Feb. 14, 2012
CONWAY - Junior guard Anthony Raffa scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the second half and he nearly single-handedly willed Coastal Carolina to a 74-69 win over UNC Asheville Tuesday at Kimbel Arena, dealing the first-place Bulldogs their first road conference loss of the season.
Raffa scored 10 of CCU's last 12 points, including the last seven straight, as the Chanticleers improved to 18-8 overall and 11-5 in the Big South. Asheville slipped to 19-8 overall and 14-2 in the league.
Raffa started his heroic run on the defensive end when he made a clean steal from Asheville's top scorer Matt Dickey, who finished with 19 points. Raffa completed the play with a 3-pointer from the left corner that put CCU up 65-56 with 3:21 to play.
"My adrenaline was pumping," said Raffa, the team's leading scorer on the year with a 16.6 point average. "He stole the ball from me earlier so I really wanted to get him back."
He closed out the night by making four free throws in the last 20 seconds.
"He plays all out and he plays with passion," said head coach Cliff Ellis. "It showed tonight."
Raffa was supported by three teammates in double figures. Chris Gradnigo scored 15 points and added 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the season, and Jon Pack chipped in with 14 points while Kierre Greenwood had 12.
UNC Asheville came out briefly in a zone defense for the second half and climbed back from a 35-20 halftime deficit to trail by just five, 40-35, after a 16-5 run to start the period. The Bulldogs hit seven of their first eight shots in the frame. They even closed to within 56-55 before Greenwood countered with a bucket.
This time the Chanticleers fought hard to hold on to the lead they grabbed early in the first half.
Coastal wasn't in the mood to play catch-up. The Chanticleers pounded the inside early where they held a significant height advantage. Pack, at 6-11 held a 6-inch advantage on the Bulldogs' tallest starter, and it made a difference. He contributed six points in a 12-2 run as Coastal broke out to a 12-4 lead. He ended the half with 10 points, three more than his full game average. And the only shot he missed was a blown dunk.
Gradnigo, starting his second consecutive game after coming of the bench for most of the season, led the way with 11 points and eight rebounds in the half. His dunk off Danny Nieman's slick pass gave CCU its biggest lead of the game at 33-17 with 2:34 left in the half.
The defense was inspired too. The Chanticleers held Asheville to just 8-32 shots in first period and just 41 percent on the night.
Behind Dickey, the Bulldogs had Jeremy Atkinson with 16 points and Primm and Jaron Lane with 12 apiece.