The growing pains of developing a young roster got the best of the Coastal Carolina men’s basketball again Saturday night as its three-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt.
The Chanticleers endured their first Big South Conference loss as Liberty led most of the first half and all of the second on the way to a 64-56 win at the Vines Center in Lynchburg, Va.
The familiar culprit for Coastal (7-7, 2-1 Big South) was meager shooting and a lack of offensive depth behind its three starting guards. The Chants shot just 29.2 percent from the field and were led by a career-high 27 points from senior point guard Kierre Greenwood while senior Anthony Raffa and sophomore Warren Gillis added eight points each. No one else on the team scored more than four.
Tomasz Gielo scored a team-high 19 points for Liberty (5-12, 1-2), which has only one other win against a NCAA Division I opponent this season.
“That was it,” Ellis said via phone of his team’s shooting woes. “We really played hard. Our defense gave us a chance to win. We did everything else. ... We just didn’t shoot the ball.”
Ellis said Liberty played a diamond-and-one defense to contain Raffa -- one of the Big South’s leading scorers -- and aside from Greenwood, nobody else could pick up the slack offensively. Starting junior center El Hadji Ndieguene and freshman forward Badou Diagne shot a combined 2-of-14 from the field and Coastal was 2-of-20 collectively from 3-point range.
“They played a diamond-and-one on Raffa and chased him and he struggled to get his shot down, and we didn’t get the shots from other people,” Ellis said. “We hadn’t seen that defense, and it worked.”
Coastal had opened conference play with wins over Longwood and Presbyterian and now stays on the road for a clash Wednesday at Gardner-Webb.
“You go on the road, you’re going to have to knock down some shots,” Ellis said. “Our defense was here, but at this point in time we’ve got a lot of tough teams ahead and we’re going to play one of the premier teams Wednesday. We’ve got to put this one behind us.”
NOTES: Greenwood’s previous career-high was 21 points, set three games earlier against Greensboro College. ... Diagne replaced fellow freshman forward Uros Ljeskovic in the starting lineup after playing well the previous game, though Ellis indicated it may not be a lasting change. “I think we’re playing the same guys. I just wanted to pick up where we left off the other night,” he said.
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