Chants dance with history before Cavs cut in for win

ccuCoastal Carolina’s return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years was almost one for the ages.

The 16th-seeded Chanticleers led top-seeded Virginia by double digits in the first half and threatened to pull off the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history before the Cavaliers awoke to score a 70-59 victory in the NCAA Tournament East Regional second-round game on Friday night at PNC Arena.

Virginia turned to its reserves in clutch situations and they provided enough to prevent the upset. Anthony Gill and Evan Nolte combined for 18 second-half points off the bench. Gill finished with 17 points and Nolte provided all eight of his points in a key second-half stretch.

“Those are the two guys,” Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis said. “They came off the bench and they hurt us.”

A No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed in tournament history, but it looked like it might happen earlier in the game. Coastal Carolina led 35-30 at halftime, buoyed by shooting 52 percent from the field (13 of 25) and a 16-11 advantage in rebounding.

“It can probably happen,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We were going to be the poster child for that if we didn’t pick it up.”

Coastal Carolina tied the score at 47 on guard Elijah Wilson’s 3-pointer with 8:50 remaining. Virginia scored the next six points. Perrantes made three free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt before the seldom-used Nolte drained a 3-pointer from the corner for a 53-47 edge.

Nolte struck again from beyond the arc, sending the Cavaliers to a 56-48 lead. It was his first game with more than one 3-pointer since Jan. 4 at Florida State.

“The thing that turned the game around was the 3s and their defense,” Ellis said. “We weren’t getting the shots we were getting in the first half. … We were trying to grind it out, but those 3s were backbreakers.”

Nolte hit another jumper during a surge and suddenly, with five minutes remaining, Virginia led 60-50. By then, the Chanticleers were out of sorts.

“It’s an atmosphere (that) I don’t think we’re all used to,” Wilson said.

Virginia (29-6) meets eighth-seeded Memphis (24-9), which eliminated George Washington earlier, in Sunday night’s third round.

Guard Malcolm Brogdon had 14 points, guard London Perrantes added 12 points and guard Joe Harris supplied 11 points for Virginia, which trailed by 10 points late in the first half. Forward Badou Diagne scored 14 points and guard Warren Gillis had 13 points for Coastal Carolina (21-13).

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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