Charleston, Vermont start strong in preparation for MBI first-round matchup

It is only one game at the start of a four-month-long regular season. But the fact that both College of Charleston and Vermont won their season-openers sets a positive tone as the teams prepare to face off in the first game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational next Thursday, Nov. 16.

Charleston began its season with a hard-fought 71-69 victory over Iona, while the Catamounts jumped out to a 19-2 lead and never trailed in a 67-55 victory over Merrimack. And though the paths were different, the end result was the same: a 1-0 start to the season.

“You know how you spell fun? W-I-N,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey. “When you win, the pizza tastes much better and the sun is brighter the next morning.

It certainly wasn’t an easy win for the Cougars, who made only 5-of-28 shots from 3-point range and needed a driving layup by junior forward Ante Brzovic with 34 seconds left for the victory. That basket gave Brzovic a team-high 16 points in the game, followed by forward Frankie Policelli with 15.

“You might say we struggled statistically, but I think we have a really good shooting team,” Kelsey said. “We have a lot of guys who can really fill it up, almost the entire roster. I’m not concerned about that at all. In fact, I think that’s going to be one of our strengths.”

The shooting touch was better for Vermont, especially closer to the basket, as the Catamounts went a sizzling 18-of-28 on 2-point attempts. Junior guard Shamir Bouges led the way with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, with only a single 3-pointer.

“They want to limit your 3-point field goal attempts and turn you over,” Vermont coach John Becker said about Merrimack. “We did a really good job of ball control (only nine turnovers), and I thought we got good looks with the right guys taking shots.

“We need as many tough guys – as many rebounders and defenders – as we can get to complement the offensive pieces we have. But this is a great start.”