LYNCHBURG, VA. -- Freshman guard Joshua Mack took the ball the length of the court, releasing the layup with 0.2 seconds to lift Coastal Carolina's men's basketball squad to a heartstopping 77-76 Big South Conference victory, Feb. 12. With the victory, the Chanticleers advanced to 14-12 and 7-7 in the league, their second straight .500 or better season in the conference, while the host Flames fell to 12-14 and 6-6 in the conference.
Liberty got on top early, building a 13-7 lead on the strength of eight points by Larry Blair for a six-point margin less than five minutes into the contest. Coastal came back with a 12-3 run of its own over the next four minutes to take a 19-16 advantage. After the game was tied at 21, Coastal went on another surge, going 12-2 to take a 33-23 lead with 5:34 remaining in the first half. LU battled back in the final minutes, cutting the CCU lead to just two at the break, 39-37. Blair finished the half with 19 points, while CCU was led by junior guard Jack Leasure with 10, as nine Coastal players scored in the opening period.
LU immediately knotted up the game on the first shot of the second half on a jumper by Anthony Smith, but Coastal eventually got a six-point lead at 51-45 with 14:12 to go on a pair of Leasure free throws. An 11-3 run by Liberty over the next four minutes gave the Flames a 56-54 lead with 10 minutes to play. CCU built a six-point lead at 68-62 on senior forward Moses Sonko's layup and a free throw on the following possession, but LU made another push, this time 11-2 to take a 73-71 lead with 2:41 remaining. CCU tied the game one last time on a free throw by sophomore forward Joseph Harris and a layup by Sonko on the offensive rebound of the second charity toss.
Leasure hit another free throw with 1:54 on the clock to put the Chants up one at 74-73, but Blair continued the dramatics with a conventional three-point play with 1:40 to play to make it 76-74 Liberty. Sonko's free throw with 59.6 to play cut it 76-75. Smith missed the front end of two one-and-ones in the last 1:20, including with 6.1 seconds to play. Harris came down with the defensive rebound, got it quickly to Mack, who sprinted down the court and layed the ball in the basket as the buzzer went off. After an official's review of the play showed the ball was gone from Mack's hand when the horn went off, the 11th lead change of the game and Coastal's win were confirmed.
The Chanticleers were solid offensively, hitting 50.0 percent (30-of-60) from the field, including 45.0 percent (9-of-20) from the three-point arc. LU was 51.7 percent (30-of-58) from the floor, but just 22.2 percent (4-of-18) from beyond the three-point line. LU won the board battle 34-29, but CCU had a season-low eight turnovers and outscored the host Flames 34-26 in the paint.
Leasure led Coastal with 19 points, hitting 6-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-7 from the three-point arc. Sonko added 14 points, Mack chipped in 13 and Harris had seven points and seven rebounds, tying for team-high board honors with redshirt freshman Logan Johnson. Blair led all scorers with a career-high 40 points, going 17-of-25 from the field. Alex McLean was the only other LU player in double figures with 15 points and a game-high eight boards.
Coastal heads home to take part in the O'Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters, Sat., Feb. 17 at 2 p.m., hosting Canisius of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at Kimbel Arena.