NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- College of Charleston coach Tom Herrion always knew his team was more than flashy, 3-point shooters.
In Herrion's first Southern Conference tournament game, the Cougars proved him right.
Thomas Mobley had 15 points and helped lead an 18-7 run that lifted Charleston to a 67-53 win over Georgia Southern on Thursday. The Cougars (24-6) next face Wofford or East Tennessee State at the North Charleston Coliseum for a spot in the league championship and the NCAA tournament automatic bid that goes with it.
But this time, Charleston got it done with hard defense and good free-throw shooting.
"Offense is fickle," said Herrion, who took over this season for mega-successful coach John Kresse. "Everybody wants to talk about how explosive ... how the only aspect of our offense is three-point shooting. We're much more than that. That was evident today."
Georgia Southern (16-13) lost its third game in a row to Charleston and fell in the league quarterfinals for the second-straight year.
Mobley was a big reason why. He had three of the Cougars' seven 3-pointers and began the winning run with a long-range basket from the top of the key.
After 3s by Tony Mitchell and Marcus Johnson, Mobley had a short jumper and Johnson finished things with another 3-pointer to put Charleston ahead 56-40 with 8:21 to go.
The Eagles got as close as 56-45 on Julius Jenkins' bucket with 5:07 to go, but could not cut the lead any further.
"We knew even if we weren't making shots, we wanted to focus on defense," Mobley said. "We knew if we stopped them, we'd have a good chance to win."
Jenkins, a senior playing his last game, led Georgia Southern with 20 points before fouling out. He became the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,870 points, nine better than Jeff Sanders' total from 1986-89.
However, Jenkins may have helped his team's downfall with a technical foul during Charleston's decisive run.
The Eagles trailed just 43-36 at the time of Jenkins' foul. But Troy Wheless hit both free throws and Mitchell converted his 3-pointer when the Cougars retained possession.
Jenkins, 6-foot-2, said the technical came after he said "Get it outta here," when he blocked a shot by Charleston's 6-9 center Mike Benton.
"He said, 'Get it outta here,' " Eagles coach Jeff Price repeated and shook his head.
Wheless, the league's player of the year, was slowed by a left knee twisted in an early collision with Jenkins and managed only 11 points on 2-of-8 shooting. Center Mike Benton had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Charleston's defense and foul shooting carried it through a sluggish first half. The Cougars missed 10 shots and finished less than 20 percent (5-of-26) from the floor. Yet the fourth-worst free-throw shooting team in the 12-member conference hit 15 of 18 from the line and had a 27-22 lead at the half.
"I don't know that we could defend much better than that, hold them to 19 percent and be down by five" at halftime, Price said. "That's very disappointing."
Georgia Southern was just 1-of-7 on 3-pointers for the half and 1-of-14 for the game. The Eagles had their lowest point total in the Southern Conference this season.
"My point is we can win in different ways," Charleston's Herrion said. "We found a different way to win this game."