March 09, 2014
CONWAY - For the first time in 21 years the Coastal Carolina University men's basketball team is heading to the NCAA Tournament following a 76-61 victory in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Conference Championship game over in-state rival Winthrop University. The conference championship is the first for the Chanticleers since 1991 and the NCAA Tournament berth is the first since 1993.
Head coach Cliff Ellis, who won his first conference tournament title, becomes just the 10th coach in NCAA Division I history to lead four different programs to the NCAA Tournament. He joins an elite group that includes Rick Pitino, Eddie Sutton and Tubby Smith. The win also marks coach Ellis' 668 career victory which moves him into a tie with former Maryland head coach Gary Williams for 27th all-time in career victories.
Ellis will be leading a team to the "Big Dance" for the ninth time after taking South Alabama twice (1979 and 1980), Clemson three times (1987, 1989 and 1990) and Auburn three times (1999, 2000 and 2003).
All information regarding ticket, hotel and travel related to the NCAA tournament will be released on GoCCUSports.com on Tuesday at 5 pm. This also includes location information regarding an NCAA Tournament Selection Show viewing party on Sunday, March 16 from 5-7 pm.
Coastal Carolina (21-12) led nearly from start to finish while capturing its third Big South Championship title. The Chanticleers shot 58.3 percent (28-of-48) for the contest, helping them avenge two regular-season defeats to Winthrop (20-13) in front of a boisterous home crowd.
Coastal also becomes the first one-site host of the conference tournament to win the title since Winthrop in 1988.
CCU got major contributions from all five of its starters, paced by Tournament MVP Warren Gillis, who scored a game-high 22 points and tied his career high with seven assists. Backcourt mate Josh Cameron finished with 19 points, wrapping up the tournament with a team-high 18.7 ppg and earning a spot on the All-Tournament team.
The Eagles' run of three tournament victories in four days fell one game short of the title, as Winthrop lost for just the second time in 12 Big South Championship title game appearances all-time. The Eagles shot just 32.2 percent (19-of-59) from the floor and 30.8 percent (8-of-26) from three-point range.
Redshirt junior Keon Moore, who scored a team-high 19 points on Sunday and averaged 19.0 ppg during the Eagles' four tournament tilts, represented Winthrop on the All-Tournament team. He was joined in double-digits in the title game by teammate Joab Jerome (13 points).
The remainder of the All-Tournament team consisted of UNC Asheville redshirt senior center D.J. Cunningham and Gardner-Webb sophomore forward Jerome Hill.
Coastal Carolina scored eight straight points early in the second half, bolstering its lead to 15 (42-27) on Cameron's steal and layup with 17:20 to play.
The Chanticleer advantage reached 18 points (57-39) with 9:41 to play, when Wilson's layup punctuated a 7-0 burst.
Back-to-back triples by Moore and Andre Smith sparked an 8-0 Winthrop run, trimming the Eagles' deficit to 61-52 at the 4:38 mark.
That's as close as Winthrop would get, as Coastal Carolina closed out its most comfortable win of the tournament. The Chanticleers needed double-overtime to post a 73-68 quarterfinal victory over Charleston Southern on Friday before holding off VMI by a 66-62 count in Saturday's semifinal tilt.
Coastal Carolina made five of its first six field goal attempts, racing out to a quick 12-6 advantage to start the matinee.
Winthrop's only lead came at the 11:20 mark of the opening half, when Smith's 3-pointer in transition made it 17-16 in favor of the Eagles. It was the junior guard's first hoop since his dramatic game-winning triple at the buzzer of Friday's 62-60 quarterfinal win over High Point.
After Smith's trifecta, Winthrop did not make another field goal for 7:03. During that span, Coastal Carolina went on a 12-0 run. Cameron scored seven points during the surge, including a mid-range jumper that gave the Chanticleers a 28-18 edge 5:09 before halftime.
Winthrop got back within four (28-24) on Tevin Prescott's dunk at 2:24, before the Chanticleers tallied the last six points of the half. Back-to-back Gillis layups sent the home team to halftime with a 34-24 lead.