The Cleveland Charge’s had a tough time generating any offense as they fell to the College Park Skyhawks 111-106 on Tuesday night.
Sharife Cooper came out of the gates firing. He put up 14 points on 4-7 shooting in the opening frame before going down with an ankle injury on the final play of the first. The injury initially looked bad considering he just tweaked it several minutes earlier.
After going to the locker room and getting his ankle heavily taped, Cooper was fortunately able to come back into the game. His return didn’t surprise starting small forward Nate Hinton. “He’s a tough guy, he’s a warrior, he’s a winner,” said Hinton afterwards. “When he went down it looked a little scary, but I knew he was going to bounce back. He’s a warrior.”
Cooper’s injury and hobbled return seemed to take the sails out of the entire offense. The Charge, who came into this game sixth in the G League in both attempts and three-point percentage, couldn’t seem to get anything to fall. They finished the half shooting 9-26 from distance as they went to the break down 5.
Isaiah Mobley had a rough first half as he contributed only 2 points on 1-7 shooting with 3 fouls. He came out of the lock room as a completely different player. He added 10 quick points and a block in the first four and a half minutes to bring the game back to level.
The contest turned chippy down the stretch. The Charge’s lack of outside shooting forced them to get the ball in the paint. This resulted in a physical game which led to 6 technical fouls in the second half alone including 4 on the Charge.
“Every night we’re going to get someone playing physical,” said Hinton afterwards. “When we played Capital City [on Sunday] they came out physical. They were sending guys down. Throwing everything at us. We know that we’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”
The Charge found themselves down six with 40 seconds left. Mobley, who was 0-5 from three until that point, hit a three to cut the lead in half. Jamarko Pickett got a steal on the ensuing possession. They elected not to take a timeout as Cooper brought the ball up the court and missed a layup that wouldn’t have tied the game with 4 seconds left.
“Today was one of those days,” said Hinton afterwards. “We can make all the excuses in the world, but it comes down to the little details. We’ve had a lot of games where we come back and down the stretch we execute, execute, execute on both sides. But today we didn’t get the job done.”
Poor shooting did the Charge in. Cleveland shot 8-14 (57.1%) from the line this game and 9-36 (25%) from three.
“Sam [Merril] 2-8, Sharife 1-5, I’m 1-5, Isaiah 1-6, Jamarko 2-8,” correctly recapped Hinton when asked about the shooting. “That’s the difference. Twenty-five percent from three? That’s not really what we do.”
Another uncharacteristic thing was below average performances from Cooper and Mobley. Cooper understandably struggled after the ankle injury in the first quarter as he contributed just 4-16 from the field for 12 points over the final three quarters. He finished the night with 26 points on 8-23 shooting with 7 assists and 5 turnovers.
Mobley bounced back from a rough start, but still struggled with his efficiency throughout besides the stretch at the beginning of the third. He ended the evening with 21 points on 9-22 shooting, which included going 1-6 from distance, with 8 boards, 3 blocks and a steal.
Despite the loss, Hinton was in his element in a physical, chippy game like this. He provided energy and good defense on both ends of the floor. He finished with 11 points on 4-8 shooting with 13 rebounds and 2 steals.
“The good thing about it is we have a game tomorrow,” said Hinton. “We’ll look at it. You never like to lose at home. but you aren’t getting two out us. We just have to come back tomorrow with the right mindset.”
Up next: The Charge will get their rematch with the Skyhawks on Wednesday. Tip-off at the Wolstein Center is 7 PM.