CONWAY — This is certainly not what the Coastal Carolina women’s basketball team or its veteran head coach had envisioned for this season. Not at all.
Three years into a plan to jumpstart the program with a couple large recruiting classes and expecting this season to be the start of the ascent, the Chanticleers are instead mired in a stretch of 10 losses in their last 11 games now. They’ve tumbled toward the bottom of the Big South Conference standings, and there’s not much head coach Alan LeForce can do about it for the time being as he’s away from the team for at least two weeks resting on doctor’s orders.
LeForce missed his fifth straight game Thursday night as Winthrop built a 10-point halftime lead on the way to a 76-52 victory over Coastal inside The HTC Center to continue the Chants’ wayward winter spiral.
“It’s happened in the past. Coach has thrown his back out or gotten sick, and I’ve filled in and the kids have responded,” longtime CCU assistant coach Mark Kost said. “I think we’re responding now; we’re just not getting the job done at certain times of the game. It’s different sitting in that chair making decisions instead of making suggestions, but we’re still doing what we do and the kids have responded well to it.”
Coastal (7-12, 2-7 Big South) tried to make it a game in the second half. The Chants opened on a 5-0 run thanks to a pair of long jumpers from sophomore guard Shatia Cole and junior forward Alexx Puckett to draw to within 32-27, but Winthrop responded with a surge of its own.
Coastal later went on a 9-3 run – including four points from Puckett – to make it 44-38, but that’s as close as it would get the rest of the way.
“We get it to 44-38, put the press on, get a steal and come down in transition and get a really good look at the basket in the lane and we don’t make it. And they go down and get a 3, and that six-point lead goes to nine when really it probably should have been four. It’s a five-point swing,” Kost said. “... Instead it goes to nine, then we have an empty possession and it goes to 11 or 12 at that point. We just didn’t respond. We got our heads down, and we have a bad habit of doing that sometimes. When things don’t go our way we kind of lose our confidence.”
After finishing 13-15 overall and 6-12 in the Big South last season, the Chants are in peril of actually taking a step backward record-wise this year if they don’t find a way out of this funk soon.
Meanwhile, LeForce – in his 16th season at Coastal – is suffering from exhaustion following a bout of the flu, Kost said, and has not been cleared to work with the team in practice or attend games. The two speak daily, though, and Kost is hoping LeForce will return to action soon.
Regardless, he maintains hope the team can turn things around before it’s too late.
“The main focus is to try to get us a win,” Kost said. “I don’t care who it’s against – maybe have an intrasquad game. But it’s not lack of effort tonight; it’s lack of execution.”
Cole, a Myrtle Beach High School graduate, finished with a team-high 16 points in her return to the starting lineup, taking the place of injured sophomore forward Savanah Pippin. Puckett finished with 13 points and seven rebounds and junior Katelyn Connor had 10 points and nine boards, while Diana Choibekova led Winthrop (12-8, 6-2) with a game-high 23 points.
Coastal has three more games on its current homestand and nine games remaining in the regular season to try to rescript its 2012-13 narrative.
“We’ve still got a lot of games left, and we’ve still got the tournament. We can turn things around,” Cole said.
Winthrop (12-8, 5-2 Big South) – Aliyah Kilpatrick 4-11 5-5 14, Christina Solmon 1-2 0-0 2, Dequesha McClanahan 5-15 5-6 16, Diana Choibekova 6-8 5-8 23, Taylor Calvert 1-3 5-6 7, Schaquilla Nunn 0-0 0-0 0, Zoe Vernon 0-0 0-0 0, Samiya Wright 4-14 2-2 11, Tiffany Charles 1-1 1-2 3, Ashley Porter 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 23-29 76.
Coastal Carolina (7-12, 2-7) – AJ Jordan 1-6 0-0 2, Shatia Cole 6-15 2-2 16, Alexx Puckett 3-8 6-6 13, Katelyn Connor 4-12 2-4 10, Angelica Henry 3-12 1-2 7, Megan Pittman 0-0 0-0 0, Jena Hamrick 0-0 0-0 0, Ressa Borkovich 0-0 0-0 0, DJ Hunter 0-0 1-2 1, Savannah Pippin 0-0 0-0 0, Corinne Holland 0-0 0-0 0, Kayla Cook 1-4 0-1 3. Totals 18-57 12-17 52.
Halftime–Winthrop 32-22. 3-Point Goals–Winthrop 9-22 (Kilpatrick 1-4, Solmon 0-0, McClanahan 1-3, Choibekova 6-8, Calvert 0-0, Wright 1-7, Charles 0-0, Porter 0-0), CCU 4-17 (Jordan 0-0, Cole 2-7, Puckett 1-3, Connor 0-0, Henry 0-5, Hunter 0-0, Pippin 0-0, Holland 0-0, Cook 1-2) Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Winthrop 36 (Choibekova 7), CCU 41 (Connor, Henry 9). Assists–Winthrop 10 (McClanahan 3), CCU 14 (Henry 7). Total Fouls–Winthrop 17, CCU 19. Att.–371.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.