Men's Basketball Returns Home to Host Liberty, Feb. 16
THE FINAL HOMESTAND: Coastal Carolina starts its final regular-season homestand of the 2007-08 campaign, hosting Liberty this afternoon. The two-game set concludes Mon., Feb. 18, as the Chanticleers host High Point on Senior Night.
THE COACHES:Coastal Carolina Head Coach Cliff Ellis (Florida State, ’68) is in his first season at the helm of the Chanticleers, but is now in his 30th season as a Division I head coach with a 546-348 record and 624-360 in 32-plus seasons as a head coach overall. Last season, Coastal posted a 15-15 mark, including 7-7 in Big South Conference play.
Ritchie McKay (Seattle Pacific, ’87) is in his first season as head coach at Liberty with an 13-12 mark and 178-170 in his 12th year as a head coach overall. Last season, Liberty was 14-17 overall and 8-6 in the Big South, finishing third. The Flames return seven letterwinners and three starters from last year’s squad.
This will be the second meeting of two of the "rookie" coaches in the Big South Conference, though Ellis has gone against the Flames three times previous to this year in his career. Ellis is 3-1 against LU all-time, defeating Liberty twice at home while at Clemson (96-71 in 1988-89 and 93-68 in 1992-93) and once at a neutral site while at Auburn (63-58 in 1995-96).
SERIES WITH THE FLAMES: This will be the 41st meeting in the history between Coastal and Liberty, with the Flames leading the series 22-18, with the Chanticleers having just a 9-9 record against LU at home. However, the Chanticleers have won the four meetings prior to this year between the two teams, including last year's 70-65 contest in Conway.
KIMBEL HAS ITS ADVANTAGES: Coastal Carolina's Kimbel Arena may seat just over 1,000 fans, but it has been large for the Chanticleers the last six seasons. Coastal is 32-4 (88.9 percent) since the start of the 2002-03 season in non-conference games at Kimbel, including winning the last 20 non-conference tilts in the home gym. CCU had a stellar 14-1 overall record at home in 2005-06, the most home victories since the program went Division I for the 1985-86 season. CCU is also 59-21 (73.8 percent) overall at the Conway campus venue in the last five-plus years.
CLOSE CALLS THIS YEAR: Coastal has been in battles throughout the 2007-08 season. Of its 23 games so far, 12 have been decided by nine points or less, with the Chanticleers posting a 8-4 record. Of those games, eight have been in league play, with CCU having won five of them.
DEFENSE IMPROVING: Coastal has been able to make a difference with their play on defensive end of the floor over seven of the last eight games, while dealing with the loss of several key players. Excluding the VMI contest, Feb. 9, CCU has held opponents to 64 points or less in five of the games, getting the win in three of them.
PLAYING THE EXTRA PERIOD: Coastal's game against Charleston Southern, Feb. 2, was the first overtime contest for the Chanticleers this season and the first since an 81-80 loss at South Carolina State, Dec. 13, 2006. In its history, Coastal is 22-17 in extra period games, but only 14-15 since going Division I. This win was just the second victory for the Chanticleers in the last nine overtime contests.
COASTAL HAS THE TOUGHEST BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE SCHEDULE: After looking at the 2007-08 Big South Conference schedule, the Chanticleers have the toughest road in the league due to the number of times playing two games in three days. Coastal and Charleston Southern both have five Saturday/Monday sets, but only CCU has to play five of those games on the road, while CSU has just four. Looking at the rest of the league, Liberty and High Point are next with three, Radford and VMI each have two (both involving CCU and CSU), while the two current teams at the top of the standings, UNC Asheville and Winthrop, only have one each.
GETTING EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE ACT: Coastal has shown it is most effective when many get involved in the action and on the scoreboard. Of Coastal’s 12 victories, the Chants have had at least four players in double-figures scoring in seven of them, including a season-high five players in the dramatic buzzer-beating win over Radford, Jan. 12 and overtime victory against Charleston Southern, Feb. 2. In four of the victories where they didn’t (UNC Wilmington, Susquehanna and High Point, Radford), there were three players with double-digit scoring and at least one of them at 22 points. However in the 11 losses, only three times has CCU had four players score 10 or more points in the contest.
SHOT SELECTION (AND SHOTS OVERALL) A DIFFERENCE EARLY ON: For Coastal this year, it is easy to see where the differences are between the home victories and the road losses when Coastal has struggled. In its 10 home wins, the Chanticleers have taken 565 shots (56.5 avg), as compared to 492 (54.7 avg) in the nine road losses, and hit 49.0 percent (277-of-565) in Kimbel Arena, while just shooting 42.5 percent (209-of-492) in road venues. The squad is 80-of-205 (39.0 percent) from behind the arc in its 10 home wins while just 72-of-195 (36.9 percent) from the three-point line in the nine road losses. It is even more definitive at the free throw line, as CCU has hit 155-of-218 charity attempts (71.1 percent) at home, but is a dismal 75-of-125 (60.0 percent) from the stripe in those road games.
In the three games prior to the Charleston Southern and Winthrop victories, it had been even more evident in the losses, as Coastal hit just 34.3 percent (57-of-166) of its shots and 29.5 percent (23-of-78) from the three-point arc, while opponents were 46.8 percent (73-of-156) from the field and 39.7 percent (23-of-58) from the arc. That translated to CCU being outscored 66.3-51.3 on average.
FORCING THE ACTION: One other stat that jumps out in comparing home and road and the records based on how many opponent miscues CCU forces. At home, the Chants forced 158 turnovers (13.2 tpg) in its first 12 home games, but only caused 131 (11.9 tpg) in the 11 road games, having an impact on Coastal being 10-2 at home and 2-9 on the road.
A LOW SCORING AFFAIR: In the 50-49 victory over Winthrop Feb. 6, Coastal posted its lowest point total in a game, as well as holding its opponent to its lowest total since a win at VMI, 49-32, Jan. 6, 2004. That game at VMI also set a Cameron Hall record for the fewest points ever scored by the Keydets at home.
WINNING THE BOARD BATTLE FINALLY: After losing the battle on the glass in the first four games, Coastal outrebounded their first opponent in the win over Anderson, Nov. 21. In the game, CCU trailed in the board column by five at the halftime break, 21-16, but dominated in the second half to finish ahead by seven, 41-34.
Coastal had a nine-board advantage (42-33) in the home win over Presbyterian, Dec. 7 and a four-rebound margin (35-31) at UNCW, Dec. 9. The Chants had their best game on the glass against Susquehanna, Jan. 5, when they outboarded the Crusaders 36-26, led by senior forward Phil Wallace's career-high 11 rebounds in the win.
For the year, Coastal has been outrebounded in 14 of 23 games this season, including seven of the nine road losses. However the last four games, Coastal has outrebounded its opponents by a combined 168-147, an average of +5.3 rebounds a game more for the Chants.LEASURE THE KING OF DOWNTOWN: The three-point arc has been the domain of senior guard Jack Leasure since his arrival at Coastal for the 2004-05 season and that legend grew to new heights last season. In the win over VMI, Feb. 3, 2007, Leasure hit seven threes (the second highest total in his career and fifth best in school history) and became the Coastal career three-pointer leader. Leasure surpassed KeKe Hicks (1993-95) with 275 triples and now has 391 three-pointers in his three-plus years, moving up to second and passing Scott Hartzell (1992-96) of UNC Greensboro with 309. He now only trails Doug Day (1989-93) of Radford with 401.
Leasure is also the current NCAA Division I active leader in career three-pointers per game, having hit 3.491 triples in his 112 games (391 total), currently ahead of Chris Lofton of Tennessee at 3.379 (392 threes in 116 games) and ranks ninth in career three pointers made. He is looking to become just the seventh player in NCAA Division I history to reach the 400 three-pointer plateau and has knocked down 42 triples in his last nine games (4.7 a game).LEASURE LEADING THE CHANTS: Senior Jack Leasure started off his final season as a Chanticleer with a bang - or several of them - from downtown. In the season opener against North Greenville, Nov. 9, Leasure tallied a career-high 34 points, hitting 13-of-20 shots from the field and 8-for-13 of his attempts from the three-point arc. He also added three rebounds, five assists and three steals in the 95-75 victory at Kimbel Arena. The eight three pointers tie for the third most in school history, with the 34 points tying for the 10th-highest single-season mark.
Leasure followed it with 33 points in the win over Campbell, Nov. 13. That night, he was 9-of-12 from the floor and 6-of-9 behind the three-point line and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe. He also chipped in three rebounds, five assists and one steal in the victory.
Recently, Leasure stepped up and scored 33 points, going 8-of-15 from the three-point arc, and tied a season high with seven boards while playing all 40 minutes in leading the Chants to their first road victory of the year, a 66-61 win at High Point, Jan. 19. Currently, the senior leads Coastal and ranks sixth in the league at 16.6 points per game while hitting on 43.0 percent (125-of-291) of his shots from the floor (10th in the league) and a league-best 43.1 percent (91-of-211 - 26th in the nation) of his attempts from the three-point arc.LEASURE ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT: Senior guard Jack Leasure has shown he is the all-around student-athlete, as he was named ESPN The Magazine First Team Academic All-American as presented by CoSIDA. This is the second time he has been named to the squad, as last year he earned First Team Academic All-District and eventually was honored as an Academic All-America Second Team selection.
JOHNSON STEPPING UP: Sophomore Logan Johnson has stepped up his offensive game in the last three contests, helping take over some of the load since senior Everage Richardson has been out with an illness. Johnson has led CCU in scoring in two of the last four games and posted new career bests in scoring with 15 against Charleston Southern, Feb. 2, and then 16 against Winthrop, Feb. 6, and at Radford, Feb. 11, all Coastal victories. He has also tallied 10 or more points in nine of the last 10 games, averaging 11.7 points per game during the stretch.
He has also increased his board production over the last five, averaging 7.4 rebounds a game and now ranks second for CCU at 4.9 caroms a contest, ranking 14th in the Big South.
SISINNI TAKING THE REINS: Junior guard Mario Sisinni stepped into the starting lineup 14 games ago for Coastal and has taken control of the offense. During those 14 games, Sisinni has averaged 3.5 assists per game while only turning the ball over 1.8 times per game (a solid 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio). He has also upped his averages to 6.5 points and 3.2 rebounds a contest. He posted 12 points (one off his previous career best), including going 4-of-4 from the three-point arc, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists to one turnover in the road win at High Point, Jan. 19. He then had a career-high 16 points, including the three-pointer at the start of overtime to put CCU ahead for good, along with five assists and five rebounds in the victory over Charleston Southern, Feb. 2.
WALLACE DOUBLING UP: Senior forward Phil Wallace had the best game of his Coastal career against Susquehanna, Jan. 5. Wallace posted career highs of 17 points (6-of-8 from the floor, 5-of-5 from the free throw line) and 11 rebounds for his first Coastal double-double. Wallace now ranks third for CCU at 4.5 boards per game.
RICHARDSON ON THE RIGHT FOOT: Senior guard Everage Richardson got going on the right foot, making an impact coming off the bench. In the opener against North Greenville, Nov. 9, Richardson tallied a career-high tying 16 points, going 7-of-9 from the field, along with grabbing six boards, a new career best. He followed it up with 12 points and four rebounds in the home victory over Campbell, Nov. 13.
He also put together a career best in his effort against Anderson, Nov. 21, posting career-highs of 17 points, going 8-for-14 from the field, and four steals, while also chipping in two assists and his first blocked shot at Coastal.
After averaging just 7.0 points a game in the first four this season, Richardson has stepped up his game on the offensive end of the floor even more over the eight contests prior to the win at High Point, Jan. 19. He averaged 20.1 points a contest in those eight, including scoring in double figures in eight straight and now nine of the last 11 games. He surpassed his best point total at UNC Wilmington, Dec. 9, tallying a career-best 19 points to lead Coastal's effort. He then followed it up with new career-highs of 27 points and seven rebounds in the home victory over UNCW, Dec. 19. However, Richardson did not score in 22 minutes against High Point, seeing his double-digit scoring streak snapped.
Richardson is now second on the team at 13.8 points per game on 51.9 percent (98-of-189) shooting from the field while also chipping in 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per contest. However, he has been out indefinitely after having an emergency appendectomy on Friday, Jan. 25.
BREEZE NAMED BIG SOUTH FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK: CCU freshman Anthony Breeze received New Balance Freshman of the Week honors for games played Feb. 4-10, it was announced by the League office. This is the second time this year Breeze has earned the honor.
Breeze averaged 14.0 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Chanticleers. He tied a career-high with nine rebounds and scored 15 points, including canning the winning free throws with six seconds left in the win against Winthrop. He followed that up with 13 points, five rebounds and a blocked shot at VMI. For the week, Breeze was 10-of-17 from the floor (58.8 percent) and 8-of-13 from the charity stripe (61.5 percent).
FEELING THE BREEZE BLOW: Freshman Anthony Breeze made sure he was felt in the game at Cincinnati, Nov. 16. The Greenville, S.C. native came off the bench and led Coastal with a season-best 25 points, including going 9-of-9 from the field and 7-of-13 from the free-throw line. He added five rebounds in his 23 minutes of play. The 25 points was the most by a Coastal freshman since current senior Jack Leasure scored 25 points at Winthrop in the 2005 Advance Auto Parts Big South Conference Quarterfinals.
Breeze got his first collegiate start against Anderson, Nov. 21, and responded with 15 points, four boards and two blocked shots. He was impressive shooting, going 6-for-9 from the floor, including one monster dunk with an AU player hanging on his arms, and was also 3-of-3 from the charity stripe.
In the win over UNC Wilmington, Dec. 19, Breeze tallied 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 8-of-11 from the free throw line. He also added eight rebounds, tying his career best, in 26 minutes of action. Breeze has been a solid addition to the lineup and stepped up with the loss of Joseph Harris earlier this year to a season-ending injury. Breeze is currently third on the team and 25th in the Big South in scoring at 9.6 points per game and leads in rebounds at 5.3 boards a contest (tied for 10th in the league) while playing 21.3 minutes a game. Breeze put together 10 points, including 8-of-8 at the free throw line, six rebounds and a career-best three assists in the win over Radford, Jan. 12. Recently, he tallied 15 points and a game-high and career-high tying nine rebounds in the home victory over Winthrop, Feb. 6.
LEASURE NAMED TO LOWE'S SENIOR CLASS AWARD CANDIDATE LIST: Senior guard Jack Leasure has been named an official candidate for the 2007-08 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, the first male ever named to the list for Coastal Carolina and the only men's player on the list from the Big South Conference. The nation’s top 30 senior male and female college basketball players who exemplify a total student-athlete were announced as the official candidates for the 2007-08 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.
The award – presented annually to the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete of the Year in eight sports – focuses on the “Four C’s” of classroom, character, community and competition. Lowe’s, an official corporate partner of the NCAA will award the winners with trophies during the respective men’s and women’s NCAA Final Four weekends. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the award was launched during the 2001-02 season to honor the attributes of college basketball seniors who remain committed to their university and pursue the many rewards that a senior season and complete college education brings. Now in its seventh year for basketball, the award has developed into the nation’s premier tribute for college seniors. Since originating with basketball, Lowe’s has expanded the award to include a total of eight NCAA sports, of which CCU women's soccer player Ashleigh Gunning was on this year's top-30 list.
From the list of 30 nominees for each gender, a national media committee will select 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award in January 2008. Those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot for a nationwide vote during the NCAA Tournament in March. Fan balloting will be coupled with votes from coaches and media to determine the male and female recipients.ON THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: As of Feb. 7 as a team, Coastal ranks in the top 70 of four categories in NCAA Division I basketball. CCU is 37th in three-pointers per game (8.3), 66th in assists per game (15.2) and 67th in three-point field-goal percentage (37.9 percent).
Individually, senior guard Jack Leasure ranks among the top 100 individuals in two areas. Leasure is 11th in three-pointers per game (3.8) and 26th in three-point percentage (44.1 percent) and. Senior guard Everage Richardson is also ranked 53rd in steals per game (2.0) and 91st in field-goal percentage (52.6 percent).LEADING THE WAY: Leaders often do the little things that don't show up in the stats. However with senior Jack Leasure and junior Joseph Harris, when they show up as leaders in the stats, it normally means good things for the Chanticleers. Over the last 79 games, Leasure has led Coastal in scoring on 35 occasions, posting a 26-9 mark. Harris has led the Chants on the glass in 34 of those contests, with CCU having a 20-14 mark in those games as well.
J-MONEY: Senior Jack Leasure has been clutch from the three-point line in the past, but his most notable performance comes from the free-throw line in his career. Leasure is an impressive 187-for-224 (82.9 percent) in his three-plus years thus far. That is currently the second-best career free throw percentage in Coastal history.
HARRIS OUT FOR THE YEAR WITH THUMB INJURY: Junior Joseph Harris is out for the year with a torn ligament in his left thumb. He suffered the injury in the second half of the UNC Wilmington game, Dec. 9, but finished the game. He will have surgery on the thumb later this week and, due to new NCAA rules on medical redshirts, will be eligible to be medically redshirted and retain two years of eligibility, starting next season.
Harris was again asserting himself in rebounding, currently leading Coastal and ranking fifth in the conference at 7.9 rebounds a game, while chipping in 8.3 points per contest. He also has 13 blocked shots on the year, ranking fourth in the league at 1.6 blocks a game. He entered this season with nine career double-doubles (seven in 2006-07), and made it 10 after a recent outing of then season bests of 16 points and 10 rebounds at Houston, Nov. 26, and then followed it up in the next game with 14 points and a season-high 14 rebounds in the win over Presbyterian, Dec. 7, for his 11th career double-double. He also added career-highs of four blocks and six steals in the win over the Blue Hose. He had a career-best and team season-best 31 points to go with 11 boards at VMI last year, the most points tallied by a CCU player during the 2006-07 season. He led the team (for the second straight year -- his first two at CCU) and was fifth in the Big South at 7.7 boards per contest and ranked fourth the squad at 8.2 points per game. He improved the scoring average in league play with 9.1 points in 14 conference games. He at least shared for team-high honors in rebounding in 20 of the 30 Coastal games last year.
BACK-TO-BACK FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME: Senior guard Jack Leasure has opened the scoring in style, posting the first back-to-back 30-point games since 1994-95, when guard KeKe Hicks scored 33 against Towson State (1-14-95) and 36 against Maryland-Baltimore County (1-16-95). In fact, Hicks did it twice that season, tallying 40 at #22 Georgia Tech (11-28-94) and 32 against Charlotte (12-1-94) earlier in the year.
LEASURE GETTING BACK IN HIS ZONE: After ending the 2005-06 season ranked second in the nation in three-pointers at 4.2 per game, senior Jack Leasure returned to play solid and earn Second Team All-Big South honors last year as a junior. He led the team and ranked eighth in the league in scoring at 15.6 points per game. He was also fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.372), third in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.83), second in three pointers made (3.00/g) and ninth in assists (3.60/g).
Leasure has also ranked among the top 30 in the nation in three-point field goals made in each of his three seasons.ON THE ROAD IN THE LEAGUE: The Chanticleers snapped their six-game road losing streak with their 66-61 victory at High Point, Jan. 19. However that is the only road win Coastal has had this year, as CCU had lost all six non-conference tilts during the 2007-08 campaign and has dropped its three road games that followed the HPU victory prior to the win at Radford, Feb. 11. Before the win over the Panthers, the last time Coastal had won a road contest was the final road game of the 2006-07 season at Liberty, 77-76. CCU won three of its seven road league games last season and is now 10-11 against Big South foes on the road the last three seasons.
ON THE TUBE FOUR TIMES: Coastal Carolina's men's basketball team will make four televised appearances on SportSouth as part of the Big South Conference's package. The Chanticleers will be televised twice at Kimbel Arena, first hosting Charleston Southern in an 85-78 overtime thriller, Feb. 2, and Winthrop tonight, as well as twice on the road, winning the first at High Point, 66-61, Jan. 19, and losing at Winthrop, 65-43, Jan. 26.
THE PRESEASON POLL HAD CCU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK: Coastal Carolina was picked to finish fourth in the Big South Conference this season by the league's head coaches, sports information directors and selected media, as announced at the 2007 Big South Basketball Media Days in Concord, N.C. High Point was a slim favorite to take home the crown over two-time defending champion Winthrop with VMI picked third. Rounding out the poll was UNC Asheville, Liberty, Charleston Southern and Radford.
However, much is unknown in the league due to coaching changes. Of the eight schools in the league, four of them (Coastal - Cliff Ellis, Winthrop - Randy Peele, Liberty - Ritchie McKay and Radford - Brad Greenberg) have new head coaches this season.
LIVE ON THE RADIO AND THE WEB: Coastal Carolina men's basketball will be broadcast live on "The Team", 93.9 FM, 93.7 FM and 1050 AM in the Conway/Myrtle Beach area, as well as on the Internet at www.GoCCUSports.com. Matt Hogue returns for his 11th year as "Voice of the Chanticleers". In addition, there will be Live Game Stats of all CCU home basketball games on the Internet, as well as Live Video Streaming of all home basketball games available for purchase on "The Edge" on www.bigsouthsports.com.