Can Auburn basketball keep College of Charleston 'flopper' Joe Chealey off the free throw line?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Can Auburn basketball keep College of Charleston 'flopper' Joe Chealey off the free throw line?

College of Charleston's Joe Chealey has a knack for getting to the free throw line unlike any guard Auburn has faced this season.

Chealey is 211 of 245 (86.1 percent) at the charity stripe, ranking 10th in free throw attempts nationally. That's an average of 7.42 free throws per game for the fifth-year senior, who has gotten to the foul line at least 10 times in nine games this season, including a 16 for 16 performance in the CAA Tournament championship against Northeastern that sent College of Charleston (26-7) to the NCAA Tournament for a meeting with Auburn (25-7) on Friday in San Diego.

"He's a flopper, but he's smart in the sense that he kicks his legs out when he shoots the three-ball," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "A little bit like Jared (Harper), he acts like he's getting assaulted all the time. You just hope that the officials don't bite. If they do bite early, I'll make sure they're aware that I watch a lot of tape and to just keep an eye on the fact that he does.

"He's a terrific player, smart player. Fifth-year senior, been there for a long time, has gotten better. We have to guard without fouling. They have some tendencies we have to understand and play by. But they're really good from free and they're really good from three, like us."

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Despite his incredible ability to draw contact, Chealey said it's not something he sets out to do.

"I just kind of go out there and play the game, it's not like I'm trying to draw contact per se," he said. "I just go out there and play the game and try to be aggressive and pick my spots. Luckily, I usually am able to get a step on some guys and it's turned out for me to get a few free throws. It's not something I intentionally go out there and try to do."

Chealey cashes in on his opportunities too. His 86.1 free throw percentage ranks 48th nationally, higher than all but one player in the SEC, and College of Charleston is 6-3 when he gets to the line at least 10 times in a game, including in the 17-point comeback against Northeastern.

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"Honestly you try to lose yourself in the moment," Chealey said of shooting free throws. "You don't want to think about the free throw itself and you're trying to claw back into the game because I think if you do that you probably put a little bit too much pressure on yourself and you might end up missing one. Just focus on each possession and try to do the best you can on each possession to get that shot, work on your mechanics and live with the result. Luckily, I was able to make all of them in the (CAA) Championship Game."

The only SEC player with more free throw attempts is South Carolina forward Chris Silva (283), who went 8 of 9 and 3 of 6 at the foul line in two games against Auburn this season. Among guards, the player Auburn faced who get to the line most is Alabama's Collin Sexton, who was 7 of 8 and 5 of 5 in two meetings with the Tigers this season.

"As a guard, honestly I don't think we're going to foul (Chealey) that much," center Horace Spencer said. "I'm not really worried about fouling him that much. Our guards can lockup when I know they really need. I know Bryce (Brown) really can play great defense."

Chealey, who averages 18.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists while logging 35.8 minutes per game, also leads College of Charleston in 3-pointers made and attempted (62 of 177).

College of Charleston coach Earl Grant said the 6-foot-4 and 190 pound Chealey gets the most out of his size and speed.

"He's been around in our system for a while," Grant said. "So he knows when and when not to go and I think that's why he's been able to find that success."

Auburn vs. College of Charleston scouting report from their common opponent, Hofstra's Joe Mihalich

It'll be up to Brown and Harper to contain Chealey and fellow guard Grant Riller on the perimeter in the one-on-one heavy Cougars offense.

Pearl heavily stressed defending in one-on-one matchups during Auburn's last practice before departing for San Diego on Tuesday.

"I think we'll probably go back and forth, and even if I did tell you what the matchup is going to be, I'm not going to tell you what the matchup is going to be," Pearl said. "Our guards have got to guard. Our guards are going to have their hands full, and I hope they think their guards are going to have their hands full."

James Crepea is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCrepea.

from Auburn Sports Impact

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