Coastal Carolina has gone basket for basket against a pair of major conference schools in the past 10 days, going to the wire against South Carolina on Dec. 9 and Wake Forest on Monday night.
The Chanticleers just haven’t been able to finish and earn a marquee win.
After falling by two points to SEC foe South Carolina on a basket with 6 seconds remaining, the Chants surrendered a lead with 2 minutes to play and fell to the Demon Deacons 84-80 at the HTC Center.
Coastal held a lead for all but 2:26 of the first half, withstood a furious Demon Deacons rally to start the second half and regained a three-point lead in the final 2:30 before succumbing to their ACC foe.
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“We’d like to have both of them. We had a chance at both,” Coastal coach Cliff Ellis said. “… When you play teams like this you have to be at your best. I think our team is fighting hard and I do think their getting there. We’ve played well against Power Five teams, an ACC team and team that went to the Final Four.
“We’re not into moral victories. We want to win these games.”
The Chants were within two points a couple times in the final 30 seconds but Keyshawn Woods hit all four of his free throws in the final 17 seconds to hold off the Chants, including two with 5 seconds to play.
Woods’ late success at the line was emblematic of the Deacons’ efficiency throughout the night, which played a large role in their win.
Wake Forest made 21 of its 25 free throw attempts, while the Chants made 12 of 19 and got an uncharacteristically poor performance at the line from senior guard Jaylen Shaw, who missed five of his eight attempts. “I think the free throw line was a big factor. They made some free throws and we missed a few,” Ellis said.
The Chants fell to 6-6 on the season, with their best wins against Texas-San Antonio and Iona during the Island of the Bahamas Showcase.
Wake Forest (7-4), coached by former Kansas and NBA star Danny Manning, who is in his fourth year, has now won six straight games following a 1-4 start.
“We’ve been punched in the mouth. Now it’s either fight or flight. What are we going to do?” Manning said. “Our guys have bowed their neck for these last six games and tried to figure out ways to help our team be successful and give us a chance to win.”
Junior Zac Cuthbertson led five Chants in double figures scoring with 21 points. A.J. Sanders had 15 points by going 5-for-5 from the field – all from three-point range – and Artur Labinowicz had 13 points and four assists.
Bryant Crawford had a game-high 22 points for Wake Forest.
Coastal fell behind by five points with four minutes to play following a dunk by Doral Moore, but the Chants scored the next eight points on a three-point play by Cuthbertson, pull-up 3-pointer on the break by Labinowicz and pair of free throws by Cuthbertson to take a 72-69 lead with 2:40 to play.
Wake then went on a 7-0 run to take a four-point lead with 1:23 to play that included a Mitchell Wilbekin put-back following a Coastal turnover and three free throws by Crawford following a costly foul on a long 3-point attempt by Sanders.
Shaw hit one free throw before a Terrence Thompson 3-pointer from the corner with 54 seconds to play gave Wake Forest a 79-73 lead.
Sanders hit a 3-pointer and was fouled but missed the free throw and Wilbekin hit one of two free throws before an alley-oop dunk by Labinowicz from Shaw with 29 seconds remaining pulled CCU within two points. Woods’ free throws allowed Wake to withstand a Cuthbertson putback in the final 10 seconds.
“I think we came out in both games ready to play thinking we were going to win,” Cuthbertson said. “I mean we had a great chance at South Carolina and here against Wake Forest. We thought we had a good chance to win and we let it slip away at the end.”
Coastal held Wake junior center Moore, who is 7-foot-1 and 280 pounds, to four points and two rebounds in the first half before he finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
Coastal center Josh Coleman, at 6-9, had 11 points, seven rebounds and a block and hit five of his nine shot attempts while committing three fouls in 26 minutes. Coleman fouled out early in the second half against South Carolina.
“[Moore] is definitely a presence,” Ellis said. “It allows perimeter guys to really get out there and stick because they know they’ve got a guy like him behind, and he’s not as big but Josh Coleman did a great job for us tonight.”
Matt Lindsey and Cuthbertson hit 3-pointers to open the scoring and Coastal led for the game’s first 15 minutes and for all but 2:26 of the first half – the score was tied for 1:19 and Wake held two-point leads for a total of 1:07. Coastal’s largest lead was seven points.
But the Demon Deacons began the second half on a 18-5 run over the first 4:30 to open up an eight-point lead. Wake received four points inside from Moore, a pair of 3-pointers from Wilbekin and a dunk and trey from Crawford in the run, which ended 12-0.
“Coastal came out and threw the first barrage of punches. Without question they had us staggered. We go in at halftime down five,” Manning said. “We challenged the guys to come out [in the second half] and compete at a high level and we had some guys do that for us in terms of making plays.”
There were four lead changes in the second half after the early Wake Forest run.
We can’t start games out the way we started out, and I’m giving Coastal all the credit in the world because they made us play bad. We were able to rebound and respond a lot better in the second half.
Wake Forest coach Danny Manning
The Chants took their early lead despite Shaw getting off to a rough start, going 0-for-3 from the field with three turnovers and one assist through six minutes.
Following a two-minute respite on the bench, he returned to drain a 3-pointer from the top of the key and finished with a double-double with 12 points, 10 assists, four steals and five turnovers.
“You just don’t have it every day. Sometimes that just happens,” Ellis said. “This was not one of his better games but he played great defense and he’ll be back.”
The Chants are in the midst of a five-game home stand that continues Friday with College of Charleston at 7 p.m. CCU will then begin Sun Belt Conference play against preseason conference favorite Texas-Arlington at 7 p.m. on Dec. 29 in a game that will be broadcast live to a national audience on ESPN2, and the home stand concludes with a New Year’s Eve game against Texas State at 3:30 p.m.
“We’ve got some big tests,” Ellis said. “College of Charleston is going to be every bit of the test we had tonight. They’re very good. Then Texas-Arlington – it just doesn’t stop. Our schedule is unbelievable for who we are and we’re going to have to dig it out every night.”