Slow start dooms Chants against in-state rival

181For the second time in as many meetings this month, the Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team fell into an early deficit against in-state rival South Carolina State and could not overcome it, falling to the Bulldogs 68-58 Monday night inside The HTC Center.

Despite cutting a 15-point halftime deficit to one late in the second half, the Chanticleers fell to 6-7 with the loss, while the Bulldogs improved to 4-8.

Josh Cameron had a team-high 12 points for Coastal, while Badou Diagne added 10 points and seven rebounds. Michel Enanga tied a season-high with 13 rebounds to go along with nine points. Enanga pulled down 11 offensive rebounds, the first time in recorded history that a Coastal player has had at least 10 offensive boards in a game.

Theron Stephens and Matthew Hezekiah each had 15 points to lead South Carolina State. Stephens, who averages just over six minutes per game and did not play in the first meeting, got the Bulldogs off to a hot start hitting three 3-pointers on four attempts before the first media timeout.  SC State hit seven of its first 11 shots from the field, including four from the behind the arc to build an 18-7 lead just over eight minutes in.

The Bulldogs, who led by 18 at the half in the earlier matchup, built the advantage in this one to 29-15 with less than three minutes left before the Chants scored five straight points – including a layup by Diagne and a dunk by Uros Ljeskovic to briefly bring the deficit to single digits. However, SC State got a putback basket and four free throws to make it 35-20 at the break.

Coastal shot just 24 percent (7 of 29) from the field in the first 20 minutes and missed on all of its 15 3-point attempts.

The Chants trailed 43-31 five minutes into the second half before going on an 11-3 run to close the gap to 46-42 with 12 minutes to play. Cameron hit a pair of 3-pointers to key the spurt, while Elijah Wilson converted a layup and Tristian Curtis added a tip-in.

Coastal continued to chip away over the final 10 minutes, twice getting within one point, the last on a putback by Diagne that made it 53-52 with 5:24 left. The Chants had three chances to tie or take the lead after that, but could not get over the hump. Enanga hit two free throws to make it 56-54, but missed on two others on the following possession and the Bulldogs’ Jalen White scored five quick points on a 3-pointer and a transition layup off a turnover to make it 61-54 with 1:49 to play. Cameron made one more at the free throw line for CCU, but South Carolina State put it away with two more layups.

The Chants improved their shooting to 35 percent in the second half, but were just 18 of 60 (30 percent) from the field in the game, while South Carolina State was 23 of 49 (47 percent). Coastal also shot just 19 of 34 from the free throw line, with the Bulldogs hitting on 15 of 21.

Coastal owned the glass in the second half, outrebounding SC State 25-16 in the last 20 minutes and 44-34 for the game. CCU totaled 24 offensive rebounds and converted them into 26 second-chance points.

The Chants are back at home Friday, January 3 as they host Central Connecticut State at 7 p.m. Coastal posted a three-point road victory over CCSU on December 21 in the first of the home-and-home series.

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