CONWAY — Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis has lamented a couple times over the last week and a half that maybe he overdid it a bit when putting together the non-conference schedule for his young basketball team. Then again, he’s also quick to add that he had trouble finding teams willing to play the Chanticleers after they built a reputation the last three years as a rising, upset-minded mid-major, so there were limited choices.
Boston University was one school ready to sign up, though, and to fill out the schedule, the teams ended up agreeing to an unusual in-season home-and-home series that has the Chants now hosting the Terriers on Thursday night at The HTC Center just eight days after they met in Boston, Mass.
For Coastal, that means an immediate rematch against an opponent that thoroughly exposed the Chants’ offensive shortcomings – but also an opportunity to show the squad has made progress since that humbling 74-44 loss last Wednesday.
“First of all, we’re playing a great team,” Ellis said. “They were picked to win the America East, and they’re a very good basketball team. We cannot turn the basketball over the way we did last time. They shut [senior guard Anthony] Raffa down, so we have to find ways to score. But I think we had a panic mode last time. When we turned it over, we started taking some bad shots and it all just sort of fueled into Boston University’s favor.”
The Chants (2-4) committed 23 turnovers in that game, shot a meager 34 percent from the field and a woeful 42.9 percent from the foul line and suffered their most lopsided loss in Ellis’ six seasons while Boston (2-5) won for the first time after opening the season on a five-game losing skid.
Raffa, who entered that game leading all Division I players in scoring, managed just eight points, which was still good enough to lead Coastal in a forgettable offensive performance.
“It was a tough loss,” Raffa said. “We made some mistakes in the game. We didn’t make a lot of shots, and they were playing great defense. We’ve got to get used to playing physical. ... I think they took the fight to us, and going into this week, I think we worked on that all through practice. I think we’ll be way [more] prepared for this game against them.”
Coastal is relying to varying degrees on six newcomers who all played at least eight minutes in that game, including a pair of first-year Division I starters in freshman forward Michel Enanga (five points, 10 turnovers against Boston) and junior center El Hadji Ndieguene (six points on 3-of-5 shooting). And Raffa, who still ranks tied for fourth nationally entering the week at 23.0 points per game, hasn’t had much consistent help on the offensive end.
Senior Kierre Greenwood is a proven asset who can knock down a shot or wiggle his way through the lane, but he prefers to operate as a distributor. The problem is the Chants haven’t gotten enough out of the rest of the lineup on that end of the floor to take advantage of the veteran points guard’s experience.
Aside from Raffa, Greenwood is averaging 11.0 points per game but shooting 32.8 percent overall, sophomore guard Warren Gillis is averaging 10.8 points and then Enanga (7.7) and Ndieguene (7.2) are the only other players scoring at least five points per game.
“[It’s a matter of] really taking care of the ball, making better decisions with the ball and just making that extra pass to the open guy,” Greenwood said. “But this past week we’ve been focusing on our offense and our half-court game and I think we got better this week.”
Ellis remains highly optimistic about this team despite the slow start. He points to the fact that the Chants have outrebounded every opponent on their schedule – even SEC foe Ole Miss – and have generally played solid team defense. The rest, well, it’s a work in progress.
“I think we’re a better defensive team than we were a year ago,” Ellis said. “We’re a better rebounding team, we’re a better defensive team – we are miles away from being the offensive team we’ve been in the past. But I do think a lot of that is youth. I think defense and rebounding is an attitude, so the attitude is there.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.