CONWAY, S.C. – Junior standout DeVante’ Jones scored 19 of his game-high 26 points in the second half as Coastal Carolina rallied from 16 points down and pulled away in the final six minutes for a 78-65 win over South Alabama in a Sun Belt Conference game Friday night at the HTC Center. Jones had seven of his points in those final minutes, helping the Chanticleers break a 59-59 tie and outscore the visitors 19-6 the rest of the way.
Coastal sealed the win by hitting five-of-six free throws in the final minute, and junior guard Ebrima Dibba added a layup to lift Coastal’s record to 8-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference. Sophomore forward KK Curry had 19 points to lead South Alabama, which slipped to 7-5 overall and 1-2 in league play.
Jones was one of four players in double figures for the Chanticleers. The others were reserve forward Garrick Green with 14, junior guard Deanthony Tipler with 13 and Dibba with 12. Jones hit on seven of his 10 shots from the field, but overall Coastal had an off-shooting night, due in large part to the harassing zone defense of the Jaguars. Coastal shot just 26-for-65 from the field (40 percent), but it held South Alabama to an even lower shooting percentage. The Chanticleers hit 12 three-pointers, with Green making a team-high four of them.
“We haven’t seen much zone this year and we didn’t respond well,” said Coastal head coach Cliff Ellis, whose team fell behind by double digits at the start. “Their defense was totally different than we had anticipated, but I commend our team for being able to make adjustments We also used a zone in the second half, and it hurt them. It helped us win the game.”
Jones continues to be among the national leaders in scoring (6th) and steals (1st), and he hit for his season’s averages in both categories in this contest. “He’s the key to our team,” said Ellis simply.
South Alabama hit five three-pointers in the early-going while Coastal was in a 1-for-16 shooting slump to start the game. The result was a 19-3 lead for the Jaguars before the Chanticleers fought back with a 15-1 run in the final few minutes of the first half. Tipler had eight points in the run, which gave Coastal a 38-36 lead at the break.
The two teams had eight lead changes and six ties in the second half before Coastal took the lead for good on Jones’ three-point play with 5:36 remaining. The Chanticleers slowly built their advantage to 15 points in the final minute. Dibbo had seven of his points in the Chanticleers’ closing run, including a back-breaking three-pointer that put Coastal up 67-59 and took the wind out of South Alabama’s sails.
Junior forward Essam Mostafa worked hard for his nine points and a team-high 14 rebounds, helping his team to a 47-38 advantage on the boards. Jones and senior guard Tyrik Dixon, who returned to the lineup after sitting out four games with a lower leg injury, had six rebounds apiece.
Coastal has a quick turnaround and will again face South Alabama at 3 p.m. Saturday at the HTC Center. Next weekend, Coastal will head to Georgia State for back-to-back game on Friday and Saturday (Jan. 15-16).