No. 18 College of Charleston needs to work on staying sharp during a stretch of the schedule that might not look too daunting.
The Cougars will attempt to remain focused going into their Thursday night game against Monmouth at West Long Branch, N.J.
“Those kids are special and mature,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said of his players. “The guys in the locker room are just consistent.”
Charleston (19-1, 7-0 Colonial Athletic Association) has the nation’s longest winning streak at 18 games.
“When you’re on a winning streak like that, you’re fighting human nature every day,” Kelsey said.
Monmouth (1-17, 0-5) is one of the lowest-rated teams in the country.
“Our kids are resilient and they keep fighting,” Hawks coach King Rice. “I’m trying to keep my guys’ heads in a good place and find the group that isn’t going to get discouraged.”
This will be Charleston’s third consecutive game against an opponent with a losing record after the Cougars topped Elon (now 2-17) and William & Mary (now 8-11).
After facing second-half deficits against Delaware, UNC Wilmington and Elon, the Cougars never trailed on Monday en route to an 82-54 blowout of visiting William & Mary. Ten players got on the scoresheet for Charleston.
“Our offense gains energy when we share the ball,” Kelsey said.
Charleston seems to be clicking in some areas after draining a season-best 16 shots from 3-point range on Monday. On defense, the Cougars matched their season high by blocking seven shots, and they didn’t surrender a 3-point basket to the Tribe, who shot 0-for-12 from beyond the arc.
“We measure in value deflections, that tells me how hard we’re playing,” Kelsey said. “A typical target is 38 deflections, we had (more than 50).”
Monmouth will be the third first-year CAA member to take on Charleston, which posted road victories at Hampton and North Carolina A&T against other league newcomers.
Monmouth is coming off a 68-48 loss at Towson on Saturday, the Hawks’ ninth consecutive defeat.
“I thought we had a bunch of kids really, really fight in this game,” Rice said. “The thing that keeps showing up in this league is how big and strong guys are, and our kids get tired some nights. We can battle for a little while.”
Still, Monmouth dropped its past three games by margins of 20 or more points.
The Hawks should be used to Top 25 competition even if they have been unable to keep up. They faced nationally ranked Virginia and Illinois along with power-conference teams Seton Hall and Syracuse.
The Hawks are 0-6 at home. Their lone victory came Dec. 4 at Manhattan.
Monmouth forward Myles Foster has scored in double figures in six consecutive games, and he leads the team with an average of 12 points per contest.
The Cougars will leave the Carolinas to play a game for just the second time this season. They went to Maryland and earned an overtime win at Towson on Dec. 31. Following the Thursday game in New Jersey, Charleston heads to Boston to oppose Northeastern on Saturday.
Monmouth will play host to Hampton on Saturday.
–Field Level Media