Big South Roundup, Day 1: Chanticleers one and done

The Coastal Carolina University’s streak of frustration in the Big South Conference Tournament continued Tuesday night with a disappointing first-round elimination at the hands of the nemesis Liberty Flames at the HTC Center.

Moved to the prime-time game for what was supposed to be the Chanticleers’ showcase of their new arena and defense of their home floor. Coastal (14-15) went 12-3 at the HTC Center this season and was expected to make a run for the all-important NCAA Tournament bid that awaits the winner.

Instead, Coastal’s uninspiring 78-61 defeat turned out to be the stinker of the day in an otherwise thrilling first round and a bitter letdown for local fans and supporters of the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Conference Tournament.

“Give Liberty a lot of credit,” said Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis. “They were the more physical team, and it made a difference. They manhandled us on the boards, and I don’t think anyone else has done that to us.”

Liberty’s Davon Marshall scored 10 of his game-high 28 points during a 23-3 second-half run which pushed No. 5 North seed Liberty past No. 4 South seed Coastal Carolina. Marshall also made five triples and grabbed a career-high six rebounds for the Flames (12-20), who advance to the quarterfinal round after their second victory over Coastal Carolina this season.

The Flames, who are now 4-0 all-time against the Chanticleers in the Big South Championship, will face No. 1 North High Point Thursday at 8 p.m. Tournament host Coastal Carolina’s season ends at 14-15 despite a 23-point effort from Anthony Raffa in the final game of his All-Conference career.

Aided by a boisterous home crowd, Coastal Carolina made seven of its first nine field goal attempts to start the game, opening up a 14-3 advantage within the first six and a half minutes of play.

The Chanticleers still led by 10 points (20-10) before Liberty roared back to take its first lead of the night on a Marshall free throw during a 14-0 run.  Marshall scored the last eight points of the surge, including a long triple at 6:14 which put Liberty in front, 24-20.

The remainder of the opening half featured two ties and a pair of lead changes, and the red-clad Flames took a 38-35 lead into the intermission.

Coastal Carolina shot 48.3 percent (14-of-29) from the field in the first half and scored 24 points in the paint.  Meanwhile, Liberty went 14-of-16 from the foul line for 87.5 percent, led by Marshall’s 9-of-10 effort.  The junior guard paced all players with 15 first-half points.

A shot clock buzzer-beating three-pointer by Tomasz Gielo at 17:04 of the second half capped off an 8-0 Liberty run, bolstering the visitors’ lead to 46-37.

The Chanticleers answered with eight consecutive points of their own, trimming the deficit to 46-45 on Raffa’s layup off of a steal with 13:50 on the clock.

John Caleb Sanders halted Coastal Carolina’s momentum with a layup on the Flames’ next trip to the offensive end, and the Chanticleers only made one more field goal over the next 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, Marshall helped Liberty break the game open by scoring 10 points during its decisive 23-3 run.  The Flames’ lead reached 22 points (76-54) when Gielo went two-for-two at the charity stripe at the 1:32 mark.

Liberty then closed out a 78-61 victory for its first Big South Tournament win since 2009.

Gielo chipped in 14 points and six rebounds for the victors, including three of the Flames’ nine three-pointers.  Sanders added 10 points and a game-high five assists.

Raffa’s backcourt mate Kierre Greenwood finished with 19 points, but the Chanticleers were hurt by shooting just 1-of-16 (6.3 percent) from three-point range.

* Longwood 87, UNC Asheville 72: made a memorable tournament debut in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Men’s Basketball Championship, Tuesday afternoon at The HTC Center.

The Lancers upset the two-time defending tournament champion, No. 3 South seed UNC Asheville in a first-round matchup.

Longwood, which put four players in double figures, improves to 8-24 with its first-ever victory over Asheville and its fourth win in its last six games overall. The Lancers advance to the quarterfinal round during their first year of Big South Conference play and will meet No. 2 North seed VMI, Thursday at 2 p.m.

The Bulldogs’ 2012-13 season ends at 16-16 despite a double-double (19 points, game-high 11 rebounds) from first-team All-Big South performer Jeremy Atkinson.

* Winthrop 60, Radford 58: Junior forward Joab Jerome had career highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds and had the game-winning bucket with 1.2 seconds left in overtime to give Winthrop a come-from-behind win over Radford in a first round game of the 2013 VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Men’s Basketball Championship Tuesday.

Jerome had 17 of his 22 points in the second half, including Winthrop’s final four points. His game-winning basket from close range lifted the Eagles to 14-16 on the season. Winthrop advances to take on top-seeded Charleston Southern at noon Thursday. Radford, which led 58-56 with 2 minutes left in overtime, finished at 13-19.

Neither team led by more than 7 points in the contest and there were 13 ties and 17 lead changes. Reggie King added 11 points for Winthrop. Freshman guard Rahun Davis tied his season high with 18 points to lead Radford while Javonte Green added 13 points.

* Campbell 81, Presbyterian 73: Sophomore guard Trey Freeman scored a game-high 22 points and junior forward Marvelle Harris added 15 points to help Campbell earn an overtime win against Presbyterian College in a first round game of the Visit MyrtleBeach.com Big South Conference Men’s Basketball Championship Tuesday.

The win lifts Campbell to 13-19 on the season and sends the Camels into a quarterfinal game against Gardner-Webb at 6 p.m. Thursday.  Campbell had lost 9 of its last 11 contest heading into the tournament.

Presbyterian, which was led by Khalid Mutakabbir’s 19 points, ends its season at 8-24.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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