Hofstra out to derail No. 18 Charleston

Most of Charleston’s opponents in the Colonial Athletic Association look at the Cougars and see a Top 25 team.

Hofstra sees No. 18 Charleston and remembers how the Cougars ended the Pride’s season the last time the two teams met.

There will be no shortage of motivation on either end of the floor Saturday when Charleston looks to continue the longest active winning streak in the nation as it hosts Hofstra in a battle of two of the top teams in the CAA.

Charleston hasn’t played since Jan. 21, when the Cougars earned their 20th straight victory by cruising past host Northeastern in an 87-61 win in Boston. Hofstra will be completing a two-game road trip after Aaron Estrada scored a career-high 40 points Thursday night in an 82-65 victory over Elon.

For Charleston (21-1, 9-0 CAA), Ben Burnham scored 15 points off the bench and eight different players scored at least seven points against Northeastern. The Cougars never trailed the Huskies in posting their fourth straight victory by at least 14 points and their 13th victory by double digits since Nov. 14, three days after a 102-86 loss to then-No. 1 North Carolina.

“The pizza tastes a little better,” Charleston head coach Pat Kelsey said with a grin following the win over Northeastern. “The sun’s a little brighter when you win. A lot of people say in coaching, ‘How do you spell fun? W-I-N.’ ”

A closer game might be in the offing Saturday for the Cougars, who are the first CAA team to climb into the AP poll in the regular season since 1986-87, when the David Robinson-led Navy squad reached the top 10.

The Cougars have earned four wins by two points during the winning streak. Charleston overcame late deficits to edge Towson, 76-74, in overtime on Dec. 31 and UNC Wilmington, 71-69, on Jan. 11.

The win over Wilmington was a rematch of a CAA tournament game from last March, when the Seahawks ended Charleston’s season with a 60-57 victory. The Cougars advanced to the semifinals following a wire-to-wire 92-76 win over Hofstra, which fell short of the CAA’s final four for the first time since 2018.

“For me, I’m going to take it a little bit more personal because they knocked us off last year,” said Estrada, who leads the CAA in scoring at 21.1 points per game. “So I’m coming into that game with a killer mentality from the jump.”

Hofstra (14-8, 7-2) trailed Elon 35-33 at the half and led 63-59 with seven minutes left before ending the game on a 19-6 run. The Pride are second in the conference in scoring with 73.2 points per game, behind Charleston (80.0).

The Pride have allowed fewer than 70 points in seven straight games.

“Hofstra’s really good — I think they’re the most talented offensive team in the league,” Kelsey said. “I’ve been watching a lot of their games. They’re defending at a high level, too. They’re really good.”

–Field Level Media