CONWAY — Cliff Ellis has said before that this Coastal Carolina basketball team of his is plenty capable of beating anybody in the conference, and the Chanticleers proved it again Saturday night.
For the second time in eight days, the Chants scored a lopsided win against one of the Big South’s better teams as they went up early and pulled away convincingly for a 73-59 victory over Campbell before a crowd of 2,885 inside The HTC Center.
The Fighting Camels (10-11, 5-2 Big South) had won seven of their last eight games and entered the day as the leader in the Big South North Division – just as VMI had a week earlier before losing by 23 to Coastal. The Chants (9-9, 4-3) have had their inconsistencies in between such performances, but they showed again that if nothing else they’re pretty hard to beat at home, which bears plenty of significance with the conference tournament coming to Conway this year.
“Definitely at home, we’ve got a lot of confidence,” senior point guard Kierre Greenwood said. “We’ve played real well at home; we’ve just got to carry that over on the road. We haven’t done our best on the road, but it’s going to be tough to beat us at home.”
Senior guard Anthony Raffa (game-high 20 points) and Greenwood (18 points) led the way offensively and the Coastal defense turned in another lock-down performance while holding Campbell to 37.5-percent shooting and forcing leading scorer Trey Freeman into a woeful 1-of-11, two-point performance.
Freeman, the Camels’ standout sophomore point guard, entered the game ninth in the conference in scoring at 14.6 points per game and Campbell came in averaging 70.2 points.
“As I’ve told you guys, I think this is the best defensive and rebounding team that I’ve had here at Coastal,” Ellis said. “Now we’ve got a long way to go in other areas, but I think you see we’re getting better. This team is getting better.”
It was a close game for most of the first half. Campbell actually went ahead 22-20 with 5:45 left on a jumper by Andrew Ryan, but Coastal scored the last nine points before halftime – the last four from Greenwood – to seize a 29-22 lead. The Chants scored the next six points as well while holding the Camels scoreless for the first 5:33 of the second half. The lead would eventually peak at 20 as the hosts cruised the rest of the way.
Junior center El Hadji Ndieguene finished with nine points and eight rebounds and sophomore guard Warren Gillis added nine points as well.
All in all, the Chants held true to their most effective formula – lean on Raffa and Greenwood for scoring, play stout team defense and win the rebounding battle (35-31).
“I think it’s a confidence builder, I do,” Ellis said. “I think what we need to do is get on the road, which is going to be a tough out at Winthrop, and find a way to get better on the road.”
Due to their road struggles, Coastal remains three games back in the Big South’s South Division standings behind Charleston Southern, and a regular-season championship may be a stretch at this point. But ultimately, all that will matter is what the Chants do in March when they host the conference tournament, and they have 10 more games to fine-tune before then.
“We’re on the division side where I think anyone from Charleston Southern to [fifth-place] Winthrop maybe in this particular year might could win the other division, but that’s not the way the cookie crumbles,” Ellis said. “We’re all stacked in on this side, so it’s going to be a battle.”
Campbell (10-11, 5-2 Big South) – Harris 2-4 0-2 4, Leonard 1-4 0-0 2, McCarter 3-10 0-2 8, Freeman 1-11 0-0 2, Ryan 4-8 0-0 11, Oliver 1-2 0-0 3, Hooker 4-8 4-5 15, Leek 5-7 3-3 14, Kalpic 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-56 7-12 59.
Coastal Carolina (9-9, 4-3) – Diagne 1-4 1-2 4, Ndieguene 2-3 5-10 9, Gillis 2-5 4-4 9, Raffa 9-15 1-1 20, Greenwood 5-13 8-8 18, James 0-1 0-0 0, Ashford 1-1 2-2 4, Enanga 1-3 1-2 3, Ljeskovic 1-2 0-0 2, Daniel 0-0 0-0 0, Curtis 2-2 0-2 4. Totals 24-49 22-31 73.
Halftime–Coastal Carolina 29-22. 3-Point Goals–Campbell 10-25 (Hooker 3-5, Ryan 3-6, McCarter 2-6, Oliver 1-2, Leek 1-3, Freeman 0-3), Coastal Carolina 3-5 (Diagne 1-1, Raffa 1-2, Gillis 1-2). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Campbell 31 (Oliver 7), Coastal Carolina 35 (Ndieguene 8). Assists–Campbell 11 (Freeman 5), Coastal Carolina 10 (Raffa 3). Total Fouls–Campbell 24, Coastal Carolina 14. A–2,885.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.