Coastal Carolina may have suffered its hangover on New Year’s Eve this year.
Coming off a 25-point win over Sun Belt Conference favorite and reigning regular-season champion Texas-Arlington on Friday, the Chanticleers had a dismal shooting performance and a sluggish game overall Sunday afternoon at the HTC Center and fell to Texas State 53-48.
The Chants never led against the Bobcats (8-7), who improved to 1-1 in the Sun Belt while dropping Coastal (7-8) to 1-1 in the conference.
“You want to take that next step after having such a nice win but we didn’t do it, and that’s due to our shooting,” Coastal head coach Cliff Ellis said.
The Chants began the 3:30 p.m. tip-off 1 for 13 from the field and 0 for 7 from three-point range through the opening 8 minutes and had just four points through the opening 7:30.
The shooting improved only slightly from there, as Coastal shot just 32.6 percent from the field for the game and hit just 1 of 17 3-pointers.
“If I could figure this thing out I’d be a genius,” Ellis said. “I can’t explain it. It’s like a disease. When we’re on fire it spreads, and when we’re off it spreads. We tried everything in the book to give pretty much everybody a chance to make shots.”
Eight Chants took at least one shot from the floor and six missed three-point attempts.
Coastal erased a deficit that was 14 points in the first half and 10 points early in the second half to tie the game at 43 with 4:25 to play. The score was tied at 45 with 3 minutes remaining and the Chants could manage just three points thereafter.
The Chants got a layin from senior point guard Jaylen Shaw with 40 seconds remaining to pull within two points, but junior forward Zac Cuthbertson missed five of six free throws – the final one on purpose – over the final 1:14. Cuthbertson paced Coastal with 19 points while hitting 4 of 9 shots from the field and 10 of 16 free throws, and Demario Beck had 15 points and eight rebounds and was the only Chanticleer over 50 percent from the field, hitting 6 of 9 attempts.
Shaw, who matched a career-high with 26 points against UT-Arlington, had seven assists but hit just 2 of 10 shots and missed 2 of 4 free throws while committing seven turnovers.
Texas State shot 65 percent from the field in the first half before going cold and hitting just 6 of 22 shots in the second half (27.3 percent). But it was enough.
Coastal’s shooting woes allowed Texas State to withstand its own nearly 10-minute drought from the field, going without a basket from the 2:50 mark to the 12:40 mark of the second half while connecting on only five free throws over that span.
After hitting 11 of 26 3-pointers (42.3 percent) against Texas-Arlington, the Chants’ long-range effort Sunday was reminiscent of their final non-conference game against College of Charleston at the HTC Center on Dec. 22, when they went 1 of 16 from three-point range.
“Our inside game was good and our defense was good, but it gets down to this, if we don’t make shots we struggle,” Elllis said. “I don’t have an answer. That’s it.
“They’re the No. 1 defensive team in the league and they’re there for a reason, but at the same time we had looks.”
With the Chants unable to hit from three-point range, Cuthbertson helped the Chants pull even in the second half with consecutive three-point plays on layups to pull the Chants within two points with 8 minutes to play. They pulled even for the first time since the opening tip on a Shaw free throw with 4:25 to play that completed a 15-5 CCU run over nearly 10 minutes.
Texas State was led by guard Nijel Pearson and Tyler Blount, who had 15 and 14 points, respectively.
The Chants are at Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette for 8 p.m. (Eastern) tips on Thursday and Saturday before returning home for games against Georgia Southern and Georgia State on Jan. 11 and Jan. 13.