Coastal Carolina’s long season ended a long way from home with a lot of long faces.
Wyoming overwhelmed the Chanticleers in the second half Wednesday but didn’t see the need to wait around in the third and final game of the College Basketball Invitational on Friday. The Cowboys opened up a 19-point halftime lead and never looked back en route to their first CBI title, winning 83-59.
The Chanticleers were looking to win the first national basketball tournament in school history, but never led at Wyoming’s Arena-Auditorium after winning Game 1 in the HTC Center. It was a tough way to end the season for the Chanticleers, who finished 20-19 and failed to win a non-conference road game. Guard Shivaughn Wiggins, injured since the Sun Belt Conference tournament, returned for the Chanticleers, but their lack of size and depth was ultimately too much to overcome, especially after interior force Demario Beck got into first-half foul trouble.
“Our fouls put us in a big hole,” Coastal coach Cliff Ellis said. “In the second half, we came back but we were in such foul trouble … we had both our bigs with three fouls quickly. It definitely had an effect on our team.”
Coastal trailed by just two when Beck picked up his third foul six minutes into the game and was forced to the bench. That allowed Wyoming to finish the half on a 27-10 run, many of those points coming from beyond the arc. The Cowboys hit 8-of-23 first-half 3s, while the Chanticleers missed all eight of their attempts.
In the final two games of the series, Coastal shot just 32 percent, turned the ball over 20 times and were outrebounded by 14.
“They did a great job in the scouting report,” said Coastal senior guard Elijah Wilson, who finished his career with a 2-for-12 effort that was a microcosm of the team’s struggles from the field. “They forced us to shoot a lot of tough shots. … [The elevation] makes a little difference, but you can’t base the entire game off that. We have to learn how to play through it.”
The crowd of 6,321 developed some nerves in the first few minutes of the second half, when the Chanticleers used a 11-2 run to cut the lead to 10. But the momentum wasn’t sustainable.
Wyoming just kept hitting shots, both inside and out, ensuring the Chanticleers wouldn’t make a game of it.
The Cowboys, who won a postseason tournament for the first time since claiming the 1943 national championship, outscored Coastal 75-27 from the 3-point arc and had a 35-point advantage in bench points in the two games here.
“I respect coach Ellis,” said Wyoming coach Allen Edwards, whose win came exactly 10 years after Wyoming won the women’s postseason NIT. “He’s been doing this for a long time. We knew his team would come out and compete. Our message to our guys was expect that and stay the course.”
Coastal was led by Beck, who had 17 points and seven rebounds. He managed to stay on the court in the second half despite his early foul problems. Jaylen Shaw added 10 points for the Chanticleers.
Despite the loss, Ellis said the experience has been beneficial for his program. With a rash of late-season injuries, the Chanticleers were forced to play some younger players who gained valuable experience against quality opponents.
“I think for the guys coming back it will give them a lot of confidence,” Wilson said. “They’ll know what it takes to win in the postseason. I think they’ll learn from this and hopefully be able to get back to the NCAA tournament.”
“It’s given us three more weeks with underclassmen,” he said. “I think that’s a huge advantage. As of tonight there were only eight teams playing, so we were getting some experience while other teams are through. As we look at them cut the nets down, our team knows what they have to do in the offseason to make themselves better.”