ROCK HILL — The split personality of this young Coastal Carolina basketball team revealed itself again Wednesday night – right on cue.
For much of the first half, the Chanticleers looked determined to debunk the notion that they are a different team on the road, unable to play 40 effective minutes and put opponents away outside of their own gym. And taking on a middling Winthrop team, all was going just fine as they seized control quickly and built a nice early lead.
But it wouldn’t last.
The offense began sputtering before halftime and stalled soon thereafter as Winthrop pulled ahead early in the second half and never relinquished control on the way to a 61-48 win before a sparse announced crowd of 1,819 inside Winthrop Coliseum.
The same Chants team that has posted lopsided wins over a couple of the Big South’s better teams in its last two home games is now just 1-8 on the road after this latest setback.
“It’s obvious to the naked eye,” CCU coach Cliff Ellis said. “When it’s going well, fine. When it’s not, how am I going to respond? And that’s what they’ve got to learn to do. And at home, they’ve got a crowd to pick them up. Here, they don’t have it. So they’ve got to get through that themselves. They’ve got to learn to get through that.”
Senior guard Anthony Raffa scored a game-high 16 points for Coastal, but 14 of those came in the first half and the Chants (9-10, 4-4 Big South) were too reliant on his offense as the supporting cast struggled. Senior point guard Kierre Greenwood finished with 11 points and five turnovers and sophomore guard Warren Gillis added 10 points. The six first-year players who saw time on the court for Coastal, meanwhile, combined for 11 points.
“We’ve got a young crew,” Raffa said. “They’re young, they don’t understand. Some of them do, some of them don’t, but maybe they’re too young to comprehend – when you go on the road in conference, you’re going to get a battle. You can see, when we’re at home, we play great. But when we’re on the road, we don’t know which team is going to come out. Is it going to be the team that plays at home, or is it going to be the team that [plays] good for the first 12 minutes of the first half and we don’t do so good in the second half?”
Coastal held several eight-point leads in the first half as Raffa scored 12 points in the first 11 minutes to put his team up 20-12. But Greenwood got into foul trouble late in the half and Ellis thought his absence on the floor took the Chants out of their rhythm.
Sophomore Andre Smith hit two quick 3s after halftime to put Winthrop ahead, and leading 42-38 later in the second half, the Eagles (9-11, 3-5) reeled off nine straight points and a couple momentum-boosting sequences to effectively put the game out of reach. They capped that run when sophomore Derrick Henry drained a 3-pointer right as Raffa was called for a foul on sophomore Larry Brown. Brown followed with a free throw to make it 51-38 with 5:29 remaining.
Coastal then got a 3-pointer from freshman Michel Enanga, but Winthrop followed a couple possessions later with another crowd-pleasing play as Brown soared to the rim for a one-handed dunk. He missed while being fouled, but his two ensuing free throws bumped the lead back to 12 points nonetheless and kept the hosts in control.
“I thought the first 12 minutes of the game, we played about as well as we could play,” Ellis said. “When Kierre got in foul trouble at the end of the first half, it really turned things around. We lost continuity on offense, but at the same point in time ... they started really getting us on the boards. We limped into halftime with a lead, and in the second half we talked about the fact the physicality cannot go their way. And the physicality did go their way. This is the first time we have just been beaten on the boards like this.”
Henry led Winthrop with 15 points while Smith added 14 – 12 in the second half. The Eagles finished with a 39-27 rebounding advantage.
In their last two home games, the Chants showed their potential with a 23-point win over VMI and a 14-point win over Campbell, but the results just haven’t been there away from Conway. Not yet at least.
“I’m a winner. I want to win. It’s frustrating being 1-8 on the road,” Greenwood said. “But like I said, we’ve still got games ahead of us. All we can do is put this game behind us and focus on what we’ve got coming up.”
COASTAL CAROLINA (9-10) – Ndieguene 1-2 0-0 2, Diagne 1-3 0-0 3, Gillis 4-8 0-0 10, Raffa 6-14 2-4 16, Greenwood 4-16 3-4 11, Ashford 0-0 0-0 0, Enanga 2-2 0-0 5, Ljeskovic 0-1 0-1 0, Daniel 0-0 0-0 0, Curtis 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 18-46 6-11 48.
WINTHROP (9-11) – Jerome 2-8 5-5 9, Bourne 1-2 2-2 4, Brown 0-4 3-4 3, Smith 5-8 0-2 14, Henry 4-10 5-6 15, Gamble 3-8 0-0 7, King 0-0 0-0 0, Diop 2-4 3-4 7, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Prescott 0-0 0-0 0, Farmer 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 18-23 61.
Halftime–Coastal Carolina 26-25. 3-Point Goals–Coastal Carolina 6-14 (Gillis 2-2, Raffa 2-8, Diagne 1-1, Enanga 1-1, Greenwood 0-2), Winthrop 7-19 (Smith 4-6, Henry 2-5, Gamble 1-4, Jerome 0-1, Farmer 0-3). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Coastal Carolina 27 (Ndieguene 7), Winthrop 39 (Jerome 8). Assists–Coastal Carolina 7 (Greenwood, Ndieguene 2), Winthrop 10 (Henry 3). Total Fouls–Coastal Carolina 21, Winthrop 21. A–1,819.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.