CONWAY It might have taken a casual fan longer Tuesday night to search online via smartphone and find out which level of basketball Johnson & Wales holds membership in than it actually took the Coastal Carolina men to effectively seize control of the teams’ game on their way to an as-expected lopsided win.
The Chanticleers weren’t flawless, but they were plenty good enough while posting a 96-40 victory over the visiting Wildcats inside The HTC Center in the first soft spot on an otherwise challenging early-season schedule.
Senior guard Anthony Raffa scored a game-high 26 points while becoming the 17th player in program history to reach 1,000 for his career, senior guard Charles Ashford had 16 points off the bench and junior center El Hadji Ndieguene tallied 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Chants.
Johnson & Wales, meanwhile, shot a meager 24.1 percent from the field and committed 25 turnovers while not having any player score in double figures. And for the record, the opponents from Charlotte, N.C., play in Division II of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association and are now off to a 1-9 start.
“We needed a game like this. We’re so banged up,” CCU head coach Cliff Ellis said. “If we had played a Division I opponent, it would have been very, very, very tough. We’ve got to get our legs under us. ... This is a game tonight that we actually needed. It came at the right time, a good time.”
The Chants (2-2) have only three players on the roster with significant NCAA Division I experience from last season, and two of those guys were ailing Tuesday night. Sophomore guard Warren Gillis missed his second-straight game dealing with a foot strain, and senior point guard Kierre Greenwood played 21 minutes despite dealing with a stress reaction on his shin from where he took a shot during the team’s game at Ole Miss a week earlier.
Coastal had all it needed, though, to score the game’s first nine points -- the first five from Raffa -- and eventually build a 47-24 halftime lead.
Raffa wasted little time scoring the 14 points he needed to reach 1,000 for his career, hitting the milestone on a free throw with 10:20 left in the first half.
“Just growing up all my life, I’ve been a scorer,” he said afterward. “In high school, I was a scorer. My first year in college, my role at Albany was to play point guard so I really wasn’t in the offense that much; I was more distributing the ball. I really wasn’t happy about that, so I made the choice to come down here and they knew I could score because I produced as a freshman, and coach Ellis just put me in the best position to be successful.”
Raffa, who also had six rebounds, four assists and four steals Tuesday night, leads the Chants in scoring at 24.0 points per game so far and will no doubt have to remain a steady spark on the offensive end for this relatively inexperienced Coastal team. But that’s never been a problem for the relentless 6-foot-1 senior.
“He brings a lot of energy to the game,” Ellis said. “He’s been around this team for a long time -- he’s one of our leaders -- and he scores in a variety of ways. He can score in the transition game, he can hit the open jumper. I call him the Energizer Bunny. Congratulations to him because he certainly has scored a lot of points and he’s made a lot of thrilling plays for our fans throughout his career, and he still has a lot of games to play.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.