Gradnigo scores 23 to lead Chanticleers past Liberty

Chris Gradnigo tied a season-high with 23 points while draining five three-pointers as Coastal won its seventh game of the year, 78-68 over Liberty Saturday at Kimbel Arena.

Liberty (2-7, 0-2 BSC) opened the afternoon on an early 6-0 lead at the 17:16 mark of the first half but Coastal answered with a 14-8 run to tie the game at 14-all with 11:52 left in the first half.

“Conference basketball you can expect some tough games, they (Liberty) came right out of the chute and knocked down some shots,” said Coastal Carolina head coach Cliff Ellis. “I’m proud of the win, hard fought but that is the way its going to be.”

Coastal led 43-36 at the half but a pair of free throws before the break started a Liberty 8-2 run over the next 2:50 to pull the Flames within three, 45-42 at the 17:11 mark. Coastal pushed the lead back to seven at the 14:44 after a pair of Gradnigo free throws and a Brandon Crawford layup.

Liberty’s David Minaya tied the game with 12:54 remaining in the second half for the first time since the 11:52 mark of the first half. Coastal countered with a 9-3 run that included a pair of baskets and a free throw from the Chants leading scorer, Anthony Raffa.

Coastal would finish the game on a 29-19 run, en route to winning its fifth straight game over the Liberty Flames and improving to 2-0 in the Big South for third consecutive year. Liberty falls to 0-2 in conference play for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

Gradnigo scored 16 of his 23 points during the first half while surpassing his three-point season total during the first 10:29 of the game.

A game after the Chants went 0-of-9 from three against VMI on Thursday night – the first time without a three-pointer since Nov. 26, 1994 – Coastal bounced back with an 8-of-18 performance from beyond the arc.

Raffa extended his consecutive double-figures streak to 17 straight games while leading the team with 17.8 points per game this year. He also had a season-high five assists on the afternoon.

Point guard Kierre Greenwood contributed 11 points and four boards after missing two games with a calf injury.

“We shot the ball great in the first half and it was great to see Kierre (Greenwood) come back, he played some great minutes down the stretch and some good defense for us,” said Raffa.

Liberty’s Antwan Burrus had a game-high 10 rebounds while adding 12 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Tavares Speaks led the Flames with 15 points and Jesse Sanders had a game-high 10 assists for the Flames.

Coastal steps out of conference play on Tuesday,  when they travel to Charleston, S.C. to face The Citadel Bulldogs with tip-off set for 7:05 p.m.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

 

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