Chants open HTC Center with OT win over Akron

Senior Anthony Raffa of the Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Chanticleers to a 74-70 overtime victory over the visiting Zips of The University of Akron in the inaugural game inside The HTC Center in front of a capacity crowd of 3,278 screaming fans. The victory also marked head coach Cliff Ellis’ 100th win on the Coastal sideline which moved him into elite territory as he became just the second coach in Division I history to lead four different programs to 100 or more wins.

Ellis joins “Lefty” Driesell who also led four teams to 100 wins or more in his career. Ellis has won 100 or more games at South Alabama (171), Clemson (177), Auburn (186) and Coastal (100) while Driesell led Davidson (176), Maryland (348), James Madison (159) and Georgia State (103) to 100 wins or more.

Raffa hit 8-of-15 shots from the field while knocking down four three-pointers including a pair in the decisive overtime period. He was also 7-of-10 from the free throw line and tied for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Senior Kierre Greenwood chipped in 19 points and a team-high four assists. He was nearly perfect from the free throw line going 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. Sophomore Warren Gillis had a pair of career-highs in points (10) and rebounds (8) in just his fourth career start. He played a team-high 39 minutes and had a momentum shifting dunk with just under four minutes to play in regulation.

Freshman Michel Enanga scored nine points and grabbed seven boards in his debut in a Coastal uniform. Enanga was one of five Chants to make their Coastal debut against the Zips.

Coastal shot 44.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range. The Chants were able to hold the Zips to just 37.5 percent shooting from the field and 34.4 percent from three-point range. Despite the size disadvantage, the Chants were able to outscore the Zips 30-16 in the paint and won the rebounding battle 39-37.

Greenwood opened The HTC Center in thrilling fashion as he drained a three-pointer on the Chants opening possession off an assist from Raffa. The Chants would hold the lead over the opening three minutes until a three-pointer from the Akron’s Reggie McAdams gave the Zips a 7-5 advantage. CCU would answer with a layup from Enanga and a three from Greenwood to retake a three-point advantage. Coastal did not trail over the next six minutes but an 8-2 run by the Zips starting at the 8:57 mark gave Akron a 19-16 advantage with just under 7:30 to play.

The Zips never trailed the rest of the half. A furious 6-0 run by the Chants to close out the half cut the deficit to just three at halftime. Greenwood scored four of the six points including a lay-up as the buzzer sounded to cut the Zips lead to 34-31.

Coastal opened up the second half where they left off in the first as Raffa hit a lay-up and drained a three to give Coastal a 36-34 lead. A three from the Zips’ Brian Walsh ended the run and give the Zips a one-point advantage. The lead by either team never reached above three points over the opening 16 minutes of action in the second half.  A game-tying dunk by Akron’s Zeke Marshall seemed to swing the momentum in the Zips favor with 4:23 left in regulation but Gillis answered just 30 seconds later with a drive to the basket and a slam in traffic to give the Chants a 58-56 lead.

After a missed lay-up by the Zips, Gillis grabbed the rebound and on the very next possession Raffa nailed a three to put Coastal up five with just over three minutes to play. After both teams came up empty on four-straight possessions the Zips found their answer in the form of McAdams who drained a three to cut the Chants lead to just two. Just under a minute later a pair of free throws by the Zips tied the game at 61 with 59 seconds to play. Neither team found the bottom of the net the rest of the half as the game moved into overtime.

The Chants opened the overtime with a layup from Enanga but the Zips answered with a three from Alex Abreu but the three proved to be the last field goal the Zips would hit in the game. Akron did however knock down six free throws in the period. After a pair of free throws by Enanga gave the Chants a 65-64 lead, Raffa nailed a three-pointer to stretch the lead to four. Marshall knocked down a pair of free throws but once again Raffa came up with a long range bomb to push the lead to five with just 1:06 to play. Both teams began to trade free throws down the stretch as the Chants hung on for a 74-70 victory.

Coastal will return to action this Tuesday at 8 p.m. as they travel to Oxford, Miss. to take on the Ole Miss Rebels.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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