March 3, 2011
CONWAY, S.C. – Chad Gray and Anthony Raffa had 25 points and nine rebounds each and the Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team reached the Big South Tournament for the second consecutive season following its 89-81 win over VMI Thursday night in the semifinals from Kimbel Arena.
The win improved Coastal Carolina to 28-4 this season and tied the Chanticleers with the 2010 team for the most wins in school history.
Dexter Moore poured in 17 points and hit four three-pointers to help the Chanticleers shoot 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. Sam McLaurin added 11 points and eight rebounds as Coastal Carolina outscored VMI 38-30 in the paint and held a 44-24 edge on the glass.
McLaurin also tallied one blocked shot and upped his season total to 57 to move into a tie for the most rejections in a single season in school history. The Havana, Fla., native also set the record last season as a freshman.
Austin Kenon scored 27 points and hit six three-pointers to lead the Keydets, who have been eliminated in the tournament by Coastal Carolina in back-to-back seasons. Stan Okoye finished with 22 points and five rebounds, while Keith Gabriel added 17 points and four rebounds.
Kenon gave VMI its largest lead of the second half with a three-pointer at the 12:32 mark to put the Keydets ahead 52-48. Moore answered with a three-pointer on the ensuing Coastal possession that ignited a 14-4 run to put the Chants ahead 62-56 on a layup from Gray.
Coastal Carolina went on to build a 10-point lead with just under five minutes left, but VMI used two baskets from Gabriel and a pair of free throws from Kenon to climb to within five points with 3:16 on the clock.
The Chanticleers built their lead back to nine points over the next 1:29 only to see the Keydets cut the lead to just four points on a three-pointer by Kenon and a putback dunk from Okyoe.
Raffa scored the next six points to put Coastal ahead 87-77 and seal the win for the Chanticleers. Raffa, who was 7-of-12 from the floor and 9-of -11 from the foul line, made a layup and four straight free throws in the final 1:02.
Coastal Carolina looks for its first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1993 when the Chanticleers host UNC Asheville in the Big South Tournament title game Saturday after noon at 4 p.m. from Kimbel. The Chanticleers and Bulldogs split the season series this year.
Student bracelet distribution for Saturday’s championship game will begin Friday at noon in Arcadia Hall.