Coastal Carolina tops VMI, 81-64
VMI closed out the regular season 14-15 and 8-10 in Big South play and must wait out the rest of today’s league action to find out where it will open tournament play next week.
Coastal Carolina (19-10, 12-6) won for only the second time in seven outings but limited the Keydets to 28% shooting to hand the hosts only their second home court loss this season.
The Keydets placed only one player in double figures scoring as junior forward Stan Okoye posted his fifth double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Joining Raffa in double figures scoring was senior forward Chris Gradnigo who scored 11 points second half points to finish with 16, and senior center Jon Pack and junior guard Kierre Greenwood each tallied 12 points.
VMI connected on just 20-of-72 shots from the floor including six-of-33 from 3-point range. The Chanticleers held the advantage on the boards, 46-35.
Okoye hit eight-of-19 shots from the floor on his way to posting his 12th game of 20 or more points. He nailed six-of-seven from the foul line as the Keydets continued to perform well from the charity stripe draining 18-of-22 for 81.8%.
Raffa connected on eight-of-15 shots from the floor including four three-pointers. His trey from the top of the key as time expired in the first half put Coastal Carolina ahead at the break, 36-34, and gave the Chanticleers a lead they would not relinquish in the second half.
Coastal Carolina started the second half on a 10-3 run and took a 46-37 lead following a Warren Gillis steal and dish for a Raffa layup. Four minutes later, the Chants pushed the lead to a dozen points (56-44) following back-to-back Gradnigo jumpers. VMI twice trimmed the margin to five points after Okoye layups- the latest coming at the 9:33 mark to make it 58-53.
Coastal Carolina countered with a 9-2 spurt as a Pack lay-in, four Raffa free throws, and a 3-pointer by Gradnigo fueled the run to push the CCU lead back to double-digits for the last seven minutes of regulation. VMI trailed 72-61 at the 3:12 mark following an Okoye 3-point play, but could come no closer the rest of the way.
The first half was a see-saw affair that saw seven ties and eight lead changes. VMI led by a six points at the midway point of the opening half, taking what proved to be their largest lead of the game when freshman Jordan Weethee canned a three-pointer to give the Keydets a 16-10 cushion. A 9-2 CCU run followed to halt the VMI momentum as Pack dunked at the 8:29 mark to put the Chants ahead, 19-18.
Coastal Carolina snapped VMI’s two-game win streak and captured the season series sweep after knocking off the Keydets in December in Conway, S.C. in the conference opener for both teams.
The Big South will announce pairings for the upcoming Advance Auto Parts Big South Championships following tonight’s Campbell-Liberty game in Lynchburg.
VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom –
“You got to make open shots. They did a good job defensively, but you have to make shots when your feet are set and you are open. We probably shoot more in practice than any other team in the country.”
“I hated this for the seniors to go out .They were six-of-37 between them. They will have that bad taste for their rest of their life, but the only way they can redeem themselves is to do something next week. Maybe we can rally and go from there.”
“We either took a bad shot or missed a wide open shot in the second half. That’s not good and that’s a recipe for disaster.”
“A few times we did play good defense and Gradnigo would jump up and make one in our mouth. They were six-of-nine from 3’s today after they went 0 for 9 against us the first time we played. We got them in foul trouble (Sam McLaurin, Gradnigo) but couldn’t take advantage of it.”