The Coastal Carolina women’s basketball team was hoping to gain some early-season momentum and nudge its record above the .500 mark with Wednesday’s home game against NCAA Division II Catawba.
Instead, the Chanticleers became the first Division I victim of the Indians in the 14-year tenure of Catawba head coach Angie Morton.
Catawba upset CCU 63-58 at the HTC Center behind a game-high 26 points from senior guard Bri Johnson, dropping the Chants to 2-3 on the season.
“With two non-D1s this week the intent was to potentially play some players that you may want to play down the road, get them some experience, get some confidence under your belt and start building and putting victories together, and that obviously didn’t happen,” said CCU associate head coach Heather Kearney, who was the CCU coaching staff’s post-game representative.
Catawba has played more than 20 games against Division I teams since Morton took the program over in 2003.
“We’ve come close before, but it’s the first time we’ve actually come away with a victory,” Morton said “It really is a big win. I think our girls have been playing well and we’ve played some good competition, so I think that helped us a little bit. I think this is a pretty special group of girls and they’re getting better.”
Coastal shot just 34.4 percent from the field for the game, including 3 of 17 from 3-point range.
“We definitely anticipated the zone coming in and it kind of stifled our offense, we didn’t’ get the ball movement we would have liked, and shooting 3 of 17 is tough from the perimeter,” Kearney said.
The Chants played without a pair of key contributors, including 6-4 freshman center Naheria Hamilton because of a concussion, and they held just a 28-24 edge in the points in the paint.
Catawba (5-2), a member of the South Atlantic Conference, had the advantage on the free throw line, hitting 16 of 18 compared to CCU’s 11 of 19, and that’s where it iced the game as Johnson went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 21 seconds.
Senior guard Ced Gibson led Coastal with 16 points, going 3 of 6 from behind the arc to account for all of CCU’s 3-pointers.
Rachael Gregory recorded her second consecutive double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Chants, who fell for the first time in seven games against non-conference opponents at the HTC Center.
Catawba stretched a second-half lead to seven points with 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter on the strength of a 8-3 run that included a pair of baskets from Marshauna Butler.
The Chants rallied to take the lead with an 8-0 run fueled by Gibson. The run consisted of a pair of 3-pointers by Gibson, including one on a kick-out pass from Gregory following penetration on the baseline, and an inside basket by Alexis Robinson off a feed from Gibson.
Catawba would regain the lead early in the fourth quarter, however, and there would be seven lead changes in the first 5:30 of the fourth quarter before Catawba took a 57-54 lead on a 3-pointer by Serena Brown.
The Indians maintained a lead that was cut to one point on a pair of Yasmin Miller free throws with 24 seconds to play. But Johnson made two free throws with 21 seconds remaining to give the Indians a three-point lead, and added two more free throws in the final seconds after securing a defensive rebound following a CCU miss.
“We held them to 35 percent from the floor, but we have to convert,” Kearney said. “We have to be a little bit more effective in transition, we have to make sure we’re taking the right type of shots, getting a little bit more ball movement.”