The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team found itself engaged in yet another road struggle Wednesday night, continuing what has been a familiar story line away from home for the Chanticleers.
But there was one key twist to the plot this time.
The Chants weathered persistent pressure from Presbyterian to protect a slim second-half lead and hold on for a 60-53 win inside the Templeton Center in Clinton for just their second road victory this season.
“Any road win is a good win,” CCU coach Cliff Ellis said via phone. “That’s a good win.”
Sophomore guard Warren Gillis led Coastal (12-11, 7-4 Big South) with 14 points, senior guard Anthony Raffa added 13 and freshman forward Badou Diagne tallied six points and 11 rebounds in the win..
The Chants never trailed after halftime, but there was little separation on the scoreboard throughout the second half. Coastal managed to push its lead to 48-40 at one point, but the Blue Hose (6-20, 3-9) countered with the next four points and later made it 57-53 in the final minute on a 3-pointer from senior Khalid Mutakabbir. Raffa and senior point guard Kierre Greenwood sealed the win, though, combining for three free throws in four attempts after that.
It was something of a breakthrough for Coastal, which had lost its last five road games while playing utterly dominant basketball at home during the same stretch. Ellis downplayed any psychological significance of the road win, though.
“I let you guys talk about all that stuff,” he said. “I just focus on how well our team is playing. It really doesn’t faze me at all.”
Mutakabbir scored a game-high 16 points for Presbyterian, while Coastal clamped down defensively on sophomore Jordan Downing, the top 3-point shooter in the conference. Downing, who came in averaging 13.7 points per game, was held to two points on 0-of-8 shooting Wednesday.
“The difference in the game really and truly, we shut Jordan Downing down,” Ellis said. “He’s a prolific 3-point shooter and to hold him to no field goals is unbelievable. The defense was great, we outrebounded them 45-27 ... and we scored enough points to win.”
Meanwhile, the Chants got some help elsewhere in the conference as Gardner-Webb upset first-place UNC Asheville, 67-65, Wednesday night. With that, Coastal is again two games back in the South Division standings with four league games remaining – including a Saturday night home game against that same Gardner-Webb team.
“We’ve just got to finish it out,” Ellis said. “Every game is important. We just got to come back home and do our part.”
COASTAL CAROLINA (12-11, 7-4 Big South): Gillis 7-12 0-0 14, Raffa 4-14 2-2 13, Ndieguene 2-6 3-6 7, Diagne 2-8 1-1 6, Greenwood 3-8 1-3 10, Enanga 2-5 1-2 6, Ljeskovic 0-2 0-2 0, Curtis 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 22-57 8-16 60.
PRESBYTERIAN (6-20, 3-9): Clyburn 2-4 2-6 6, McTavish 4-7 3-4 12, Downing 0-8 2-2 2, Mutakabbir 6-15 2-2 16, Washington 3-8 2-3 9, Anderson 0-2 0-0 0, Hargrave 1-1 0-0 2, Truss 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 19-49 11-17 53.
Halftime–Coastal Carolina 28-26. 3-Point Goals–Coastal Carolina 8-18 (Greenwood 3-4, Raffa 3-7, Diagne 1-2, Enanga 1-3, Gillis 0-2), Presbyterian 4-21 (Mutakabbir 2-8, McTavish 1-1, Washington 1-4, Clyburn 0-1, Anderson 0-2, Downing 0-5). Fouled Out–McTavish. Rebounds–Coastal Carolina 45 (Diagne 11), Presbyterian 27 (Mutakabbir 10). Assists–Coastal Carolina 10 (Greenwood, Ndieguene, Raffa 2), Presbyterian 8 (Washington 7). Total Fouls–Coastal Carolina 14, Presbyterian 13. A–710.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.