CONWAY, S.C. – Junior guard DeVante’ Jones scored a game-high 19 points and made six key free throws in the final minute to lift Coastal Carolina to a hard-fought 78-71 win over North Carolina Central Monday night at the HTC Center. The win gets the Chanticleers off to a 3-0 start for the new season while NCCU slipped to 1-2.
Jones scored 13 of his points in the second half and took control in the final minute when Coastal finished the game on an 8-0 run after the Eagles had taken a momentary 71-70 lead on Devon Palmer’s made free throw.
Coastal had four guards in double figures on the night. In addition to Jones, DaAnthony Tipler and Tyrik Dixon had 16 points apiece and Ebrima Dibba had 10 points. Jones, a 6′1′ preseason All Sun Belt Conference pick, also chipped in with nine rebounds.
“He just makes plays when you need them the most,” said head coach Cliff Ellis of Jones. “We also got good play from Tipler in the first half. He gave us a chance to get back in the game. That’s a good team we just played. They are the class of their league. That was a dog fight tonight.”
Each team held a nine-point lead, but no more than that. Coastal had the lead for most of the second half and led 67-59 when Dibba drove the lane for a layup with less than five minutes left. The difference down the stretch was at the free throw line, where Coastal went 12-13 while the Eagles made just 5-9.
NC Central grabbed the early momentum with a 9-0 run to take an 13-4 lead that had the Chanticleers on their heels. Freshman big man Essam Mostafa got in early foul trouble and went scoreless in the first 20 minutes, but the Chanticleer guards picked up the scoring load and propelled Coastal to a 38-32 halftime lead. Tipler had 11 points in the first period, including a 3-pointer that put Coastal in front for the first time at 26-23 midway through the period. Dixon had nine first-half points and Dibba had six assists.
Mostafa, who had more than 20 points in each of the Chanticleers first two wins, finished with just seven points and six rebounds before fouling out with three minutes remaining. Dixon also fouled out in the final minutes. NC Central also had two players fouled out, including senior guard CJ Keyser, who scored a team-high 19 points before picking up his fifth foul with under five minutes remaining.
Coastal ended the contest hitting on nearly half its shots (25-52) and held a 39-29 advantage in rebounding. The Chanticleers also made 21-26 free throws, including 8-9 from Jones. Tipler again was on target from long range, hitting 3-4 from beyond the 3-point line.
Coastal will conclude its four-game homestand to open the season at 5 p.m. Saturday versus Greensboro College. Sun Belt Conference games will begin Jan. 1-2 with Coastal hosting Georgia State on back-to-back days.