Auburn, Ala.--Cliff Ellis got a warm welcome on his return to Auburn and went home a happy coach with a victory, too, as his Coastal Carolina Chanticleers rallied for a 58-54 basketball victory on Friday night.
Auburn’s inability to finish strong in the first and second halves allowed the visitors to improve to 6-2 while Auburn fell under the .500 mark for the first time as Bruce Pearl’s team falls to 3-4.
The Tigers wasted a good shooting night from three-point range as they hit 11-28 treys with K.T. Harrell leading the way with seven on eight thee-point shots to finish with 25 points. However, none of his teammates scored in double figures.
For the game the Tigers shot just 34 percent and hurt their cause by making only 9-19 free throws. Combine that with being out-rebounded 41-32 and that left a crowd of 7,964 headed home disappointed with the outcome.
Despite urging from the crowd the Tigers struggled to score in the closing minutes and lost to a team that hit just 34.4 percent of its field goals. Coastal Carolina made 7-25 threes and was 9-16 at the foul line.
“Our defense really stayed the course and won this game,” Ellis said, noting his team’s consistent pressure finally inflicted a toll on the Tigers. “Perhaps their legs got to them late,” he said, noting “it’s a great win for us."
Coastal Carolina, the 2014 Big South Conference champion, got 15 points from Shivaugh Wiggins and 11 from Elijah Wilson.
“I think we are really fortunate they played Wednesday night,” Ellis said of the Tigers’ road trip to play at Texas Tech in the SEC-Big XII?Challenge.
Cliff Ellis kisses the floor. The former Tiger coach got a big ovation during a pre-game introduction.
Auburn’s Pearl said his team’s rebounding issues were a key. “I thought we did a lot of things well defensively to hold them to 34 percent--good enough to win,” the coach said. “What makes it a difficult loss is we had the game won--we had control of the game.”
Harrell was Auburn’s only double figures scorer. Jordon Granger was next with nine points and led the Tigers in rebounds with seven.
“Jordon and K.T. were the only two guys who played really well,” Pearl said. “It is hard to win a game when that is the case.”
Cinmeon Bowers, who played very well to start the season, struggled vs. Coastal Carolina. He was 0-5 from the field, 1-4 at the foul line and finished with five rebounds in 28 minutes.
“It has been three games in a row he has been totally off his game,” said Pearl, who noted that if he had the answer to why the power forward is struggling he would have fixed the problem.
“I didn’t think it was possible for him to be so inconsistent,” Pearl said of Bowers. “His preparation, his focus has got to change...We are short-handed enough without him being so inconsistent.”
Harrell, the senior team captain, agreed with Pearl about the importance of Bowers. “We need him to play at a high level every night,” said Harrell, who added, “The reason we lost is we got out-rebounded...They were just more aggressive than us rebounding. They got a lot of second-chance points.”
Auburn led almost the entire game, but the Chanticleers pulled ahead 51-50 with 3:15 left on a rebound by Josh Cameron, who led his team in scoring with 22 points.
Pearl said the Chanticleers deserved credit for how they played when the game was on the line. “Coastal Carolina, when it came to winning time, their players have won more than our players have...down the stretch we struggled.”
Jordon Granger scores for the Tigers.
Halftime Numbers: Auburn held just a 27-23 halftime lead despite outshooting the Chanticleers and leading by as many as 14 points. The Tigers were 10-22 from the field for 45 percent and hit 7-14 threes. Coastal Carolina hit 8-31 field goals for 26 percent and was 3-12 on threes. Auburn was 0-3 at the foul line while the visitors hit 4-5 free throws.
Coastal Carolina held a 19-15 rebounding edge and turned the ball over seven times, two fewer than the Tigers.
Harrell, who hit 4-5 treys, led the Tigers in scoring at the break with 12 points while Tajh Shamsid-Deen, who was 2-3 on treys, scored six points. Josh Cameron scored 13 points in the half for the Chanticleers.
Worth Noting: Auburn held a reception for Ellis and former Auburn players he coached after the game on Friday night.
Stats Of the Night: Coastal Carolina out-scored the Tigers 15-6 on second chance points as well as 22-12 on points in the paint plus 9-0 on fastbreak points.
Up Next: Auburn is off until a Dec. 14th road game at Clemson.