Charleston has trailed at the half to a team winless in Colonial Athletic Association play twice in the past three games after facing an intermission deficit just once in the first 18 games of the season.
But head coach Pat Kelsey must know that absorbing an opponent’s full focus and most intense effort is part of life for the CAA’s first nationally ranked team in 36 years.
Charleston will look to remain perfect in CAA play and continue the nation’s longest active winning streak Saturday afternoon, when the No. 18 Cougars are slated to visit Northeastern in Boston.
Both teams earned road wins Thursday, when Charleston overcame a nine-point first-half deficit to beat Monmouth 69-55 and Northeastern pulled away in the second half of a 79-66 victory over Stony Brook.
The win was the 19th straight for Charleston (20-1, 8-0), which is the longest streak in Division I since Murray State won 21 straight last season. The Cougars haven’t lost since falling 102-86 to then-No. 1 North Carolina on Nov. 11 – a game in which the Tar Heels had to overcome a 50-43 halftime deficit.
But Charleston — garnering attention as the CAA’s first ranked regular-season team in the Associated Press Top 25 since the David Robinson-led Navy squad moved into the Top 10 during the 1986-87 campaign — has been the team facing halftime deficits over the past week.
The Cougars trailed Elon by two points after 20 minutes in a 78-60 win last Saturday before Monmouth – which is 0-6 in the CAA and 1-18 overall – carried a 31-28 lead into the locker room on Thursday night. In the half, the Hawks limited Charleston to 28.6 percent shooting (8 of 28), forced eight turnovers and had a chance to extend their lead to double digits but missed a pair of 3-pointers while up 25-16.
Monmouth drained four of its first five shots in the second half before Charleston went ahead for good with a 13-0 run in which Ben Burnham and Reyne Smith each hit two 3-pointers. Smith finished with seven 3-pointers and a game-high 27 points for the Cougars, who limited the Hawks to 7-of-23 shooting over the final 15 minutes.
“Every team and every venue we go into, it’s going to be their biggest game on their schedule right now,” Kelsey told The Post and Courier newspaper Thursday night. “We’re going to get everyone’s best shot. And we got a heck of a shot from them in the first half.”
Northeastern (8-10, 4-3) enters Saturday with its first winning streak in league play since the 2020-21 season. The Huskies, who went 2-16 in the CAA last year, opened 2-3 in conference action before overcoming a 16-point deficit to edge Delaware, 59-58, on Monday night.
Northeastern trailed Stony Brook 32-31 at the half Thursday before a red-hot second half in which the Huskies shot 71.4 percent (15 of 21) from the field while making all 10 of their free throw attempts.
Joe Pridgen scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half while Jahmyl Telfort and Masai Troutman both scored 20 points.
Pridgen, a 6-foot-5 guard who sat out last season after transferring from CAA rival UNC Wilmington, has 29 points in two games since moving into the starting lineup for Northeastern. The Huskies’ guard play suffered the past two years after Tyson Walker transferred to Michigan State.
“All you have to do is look to the past at the successful teams — prior to last year, we had six straight first-team all-conference guards,” Northeastern coach Bill Coen, in his 17th season, told the school’s website prior to the season. Coen directed the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and 2019 and to the CAA championship game in 2018 and 2021.
Northeastern is hosting a ranked opponent at Matthews Arena for the third time. The Huskies hosted No. 20 Duke on Dec. 30, 1995, and No. 1 Michigan State on Dec. 19, 2015.
Northeastern holds an 11-9 series lead over Charleston. The teams are slated to meet again in South Carolina on Feb. 13.
–Field Level Media