ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Down three points in the waning moments, Coastal Carolina’s plan was to get the ball to senior guard Anthony Raffa and hope there was one more highlight-reel shot in his arsenal Wednesday night.
UNC Asheville never gave him a chance, though, and senior point guard Kierre Greenwood’s final 3-pointer clanked off the rim as the Chanticleers sustained another stinging conference road setback.
For that matter, the Chants struggled most of the night to find offense when the ball wasn’t in Raffa’s hands, and ultimately that was their undoing as the host Bulldogs held on for a 63-60 win before an announced crowd of 1,841 inside Kimmel Arena.
“We had great opportunities – we just made too many mistakes in the open floor,” CCU coach Cliff Ellis said. “We had opportunities, but we struggled in the open floor. When we had opportunities, we didn’t make good decisions and those decisions kept us from getting ahead of Asheville. That’s the bottom line.”
The Chants (8-9, 3-3 Big South) played from behind much of the night while struggling to find their rhythm, but they nonetheless had a chance to even the score as they inbounded the ball back across half-court to Greenwood with 18.9 seconds to play.
Raffa had already scored a game-high 27 points – including 20 in the first half to keep the Chants competitive – but he was well attended to on that final Coastal possession while trying to free himself around the perimeter. Greenwood dished the ball off before getting it back and settling for a 3 from the left wing over sophomore defender Keith Hornsby.
“We tried to get it,” Ellis said of that final shot. “They went to zone. We thought they’d be man-to-man, we were out of timeouts [so] we had to live with it. We didn’t execute it the way we wanted to, but we still got a look.”
There was still 1.9 seconds on the clock after the miss, but even with UNC Asheville senior Jeremy Atkinson missing a free throw on the other end, the Chants had run out of time in this one.
“We played pretty good,” Raffa said, his face showing the disappointment of the Chants’ third loss in four games. “You know, I mean, they made some shots here and there. We just couldn’t get a break. A couple times, we couldn’t get a break.”
That said, it was due to his contributions that the Chants even had a chance at the end.
Raffa hit 8-of-11 shots in the first half – including three 3-pointers – and was the only Coastal player with more than four points at halftime as the Chants trailed just 37-36. He did it with long 3s from the wings, short pull-up jumpers and any other open look he could get.
UNC Asheville (10-10, 4-2) would adjust, though, as Raffa hit just 3-of-11 shots in the second half and the Bulldogs built just enough of an advantage to hold on the rest of the way.
“We went zone a little more in the second half,” Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach said. “It’s tougher when you’re a guard. You’re going to get some freedom, find some open shots, but it’s not within rhythm like you’re used to playing on the street corners and one-on-one. So that’s what we did. We didn’t have anybody that really guarded him well in the first half. We did a good job initially, but when he gets going he’s awfully tough.”
Coastal grabbed the lead several times early in the second half but never for very long. Sophomore guard Warren Gillis put the Chants up 46-45 on a pair of free throws with 15:47 to play, but UNC Asheville scored the next seven points and never trailed again.
Atkinson led the Bulldogs with 16 points while Hornsby finished with 13.
Gillis was the only other Coastal player to score in double figures, finishing with 11 points. Greenwood, who played just six first-half minutes due to early foul trouble, had four points and five turnovers and admitted he still isn’t feeling 100 percent after battling a stomach virus last week.
With the loss, Coastal drops three games behind South Division leader Charleston Southern in the Big South standings and will return to action Saturday at home against Campbell.
“We still should have won the game,” Raffa said afterward. “We had a chance to win, but it’s tough on the road. ... So now we’ve got to go home Saturday and protect our home court.”
COASTAL CAROLINA (8-9) – Diagne 1-6 0-0 2, Ndieguene 3-5 0-0 6, Gillis 3-10 5-6 11, Raffa 11-22 1-2 27, Greenwood 2-7 0-0 4, Ashford 2-2 0-0 4, Enanga 2-3 0-0 4, Ljeskovic 1-2 0-0 2, Daniel 0-0 0-0 0, Addey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 6-8 60.
UNC ASHEVILLE (10-10) – Atkinson 6-14 3-5 16, Weeks 3-6 6-8 12, Cunningham 3-6 1-2 7, Neely 0-0 0-0 0, Hornsby 4-10 4-4 13, Littlejohn 0-0 0-0 0, Hughes 0-2 0-1 0, Nwannunu 1-1 3-4 5, Meyer 4-6 0-0 10. Totals 21-45 17-24 63.
Halftime–UNC Asheville 37-36. 3-Point Goals–Coastal Carolina 4-17 (Raffa 4-11, Gillis 0-2, Diagne 0-2, Greenwood 0-2), UNC Asheville 4-11 (Meyer 2-3, Hornsby 1-2, Atkinson 1-5, Hughes 0-1). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Coastal Carolina 29 (Enanga 7), UNC Asheville 33 (Cunningham 11). Assists–Coastal Carolina 8 (Raffa 3), UNC Asheville 12 (Atkinson 4). Total Fouls–Coastal Carolina 20, UNC Asheville 12. A–1,841.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.