BOSTON (AP) — This might not be the best time for No. 18 Charleston to be taking a week off.
Sure, the Cougars could use the rest after playing four games in eight days. The players need to catch up on missed classes. And coach Pat Kelsey wouldn’t mind seeing some of his recruits play — or his own kids.
But after winning 20 straight games — the longest winning streak in the nation — it might be better to just keep playing.
“I think we’re up to 20 now, but it’s always the next game,” said guard Pat Robinson III, who came off the bench Saturday to score 14 points and helped lead the Cougars to an 87-61 victory over Northeastern.
“Two or three months, we’ve got the winning streak,” he said. “But it can be gone in a day — or in a few hours. So we really try to just be about the next thing, keep stacking wins on top of wins and just don’t be complacent.”
Ben Burnham scored 15 points off the bench for Charleston, which held Northeastern scoreless for more than four minutes late in the first half while turning a two-point deficit into a 36-21 edge. The Cougars (21-1, 9-0 Colonial Athletic Association) have not lost since the second game of the season, to then-No. 1 North Carolina on Nov. 11, climbing to their highest ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 since 1999.
“It’s awesome for our program. It’s awesome for our institution. It’s awesome for our city. Awesome for recruiting. But we have a really mature team that doesn’t get caught up in it,” Kelsey said. “They just stay very even keel. And that’s what we’ll continue.”
Chris Doherty had 11 points and 13 rebounds and Jared Turner also scored 11 for Northeastern (8-11, 4-4). The Huskies haven’t beaten a Top 25 team since 2015.
Charleston opened an early 10-point lead before Northeastern cut it to 21-18 on Doherty’s layup with about eight minutes left in in the first half. It was 24-22 when the Cougars ran off the next 13 points – getting three baskets inside by Robinson before back-to-back 3-pointers from fellow reserves Burnham and Raekwon Horton.
The Charleston backups outscored Northeastern’s 23-3 in the first half, and 47-30 overall.
“Guys off the bench, I thought, gave us a huge boost,” Kelsey said. “I just think they really raised the level of play when they came in. We made a big burst in the first half. Those guys came in and just played with crazy energy.”
It was 48-32 early in the second when Charleston ran off 11 of the next 13 points to make it a 25-point game. The Cougars led by as many as 33 points, 87-54.
The Cougars are the only ranked CAA team and have a chance to pile up wins in the conference as they eye the postseason.
The game was just the third time Northeastern has hosted an AP Top 25 team at Matthews Arena, which was built in 1910 and was the original home of the Boston Bruins and New England Whalers. Top-ranked Michigan State visited in 2015 and No. 20 Duke played here in 1995.
Charleston: Will go for win No. 21 in a row at home next Saturday against second-place Hofstra (13-8, 6-2).
Northeastern: Visits Towson on Thursday.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25