The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team picked up its first conference win of the season Saturday using a formula it likely will need to replicate often to find itself in the Big South championship hunt again.
Starting guards Anthony Raffa, Warren Gillis and Kierre Greenwood combined for 66 points as the Chanticleers held on for an 80-72 win over host Longwood at Willett Hall in Farmville, Va.
It was the Big South opener for both the Chants (6-6) and Lancers (3-12), with each team very much in need of a win after enduring its respective share of setbacks in the non-conference portion of the season.
“Any game on the road that you win is a good one,” CCU coach Cliff Ellis said by phone. “It’s a good start for us in the league because it’s a road win.”
Coastal took the lead for good on a jumper by Gillis that made the score 64-62 with just less than five minutes to play, and the Chants weathered several late challenges from Longwood as it remained a two-point game into the final minute before the visitors pulled away. Raffa scored a game-high 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, Gillis had a career-high 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting and Greenwood chipped in 19 points and six assists in the win. With the Chants struggling to find offense from their frontcourt players so far this season, it looks like they’re going to have to rely on that trio of guards to carry the load as they did Saturday.
“I think so,” Ellis said. “… But there’s no question we’re going to have to find some scoring inside or it’s going to come back to bite us.”
The Chants shot 52.7 percent from the field and earned a 37-28 rebounding advantage in the win, led by 12 boards from junior center El Hadji Ndieguene.
Longwood, in its debut season as a Big South member, was led by freshman guard Nik Brown, who scored 19 points – including nine in the final 3:16.
As for those Coastal guards, meanwhile …
It was Raffa’s seventh 20-point game of the season. Greenwood is now one point shy of 1,000 for his career as he looks to become the 18th Coastal player to reach the milestone. And Gillis surged past his previous career high of 14 points with his big game Saturday.
“He’s worked hard on his game, he’s worked hard on his shot,” Ellis said of Gillis, a sophomore. “And when you start getting in the flow, you get more confident. Confidence is a big factor. He’s not a freshman anymore.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.