Nieman ignites Chanticleers to third consecutive victory

For the second consecutive game, Chris Gradnigo came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points and Danny Nieman added a season-high 16 points as Coastal Carolina defeated Presbyterian College 81-63 at Kimbel Arena Saturday afternoon.

After falling behind 8-0 on Thursday night, the Chanticleers opened the game to a 23-6 lead during the first nine minutes of the game compliments of eight PC turnovers. The Blue Hose committed 18 turnovers on the night after turning the ball over 23 times against Charleston Southern on Thursday.

Coastal led from start to finish in improving to 13-4 overall and 6-1 in the Big South. It was the third straight win for the Chanticleers, who will travel in UNC Asheville on Tuesday for a battle for first place in the Conference.

“That’s the best we’ve played in a long time,” said head coach Cliff Ellis. “We came out early and did a great job. Danny Nieman was on fire.”

Nieman hit a couple of three-pointers to jump-start Coastal to a 12-2 start and the Chanticleers were never really threatened the rest of the way. Nieman didn’t miss a shot the entire game, as he hit for four 3-pointers and a couple 2-pointers.

“That’s the best I’ve played since I’ve been back, said Nieman, who re-joined the team in December after a semester away. “It’s been a long time since I’ve gone 100 percent (from the field).”

Presbyterian, now 8-10, 2-6, trailed 40-26 at the half, before managing to get within seven points at 54-47 midway through the second half. But after trading buckets over the next several minutes, Gradnigo closed the door on the visitors by scoring seven consecutive points in just 30 seconds. He dunked on a missed free throw, had a three-pointer and then a basket from 16 feet away.

When Gradnigo was done, the Chanticleers were comfortably in front 76-55 with less than five minutes remaining. Coastal’s biggest lead of 22 points, 79-57, came when Anthony Raffa hit a free throw with 2:37 left.

Raffa, the team’s leading scorer on the season, finished with 12 points and Jon Pack added 10 points and a team-high 9 rebounds.

Al’Lonzo Coleman powered Presbyterian with 16 points and 15 rebounds. However, Eric Washington was the top scorer for the visitors with 21 points; Khalid Mutakabbir added 16.

It was the fifth consecutive win for Coastal over Presbyterian, and this one sent the Blue Hose to their fourth straight loss.

Coastal travels to UNC Asheville on Tuesday, Jan. 17 with first place in the Big South conference up for grabs. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Asheville’s newly constructed Kimmel Arena.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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