to step up. It’s a sad situation what happened to Jeremy, but we have to go out and play for him. That’s what Coach (Cremins) said, ‘go out and play for Jeremy and give it everything you’ve got.’ As you can see, guys are stepping up – Antwaine (Wiggins), Trent (Wiedeman) and Willis (Hall). It’s kind of like we got a sense of urgency once he got hurt. We were like, ‘that’s our defensive presence, our rebounder, our finisher.’ He’s been with us for four years and he’s our best friend. Not having your best friend there and with him being such a big part of the team, you feel it. Just because he got hurt doesn’t mean everything is going to stop. You have to keep playing and we knew that if we were going to keep winning, something had to change.”

College of Charleston Junior Forward Antwaine Wiggins
On the game …
“It was a special game. It’s the last time I will play with my best friends on our home court. I just wanted to give it all I had, so I could remember this night. I remember my freshman year, we lost to a D-II school in our first game, and now, we just won the regular-season championship and they’re about to leave me. I’m glad I got to spend four years here with them.”

On how he and his senior teammates have grown and changed over the last four years …
“It takes time to get used to playing with each other. The chemistry over that four-year span, we got really tight. I knew something special was going to happen before we left this place.”