Saddled with a five-game losing streak entering this week’s two-game Sun Belt Conference road trip in Alabama, the Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team is searching for answers.
After opening Sun Belt play with a resounding 25-point win over preseason conference favorite Texas-Arlington, the Chants (7-12) have dropped five straight to Texas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia Southern and Georgia State to fall to 1-5 in the conference, the final four losses all by double digits.
“There are some things we’ve got to get better on,” senior guard Jaylen Shaw said. “We’ve got to stop turning the ball over and just be a little stronger on defense, but that’s stuff that can be fixed. We’ve got enough time to turn this thing around and win some games.”
The most glaring shortcoming for the Chants during their losing streak has been an inability to shoot from long range.
The Chants have hit just 25.5 percent of their three-point attempts in the past five games, going 28 for 110, while opponents are shooting 41.6 percent on 3-pointers while hitting 47 of 113 shots to outscore the Chants by 57 points from behind the arc despite taking just three more 3-pointers.
Early in the season, it appeared outside shooting would be one of the main ways Coastal would be competitive in the conference. Six players who have either started or played significant minutes showed the ability to knock down 3-pointers in Shaw, Artur Labinowicz, Zac Cuthbertson, Ajay Sanders, Demario Beck and Matt Lindsey of North Myrtle Beach.
Coastal was a combined 20 of 44 on 3-pointers (45.5 percent) in close losses to Wake Forest and South Carolina just before conference play.
But over the past seven games, the Chants have gone a woeful 1 for 16 against College of Charleston, 1 for 17 against Texas State and 2 for 19 against Georgia Southern – all losses.
“We can’t depend on offense to win games,” Shaw said. “Our shots, sometimes they fall sometimes they don’t. We just have to pick it up on defense, try to get some easy ones, some steals, some leak outs, easy layups, and just turn it up on defense a little bit. We can’t hang our heads when we’re not making shots.”
Labinowicz was 6 for 12 from three-point range in the most recent loss Saturday against Georgia State, but his teammates were 1 for 10.
Turnovers have also hurt the Chants, as they have committed more turnovers than their opponents in four consecutive games and are averaging 16.8 turnovers during the losing streak and 15.3 turnovers per game on the season. They have turned opponents over 12.9 times per game.
“We’re not doing anything to help ourselves … and it’s becoming a broken record,” Coastal coach Cliff Ellis said. “If we continue to do that it’s going to be a struggle. Right now the psyche is not where it needs to be with regards to confidence. We’ve got to make some shots. We’ve got to pull ourselves out of it.
“Sooner or later, somewhere down the line, those shots that fell somewhere back when have got to start coming. We’re just having atrocious shooting nights and we’re turning the ball over too much, period.”
While the men have struggled, the CCU women’s team (10-7) has won all four of its conference home games to sit at 4-2 in the Sun Belt, which is tied for fourth going into play this weekend. The CCU men and women are at South Alabama on Thursday and Troy on Saturday.
This week’s games
CCU at South Alabama, women at 6:05 p.m. and men at 8:05 p.m. (Eastern)
CCU at Troy, women at 3 p.m. and men at 5:15 p.m. (Eastern) on ESPN3