Cliff Hanger: Ellis wins his return to Clemson at buzzer

Former Clemson coach Cliff Ellis made a triumphant return to Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday night when his current team, Coastal Carolina, defeated the Tigers 60-59 on a last-second tip-in by senior Chris Gradnigo.

Gradnigo misfired on a jumper in the final seconds but followed his shot in put the ball in just before the final horn, giving the Chanticleers their first-ever victory over Clemson. The Chants improved to 5-0 on the season, including big wins over two top-flight Tigers – Clemson and LSU.

Coastal trailed by as many as 12 before fighting back in the second half to take the lead, but Clemson went up 59-55 with 1:15 remaining on a 3-pointer. But Gradnigo  countered with a trey of his own with 55 seconds remaining, then scored the game-winner on the final possession to help Coastal extend its best start since beginning the 1981-82 season with eight straight wins.

The Tigers (2-2) did a nice job of slowing down Coastal Carolina, which entered ranked 11th in the nation in scoring (89.5 points per game) and sixth in field goal percentage (54.3). But they couldn’t stop Gradnigo and teammate Anthony Raffa, who each scored 21 points. Raffa added seven rebounds and four steals.

Ellis, who led the Tigers to the Sweet Sixteen in 1990, became the first former Clemson coach to make a victorious return to Littlejohn. He was presented with a plague by Clemson before the game and he kissed the floor in a show of respect.

After both teams started the game shooting poorly, Clemson broke it open with a 16-2 run late in the first half. Andre Young scored 12 points during the spurt.

Young had a team-high 20 points and was 3-of-8 from 3-point range. He has hit at least one 3-pointer in 38 of his past 39 games.

Clemson is 43-5 in non-conference home games since 2006 but has dropped two straight, beginning with last weekend’s loss to another in-state institution, The College of Charleston.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

Coastal will try to improve to 6-0 when it travels to Miami on Saturday night to face Florida International. Tip-off time is set for 7:30 p.m.

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One response to “Cliff Hanger: Ellis wins his return to Clemson at buzzer”

  1. Chris Griste says:

    way to go Coastal. Ice Cream is on me. SugarShackOnMain.com

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