A sense that the season was over pervaded the Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team following their loss in the second round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
But the Chanticleers got a reprieve with their selection to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament, and they were able to extend the season at least one more game Wednesday, pulling away late from a pesky underdog Hampton team for an 83-67 win at the HTC Center.
“A couple of the guys thought it was over. We already got that feeling once, we don’t want to get it again. That’s all the motivation we really need,” said junior guard Jaylen Shaw, who scored a game-high 22 points. “We didn’t want to put the seniors out that way … going out not playing our best. Fortunately we were able to get in this one so we’re going to come out and fight every night.”
The Chants (17-17) will host Loyola University Maryland (16-16), which defeated heavily-favored George Mason 73-56 on the road Wednesday, at 7 p.m. Monday in the quarterfinal round of the 16-team, single-elimination tournament.
“I’m just glad to win and move on to the next one,” CCU coach Cliff Ellis said. “It’s about winning the whole thing. Next.”
I’m just glad to win and move on to the next one. It’s about winning the whole thing. Next.
CCU coach Cliff Ellis
Coastal, a double-digit favorite before tipoff, was tied with Hampton (14-17) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference at halftime and trailed by seven early in the second half.
But the Chants shot 69 percent from the floor following halftime after shooting 42 percent in the first half, and hit 10 of their final 11 shots.
The Chants got production on the inside and outside, as Shaw scored 22 points and hits 3 of 6 three-point attempts and 6-8 junior forward Demario Beck contributed 21 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and several dunks.
CCU had to alter its lineup with senior point guard Shivaughn Wiggins out with a knee injury suffered in CCU’s loss in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, giving freshman shooting guard Artur Labinowicz his second start of the season and moving leading scorer Shaw to the point.
“We were trying to make adjustment without [Wiggins] and it took awhile for that adjustment to take place,” Ellis said. “We were able to survive it and in the second half it was a totally different story.”
Junior Jaylan Robinson played 21 minutes to play point guard and move Shaw back to shooting guard and contributed eight points, two steals and an assist while committing just one turnover. Labinowicz added 11 points and four assists, and senior guards Colton Ray-St. Cyr and Elijah Wilson helped extend their college careers with 12 and nine points, respectively. Ray-St. Cyr added four assists, two blocks and a steal.
“Shivaughn being out you know we miss him, but these guys on the team know when stuff like that happens they have to come out and be ready to play,” Shaw said. “We’re always expecting everybody to be ready to play, and it was big-time for those guys to come in and step up.”
The Chants were slow to adjust to Wiggins’ absence, committing 10 turnovers in the first half that contributed to Hampton’s first-half advantages of 9-2 in points off turnovers and 8-0 in fast break points. The Chants cut the turnovers to six in the second half, when they outscored Hampton 11-6 in points off turnovers and 13-4 in fast break points.
CCU trailed by a point before taking command with a 10-2 run that gave them a seven-point lead with 5 minutes remaining.
The run included a pair of baskets by Beck and was capped by a Beck dunk. Coastal maintained a seven-point advantage with 2:30 remaining before pulling away late by consistently beating Hampton’s desperation full-court pressure and putting on a dunk show, with Shaw, Beck, Ray-St. Cyr and Wilson all slamming down buckets.
“We just had to step it up on defense, you know more pressure, getting into those guys, being strong, playing tough, rebounding, things like that, and not turning the ball over,” Shaw said. “We took care of the ball [in the second half] and got good shots and luckily they started going in.”
The Chants built an early 15-7 lead and still held a seven-point lead after a Beck dunk with 4:50 remaining in the first half.
But CCU would score just two more points in the half on a Labinowicz layin with 1:50 to play, allowing Hampton to close the half on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 31.
Hampton star freshman point guard Jermaine Marrow, who leads the team with more than 15 points per game this season and had a team-high 17 Wednesday, scored the first seven points of the second half with a pair of layups and 3-pointer.
The Chants answered with a 7-0 run of their own to tie the game on inside baskets by Ray-St. Cyr and Beck and a 3-pointer by Shaw. From there, neither team would lead by more than four points until the Chants took command with the 10-2 run.
Hampton, which started two freshmen and three sophomores, won MEAC titles in 2015 and 2016 and went 11-5 in conference play this season before being upset in its first game in the conference tournament by Maryland Eastern Shore.
Ellis admittedly knows very little about Loyola’s team, as he expected to face George Mason in the quarterfinals.
George Mason (20-14), which went to the Final Four in 2006, went 9-9 in the respected Atlantic 10 Conference this season and lost to NCAA Tournament participant Virginia Commonwealth in the second round of the conference tournament.
Loyola (16-16) tied for sixth in the Patriot League with an 8-10 record and lost in the conference quarterfinals to second-seeded Boston University.
The Greyhounds defeated a George Mason team that was at full force with its usual starting five.
Wiggins has a sprained MCL with a slight meniscus tear in a knee, according to Ellis, and there is a chance he can return Monday.
“There is nobody that’s going to try to go more so than him, he just couldn’t do it,” Ellis said. “There is a chance. Hopefully over this weekend we’ll be able to manage it and see, but at the same point in time we have to prepare as if he’s not here.”