Jan. 14, 2012
CONWAY - 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 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 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.
Nieman hit a couple of 3-pointers to jumpstart Coastal to 12-2 in the first half 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, made a 3-pointer and followed with a basket from 16 feet away.
When Gradnigo was finished, 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 nine 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 the fourth straight loss for the Blue Hose this season.
Coastal travels to UNC Asheville on Tuesday, Jan. 17 with first place in the Big South up for grabs. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at UNC Asheville's newly constructed Kimmel Arena.