Chants Big South Champs, advance to NCAA Tourney

BSC2The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team will return to the NCAA Championships for the first time in 21 years.

In front a full house today at the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina University, the Chanticleers (21-12, 11-5 BSC) defeated longtime rival Winthrop University (20-13, 10-6 BSC) by a final score of 76-61 to clinch the automatic berth and the title of Big South Champions.

Both teams came out firing on Championship Sunday, swapping baskets at will through the first 10 minutes of the game. Then, Coastal found a groove and reeled off 10 unanswered points. By the end of the first half, with Coastal holding a 34-24 lead, it was clear that Winthrop’s path of five games over a four day period had taken its toll. Winthrop looked visibly tired each trip down the court.

The second half would prove just as difficult for the Eagles as Coastal came out of the locker room with a renewed energy and confident step, verbally taunting the Winthrop players and producing on the offensive end. Coastal held the lead by 18 points at the 9:41 mark of the second half.

Winthrop made another push, but when Winthrop’s leading scorer and arguably best player on the team Keon Moore fouled out with 4:30 left in the game, it was all over.

As time wound down, the sidelines swelled with fans and students waiting to storm the court. With just 35 seconds left and a 76-61 lead, the Chants dribbled across the time line and the celebration began.

“I can’t say enough about this team, I’m as proud of this team as any I’ve ever coached. We’re glad to be known as champions,” said head coach Cliff Ellis immediately following the win.

The Chanticleers last appearance in the NCAA tournament in 1993 saw them facing Michigan’s Fab 5. Bo Graham was the radio play by play man, “This is an amazing experience. I didn’t think there was any way we would win by the score that we did today. I spoke to Matt Hogue before the game today and told him that I hope he gets to go to the big dance. It’s an unbelievable experience and I’m so thrilled for the Coastal Carolina community that they get to experience it again.”

“We tried to bring the tournament to Myrtle Beach for two years,” said CCU Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek. “A win for this team means that we have set ourselves up in a great way for the NCAA tournament. This really means a lot to our players and fans that have been with us through the years. There were a lot of people that said we would never pack the HTC Center. To see a full house cheering for these teams really means a lot to this university.”

The Chanticleers now move on to the NCAA tournament. They’ll find out where and when they play next Sunday, during the selection show.

Photo Credit: Joel Beachum – Carolina Clicks Photos

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