With a tough early-season schedule, Coastal Carolina welcomed the chance to release some stress against Division III Methodist on Wednesday, and guard Elijah Wilson took the opportunity to reach a milestone.
The 6-4 senior from Wilmington and Mount Zion Christian Academy scored 16 points in 24 minutes to surpass 1,500 points as a Chanticleer, and the Chants handled the overmatched Monarchs 88-59 at the HTC Center.
“It’s a great achievement,” Wilson said. “I think of myself as a player who has always worked hard ever since I was younger, and it’s great to accomplish goals like that because it’s nice to know hard work pays off. I wouldn’t be able to do this without my teammates through my four years here. They did a great job of finding me and having confidence in me to make shots.”
Coastal Carolina (3-5) has losses away from home to Alabama, BYU and Wake Forest, and was coming off a 68-52 loss Tuesday at the HTC Center to Tennessee-Chattanooga (4-2), the reigning Southern Conference regular season and tournament champion.
The Chants have played their eight games in a span of just 20 days, with a lot of travel included.
“It’s been brutal and we needed something like this,” CCU head coach Cliff Ellis said. “We’ve got to move forward, take this and get a little confidence and get ready for [UNC] Asheville because that will be a critical test for us come Saturday.”
Coastal Carolina raced out to a 22-2 lead in the opening 3:30 and maintained a large lead for the remainder of the game. Wilson had nine of the opening 22 points with a trio of 3-pointers, and 6-8 junior forward Demario Beck had 10 of the points with a pair of treys, a dunk and a layin.
Wilson is averaging a team-high 16 points per game this season. He came into the season 10th on the CCU all-time leading scoring list and has already moved up to sixth.
“When he gets off it gives our team a little push. He got out tonight and got it started for us and it was a big lift. … He’s that guy who does that for us. People are going to target him, and he’s going to have to be patient and let it come to him, but there’s no question he’s our go-to guy. CCU coach Cliff Ellis on Elijah Wilson
“When he gets off it gives our team a little push. He got out tonight and got it started for us and it was a big lift,” Ellis said. “… He’s that guy who does that for us. People are going to target him, and he’s going to have to be patient and let it come to him, but there’s no question he’s our go-to guy.”
Nine Chants played at least 10 minutes Wednesday, and six had at least seven points.
“I think games like this really give everybody confidence because we’re down in the dumps for losing a couple games, and games like this when you’re able to beat a team by that much it just gives us confidence and we want to be able to carry that on to the next game,” Wilson said. “It’s nice to get a win. We’ve had some tough losses. We’ve been playing a pretty tough non-conference schedule and we’ve been playing those games kind of back to back, so it’s not easy to do.”
Beck, a junior college transfer, paced Coastal with both 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“Our team needs his inside presence,” Ellis said. “We’re totally new on the front line, so these guys are trying to find themselves. Every one of what we call our power forward and post players, they’ve had no experience so when they have a double-double that should exude some confidence. I really like the way he played on the offensive side of the ball.”
The Chants will conclude a five-game homestand with games against reigning Big South Conference champion UNC Asheville on Saturday, Piedmont International on Dec. 5 and North Carolina Central, which on Monday defeated Missouri by 10 points, on Dec. 10.
“We’re making that transition [from the Big South Conference to the Sun Belt Conference] and there are growing pains to go with that,” Ellis said. “So we have to grow up with it, take some lumps and try to get better.”