Gradnigo leads Chanticleers to victory over Buccaneers

Senior forward Chris Gradnigo came off the bench to score a career-high 24 points and junior guard Kierre Greenwood added 19 to lead Coastal Carolina to a 71-58 win over Charleston Southern Saturday afternoon at Kimbel Arena.

With the win, the Chanticleers improved their record to 17-5 overall and 10-2 in the Big South.

Gradnigo also chipped in with seven rebounds and Greenwood blanketed the Buccaneers’ leading scorer, holding freshman guard Saah Nimley to just six points on 2 of 13 shooting. He came into the game averaging 14.6 points.

“He plays both ends of the floor,” said Coastal head coach Cliff Ellis. “He’s our leader out there, and he played a terrific game.”

Without Nimley’s points, the Buccaneers looked to freshman guard Arlon Harper, who led his team with 22 points, while Charleston Southern fell to 14-9 overall and 8-5 in the league. Charleston also suffered in hitting just 20 of its 66 shots from the field (30 percent).

But it was Gradnigo who provided the spark to get the Chanticleers going after a slow start following an eight-day layoff. He came off the bench to score 9 of his team’s first 17 points. And he had 12 points at the half to help Coastal to a 32-28 advantage. The Chanticleers didn’t get the on top until late in the period, on an inside 3-point play from McLaurin, his only points of the half. Raffa added another conventional style 3-point play to cap a 9-0 run and put Coastal up, 26-21, and it would stay in front the rest of the way.

In the end, Gradnigo’s 24 points included a couple 3-pointers and a couple strong dunks — all in just 29 minutes of play.

“I consider him a starter, but it works out better for us when we have him coming off the bench,” said Ellis.

Coastal broke open a tight game by scoring the first seven points of the second half, and Gradnigo hit back-to-back 3-pointers to lift Coastal to a 43-33 lead with just over 4 minutes played in the period. And with just slightly more than 3 minutes left in the game, Anthony Raffa gave the Chanticleers their biggest lead at 18 points, 64-46.

Raffa finished with 15 points. Jon Pack was the team’s leading rebounder with 10. It was the sixth consecutive win for Coastal over the Buccaneers, and it kept the Chanticleers unbeaten at home in conference (6-0).

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