Lady Chants lose at buzzer; Cole scores career-high 22

Charleston Southern’s Rachelle Coward capped her 32-point performance with a running, one-handed desperation three from 35-feet away that found nothing but net as time expired to lift Charleston Southern to a 69-66 victory over Coastal Carolina on Saturday at the CSU Field House.

The loss drops the Chanticleers to 10-8 (3-6, Big South) as the win snaps the Buccaneers’ three-game skid and improves them to 12-8 (5-4, Big South).

Reigning Big South Freshman of the Week Shatia Cole continued her impressive rookie campaign with a career-high 22 points, including 4-of-5 from deep, as junior Olivia Irick poured in a season-high 20 points.  Coward led Charleston Southern and all scorers with her fourth 30-plus point game of the season and Lakeitha Alston pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.

Trailing by two with 37 seconds to play, Coastal sent Coward to the line where she would sink both freebies pushing CSU back in front by four.  Cole then cut the lead back to one with a deep three near the top of the key with 17 seconds to play.  After two more Coward free throws, Cole made the biggest shot of the game to that point as she drained a NBA range 3-pointer from the left wing.  Coward then dashed Coastal’s hopes of an overtime win with her buzzer-beating heroics.

The Chanticleers and Buccaneers nearly went shot for shot to open the second half as Coastal cut Charleston Southern’s five-point halftime lead to two, 37-35.  Guards Irick and Cole scored all ten of the Chants points over the four-plus minute span.  CSU then used a 10-3 run to take a game-high nine-point lead at 47-38 with 12:58 to play. Much as they have done all season, the Chants roared back and took control of the game with a very impressive 16-3 run of their own over the next 5:46 take a four point lead at 54-50.

The Chanticleers’ lead would not last long as Coward converted a four-point play followed by a leaner in the lane to push the Buccaneers back in front and swing the momentum back in the home team’s favor.  The teams would play even over the next 3:35 setting up the dramatic finish.

Coastal Carolina jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead to open the game but Charleston Southern, which entered the contest ranked third in the country averaging 9.3 triples per game, used with a barrage of 3-pointers to go on a 12-0 run.  The Bucs continued their hot shooting from deep to build a at 22-14 advantage with 6:14 remaining in the half.

The Chants responded with a 9-2 run over the ensuing four minutes to cut the homestanding Buccaneers’ lead to one at 24-23 with 2:44 left in the opening stanza. The CCU scoring streak was started by a pair of freebies by AJ Jordan and featured an impressive putback by Shanika Maddox along with an Irick 3-pointer and mid-range jumper. However, the Chants would come no closer through the remainder of the half as Charleston Southern’s Coward sank her third three of the half and Shannon Sanders added one of her own to propel the Bucs to a 30-25 halftime lead.

Coastal finished with a 50-30 rebounding margin on its way to a 23-18 edge in second chance points.  Charleston Southern hoisted 25 3-pointers, making nine to nearly equal its season average.

Coastal Carolina returns home to Kimbel Arena to take on Gardner-Webb on Saturday, Feb. 4, in the second game of a doubleheader with the men’s team. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

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