March 8, 2014
CONWAY - No. 1 South seed and tournament host Coastal Carolina will return to the title game of the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Men's Basketball Championship for the first time since 2011 thanks to a staunch defensive effort during its 66-62 victory over No. 2 North seed VMI, Saturday afternoon at The HTC Center.
The Chanticleers (20-12) held VMI 26 points below its season scoring average while blocking 10 shots and holding the Keydets to 28.3 percent (17-of-60) from the field.
Coastal Carolina, which limited VMI (19-12) to one made field goal in the final 7:02 during a game-ending 11-5 surge, will meet No. 4 South seed Winthrop (20-12) in the championship game, Sunday at noon on ESPN2. Winthrop won both regular-season meetings with the Chanticleers, notching a 73-72 overtime victory at The HTC Center on Jan. 18 and winning by a 75-65 count in Rock Hill on Feb. 19.
In a nip-and-tuck contest with VMI which featured 14 ties and 14 lead changes, the Chanticleers went ahead for good with a late 6-0 burst. Freshman Elijah Wilson's coast-to-coast layup at 2:19 made it 61-59, and Coastal Carolina never trailed again.
VMI pulled to within 63-62 on three Rodney Glasgow free throws with 1:29 to play, but misfired on its last two field goal attempts. The Chanticleers closed out the scoring with a Warren Gillis jumper and a Josh Cameron free throw.
Cameron led four double-digit scorers for the Chanticleers, tallying 17 points. Gillis added 12 tallies, while Wilson scored all 11 of his points after halftime.
Coastal Carolina controlled the interior, owning decisive advantages in rebounding (48-35) and points in the paint (36-14). Badou Diagne (11 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) and Tristian Curtis (career-high 13 rebounds and three blocked shots) were a big reason why.
D.J. Covington scored 14 of his game-high 18 points after halftime for VMI and pulled down 12 rebounds for the game. Teammates Rodney Glasgow and QJ Peterson added 14 points apiece, with Peterson tallying five steals.
Back-to-back hoops by Wilson capped off an 8-2 burst for the home team, giving Coastal Carolina a 53-47 advantage with 11:26 on the second-half clock.
Covington then scored the first seven points of VMI's ensuing 10-2 run. Peterson's three-pointer from the right wing swished through the net with 7:03 left, putting the Keydets back on top, 57-55. But VMI made just one more field goal the rest of the way.
VMI hit only one of its first 10 field goal attempts on the afternoon, as Coastal Carolina grabbed an early 10-4 lead.
The Keydets countered with a 9-0 run, going in front by a 13-10 count on Tim Marshall's triple from right in front of the VMI bench, 12:03 before halftime.
The lead changed hands five more times during a defensive-minded first half, before Cameron scored Coastal Carolina's final eight points of the period, helping his team take a 34-33 edge into the locker room at halftime.
The opening 20 minutes saw eight blocked shots and a combined 31.3 (20-of-64) field goal percentage for the Chanticleers and Keydets.