CONWAY — As he was discussing his own performance and development to this point of the season after playing perhaps his best game in a Coastal Carolina uniform Wednesday night, junior center El Hadji Ndieguene took it upon himself to put the focus back on the teammate sitting next to him in the post-game media session.
“This guy over here, he’s the greatest leader,” Ndieguene said, switching the subject to senior point guard Kierre Greenwood. “He doesn’t yell, but when he looks at you, you know what you’ve got to do, and I’m really happy that I have a point guard like him. ... I’m not saying it because he’s here.”
CCU basketball coach Cliff Ellis would say more of the same after the senior point guard had left the room.
It wasn’t one of Greenwood’s better statistical performances, but he again did his part in guiding this young and inconsistent Chanticleers team to a second-straight conference win – 61-43 over Presbyterian inside The HTC Center – while making some history along the way in becoming the 18th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points.
And after a mostly uneventful game in which the Chants (7-6, 2-0 Big South) seized the lead just before halftime on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from senior Anthony Raffa and then pulled away convincingly in the second half, it seemed as fitting a time as any to talk about Greenwood and the four-year starter’s value to this still-maturing team.
“He’s one of the premier point guards I’ve ever coached,” said Ellis, who spent two decades coaching in the ACC and SEC. “He comes, he brings it, he plays on both ends of the floor. He loves the game, he loves to play it and he’s a team player.”
And Wednesday night, he had the full attention of Presbyterian (3-13, 0-2). That much was clear.
The visiting Blue Hose stifled Coastal early on while keying in on Greenwood and trying to shut down the pulse of the Chants’ offense. Coastal shot a meager 29.6 percent from the field in the first half while trailing for much of the opening 20 minutes before Raffa’s late 3-pointer sent the Chants into halftime with a 22-21 lead.
“They were building a fence on Kierre,” Ellis said. “They were making sure Kierre did not get in that lane. They didn’t care what was going on out [on the wings]. Anytime [he] came into the lane, they were really closing it up. We said, ‘Look, this is their game plan. We’ve got to be a little more patient. We’ve got to wait on it. Let’s get some spacing.”
The Chants indeed looked like a different team after halftime, and one good half proved to be more than enough to push them past a Blue Hose team that has yet to defeat a Division I opponent this season. Coastal scored the first seven points of the second half – including five from freshman forward Badou Diagne – to start pulling away, and a 27-5 run soon thereafter made sure there was no late suspense.
Greenwood finished with 11 points and four assists, while Raffa scored 12 and Ndieguene delivered 13 points and a season-high 14 rebounds. Overall it was one of the team’s more balanced performances as Diagne also matched a season-high with 10 points and sophomore guard Warren Gillis added eight points and seven rebounds.
Ellis was especially pleased with Ndieguene’s contributions, though, as he’s reiterated time and again the need for the Chants to find more production in the paint.
“I can’t say enough about Hadji’s play,” Ellis said. “You can look back on all of our bigs the last few years, but 14 rebounds and 13 points, there’s not many people that have done that.”
The key every game for this young Coastal team is whether or not the supporting cast can complement the usually steady contributions of Raffa and Greenwood, and on Wednesday night, it came together for the Chants – at least in time for a strong second-half push and a second-straight win to open Big South play.
“I try to keep everybody confident to the point where they feel they can take that shot and I trust in them, believing that they can hit it,” Greenwood said. “So once teams start keying in on me and Raff like they have, I’m steadily looking for my teammates, keeping my [eyes] open and just taking what they give me, basically. But I believe in these guys and know that they can knock down shots.”
PRESBYTERIAN (3-13): Clyburn 0-3 2-4 2, Truss 2-5 1-2 5, Downing 6-12 3-3 19, Mutakabbir 4-9 0-0 11, Washington 1-5 0-0 3, Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Hargrave 1-6 0-0 3, McTavish 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-40 6-9 43.
COASTAL CAROLINA (7-6): Ljeskovic 1-3 0-0 2, Ndieguene 5-9 3-4 13, Gillis 3-7 1-2 8, Raffa 3-14 4-4 12, Greenwood 3-9 5-5 11, James 0-0 0-0 0, Ashford 1-1 0-0 2, Enanga 1-4 1-2 3, Curtis 0-0 0-0 0, Diagne 4-7 0-2 10. Totals 21-54 14-19 61.
Halftime–Coastal Carolina 22-21. 3-Point Goals–Presbyterian 9-21 (Downing 4-5, Mutakabbir 3-8, Washington 1-3, Hargrave 1-4, Truss 0-1), Coastal Carolina 5-15 (Raffa 2-4, Diagne 2-4, Gillis 1-4, Greenwood 0-1, Enanga 0-2). Fouled Out–Truss. Rebounds–Presbyterian 23 (Clyburn, Truss 6), Coastal Carolina 39 (Ndieguene 14). Assists–Presbyterian 6 (Washington 3), Coastal Carolina 11 (Greenwood 4). Total Fouls–Presbyterian 20, Coastal Carolina 13. Technicals–Washington, Raffa. A–2,194.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.