UNC-Asheville (18-13) at Coastal Carolina (28-4)
Saturday, March 5th, 4:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kimbel Arena (1,039) - Conway, South Carolina. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UNCA 10-5, Coastal Carolina 15-2. Away Record: UNCA 7-8, Coastal Carolina 10-1. Neutral Record: UNCA 1-0, Coastal Carolina 3-1. Conference Record: UNCA 11-7, Coastal Carolina 16-2. Series Record: Coastal Carolina leads, 31-28.
GAME NOTES: Playing in their home arena, the top-seeded Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will attempt to win the Big South Conference Tournament and the accompanying bid to the NCAA Tournament. Standing in their way are the third- seeded UNC-Asheville Bulldogs.
UNC-Asheville has won this tournament title twice, most recently in 2003. The Bulldogs defeated Charleston Southern in the quarterfinal round of this event on Tuesday before knocking off High Point in Thursday's semifinals by a 62-45 final. That victory was the fifth in a row for the squad and improved UNCA to 18-13 overall.
As for Coastal Carolina, it has three Big South Tournament championships under its belt, but it has been 18 years since the program last captured the crown. The Chanticleers beat Gardener Webb by 11 points in the quarterfinals before an 89-81 decision over VMI in the semifinals. They are now 28-4 overall and carry a three-game win streak into this afternoon's affair.
Coastal Carolina crushed UNC-Asheville by an 80-59 final back in January, but the Bulldogs did earn a series split with the Chants with a 61-58 triumph in last month's meeting. With regard to the all-time series, Coastal Carolina holds a narrow 31-28 advantage.
Strong defense was key to UNC-Asheville's semifinal romp over High Point, as the Bulldogs held their overmatched opponent to 36.2 percent shooting from the floor while forcing 14 turnovers. Several players put forth solid efforts for the victors, and J.P. Primm led the way with 19 points and five assists. Matt Dickey added 18 points and six assists, while Jaron Lane contributed 10 points off the bench. Overall this season, the Bulldogs are scoring 74.6 ppg while allowing 68.9 ppg to opponents. They are paced by Dickey's 15.5 ppg, and he has handed out 104 assists to go along with 60 steals. Primm, who is second on the roster with 14.6 ppg, leads the team with 144 assists and 65 steals. UNCA gets to the foul line quite a bit, an obvious key to the team's success.
Anthony Raffa has emerged as a big-time performer for the Chanticleers, as he has scored at least 23 points in each of the last three outings. He is averaging a modest 11.8 ppg for the season but is playing far better than that mark suggests. The top scorer for the Chants is Desmond Holloway with 18.5 ppg on the strength of 50.2 percent shooting from the floor, and he is pulling down 6.9 rpg. Unfortunately, Holloway was suspended in late February, and it is unclear when he will return. Chad Gray provides 14.8 ppg and 6.3 rpg while shooting 50 percent from the field. Coastal Carolina is racking up 78.3 ppg overall while holding opponents to 64.1 ppg on 39.3 percent shooting from the field. The club is also outrebounding foes by 7.5 rpg, key to the enormous success. In Thursday's semifinal victory over VMI, Raffa tallied 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists off the bench, while Gray posted 25 points and nine rebounds as well. Dexter Moore scored 17 points, while Sam McLaurin finished with 11.
Even without Holloway, Coastal Carolina is still an outstanding team, especially considering Raffa's inspired play. The home crowd will give the Chants just enough of a charge to outlast the pesky Bulldogs.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Coastal Carolina 74, UNC-Asheville 69
03/05 10:40:07 ET