CHARLESTON, SC -- Grant Riller scored seven of his game-high 21 points in the extra session as Colonial Athletic Association preseason favorite College of Charleston edged Siena Basketball 68-60 in overtime in the season opener for both teams in front of a near capacity crowd of 4,955 at TD Arena. Junior captain Nico Clareth led the Saints with 15 points.
CAA Preseason Player of the Year Joe Chealey contributed 17 points and seven rebounds for College of Charleston which entered play ranked fourth in the College Insider Preseason Mid-Major Top-25 Poll. Nick Harris added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Cougars who return all five starters from last year's team which won 25 games and earned a berth to the NIT.
Sophomore guard Khalil Richard chipped in 14 points off the bench for Siena which dropped its fifth straight road opener. Highly touted freshman forward Prince Oduro scored nine of his 11 points in the second half and overtime, and added 10 rebounds to record a double-double in his collegiate debut.
The young Saints gave the heavily favored veteran Cougars all they could handle, as neither team led by more than eight points in a tightly contested affair which featured six ties and six lead changes. Siena led by as many as seven following a 15-2 run with 8:22 left in the first half, but College of Charleston ended the stanza on an 18-8 spurt to claim a 28-25 lead at the break.
The Cougars led for most of the second half, albeit by no more than five points. The Saints caught fire late, turning a four-point deficit into a four-point in the span of just two possessions. Clareth drilled a three, and a foul away from the ball led to the go-ahead free throws from Richard to complete the rare five-point possession. And on the next trip down the floor, Richard nailed a clutch three to give Siena a 51-47 lead with 96 seconds remaining.
College of Charleston responded with the next six points, reclaiming a 53-51 edge following a Riller free throw with seven seconds remaining. But on the ensuing inbounds, freshman guard Jordan Horn went coast-to-coast for the driving, game-tying layup as time expired in regulation.
However it would be the Cougars who would have the final say in the see-saw affair. College of Charleston, which shot just 32.9% from the field overall, was clutch in overtime in connecting on five of their eight attempts including a backbreaking three from Riller to extend the lead to six and effectively ice the contest with 62 seconds to go.
The Saints held a 51-40 advantage in rebounding, and blocked eight shots including a career-high four from junior forward Evan Fisher who added eight points and six rebounds. The Cougars turned Siena over 24 times while committing just six miscues of their own in holding a 23-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
The schedule gets no easier for the Saints as they return to the Capital Region to host "Dunk City" in two-time defending Atlantic Sun Champion Florida Gulf Coast in the home opener Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Times Union Center.