CHARLESTON — Well, so much for an encore.
Three days after turning heads with a 23-point win over Clemson, the Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team struggled to keep pace with another in-state foe while showing that its young roster is indeed still a ways away from being a finished product.
College of Charleston left no doubt about that Saturday, humbling the Chanticleers while building a sizable second-half lead and cruising to a convincing 60-51 win inside TD Arena.
The Cougars (7-4) held Coastal senior standout guard Anthony Raffa scoreless a game after he scored 25 in that stunner against Clemson and the Chants (4-6) simply couldn’t make up the difference while also being outplayed on the boards as the hosts seized a 37-28 rebounding advantage.
CCU coach Cliff Ellis was asked if he thought there had been any “hangover” from that momentous victory Wednesday night against the Tigers.
“I’m sure there is. I’m sure that fired College of Charleston up,” he said. “That should not have any bearing, though, with regard to the game. That was Wednesday night. This game’s over. You’ve got to move forward. We were the more physical, aggressive team Wednesday night. We were not in this game, and I think the physical, aggressive teams win.”
Ellis pointed multiple times to the Cougars’ 13 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points as the difference in the game, but it sure didn’t help that College of Charleston was able to silence two of the Chants’ top three scorers.
Raffa, who came in averaging 20.9 points per game, went 0-for-6 from the field and did not get to the foul line while playing just 22 minutes – a season-low by far in games against Division I competition. Sophomore guard Warren Gillis, who was averaging 10.3 points per game, also went scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting in 23 minutes. Senior point guard Kierre Greenwood, meanwhile, led Coastal with 17 points, while junior center El Hadji Ndieguene added 14.
“We knew that they had two senior guards and they were the heart and soul of the team so we just focused on trying to stop them two,” said College of Charleston sophomore Anthony Stitt. “We figured if we cut off the head to the body then they couldn’t function.”
With the Chants’ offense stagnating much of the game, College of Charleston built a 26-19 halftime lead and led by as many as 22 points with less than four minutes to play before emptying the bench.
That lack of offensive depth has been Coastal’s undoing much of this season. Raffa in particular has been counted on to carry a heavy share of the team’s scoring burden, and when he’s contained so are the Chants. His previous low-scoring games this season were eight- and 10-point efforts in back-to-back games against Boston, which also happen to be Coastal’s lowest-scoring games along with Saturday’s result.
“I thought they just stayed with [Raffa],” Ellis said. “It was man-to-man defense. They were physical and aggressive. They just took it out. He missed a couple of shots early and then maybe started pressing a little bit, but you’ve got to give them credit.”
Said Greenwood: “We need his production points-wise, so it definitely did affect our offense. But we’ve got other guys that when he’s not feeling it everybody’s got to step up and pick up the slack.”
Stitt was the primary defender on Raffa and also College of Charleston’s top contributor on the offensive end. Coastal kept senior guard Andrew Lawrence and sophomore forward Adjehi Baru to a combined 11 points – less than half their average production – but Stitt carried the load with a game-high 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He hit three 3-pointers, each one seemingly knocking the wind out of any momentum Coastal tried to build, and added seven assists.
Stitt’s last 3-pointer made it 58-36 as the Cougars’ lead peaked with 3:44 remaining.
Coastal is just 2-6 against Division I competition this season.
“We’re a young team. We’re going to continue to grow,” Greenwood said. “We’ve got some good wins under our belt, but all credit to College of Charleston. They’re a good team, veteran team. We’ve still got a long ways to go, but we’ll be fine.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.