For quite some time, even before I moved down to the area nearly 7 years ago there was always rumblings of Coastal Carolina getting a new basketball arena. There were many false starts and lost investors until early 2010. The Student Recreation and Convocation Center that would seat around 3200 people (more than tripling Kimbel Arena) finally had its groundbreaking. It was said that it would be ready for the 2011-12 basketball season. They even went and scheduled the LSU Tigers to come to Conway and open up the new place.
Well there was one small problem...
They didn't complete the arena on time. The new scheduled opening is now for March of 2012. Fans and students were all pretty bummed that the LSU game was going to be played at Kimbel, but it also made it to be a hot ticket around town.
Walking up to the arena, it didn't feel like basketball weather at all. It was near 80 all day and even for South Carolina that's still well above average for this time of year. The higher temps and jam packed arena led to the whole place turning into a sauna for most of the night. The high nerves of the crowd probably didn't help much. They knew CCU could beat LSU, they went down to Baton Rouge last year and got the RLU in OT, but it was more of a fact that this was the biggest name school ever to come to Coastal.
The game started out with a couple of big dunks for the Chants to really get the crowd into a frenzy. LSU was undeterred and jumped out to an early lead around 10 minutes at 18 - 9. The crowd was starting to worry as Chris Gradnigo was on the bench with two fouls and he was thought as the guy who would handle the scoring load coming into the season. How was Coastal going to keep up the scoring pace? The answer to that was the last possible guy anyone would think of as it was senior walk-on Jordan Griffin. The past 2 years Griffin only saw action in blowouts so it was to everyone's surprise that he was coming into the game, but he changed the entire flow of the game hitting two huge threes and hustling all over the place. All the while LSU was running an offense of dribble a few times and chuck it. By the time halftime came around Coastal was on a 25-6 run and up 34-24.
I knew going into the 2nd half that "the run" was going to come, I just didn't know when. LSU tightened things up to start off the half. They were getting and making better shots, but CCU was matching them until about 12 minutes left, mostly behind the Tiger frontcourt of Storm Warren and Justin Hamilton they cut the lead to 1. Coastal had an answer in the form of Anthony Raffa who ended up with 20pts and 10 boards. Raffa hit a corner three to end "the run".
The game turned into a free throw battle as my friend Justin could not watch as he buried his face in his hands anytime CCU went to the line, but they were sinking them. As the time wore down and as LSU's desperation 3's started clanging the crowd could sense it. A power conference team came to tiny Coastal Carolina and got out muscled. The Chants outrebounded them by 19 and had 10 more points in the paint. The buzzer sounded, the students rushed the court and celebrated with the players, as CCU got a RLU over LSU for the 2nd year in a row.
at COASTAL CAROLINA 71, LOUISIANA STATE 63 11/15/2011
LOUISIANA STATE 1-1 (0-0) -- D. Dixon 7-16 2-2 20; J. Hamilton 2-6 5-7 9; A. Stringer 3-13 1-2 8; R. Turner 5-11 3-4 15; A. Hickey 2-8 0-0 5; S. Warren 6-9 2-2 14; J. Isaac 0-3 0-0 0; J. O'Bryant III 4-11 0-0 9; E. Ludwig 0-2 1-2 1; M. White 1-2 0-0 2; C. Bass 0-0 0-0 0; J. Courtney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-65 12-17 63. COASTAL CAROLINA 3-0 (0-0) -- J. Pack 3-4 3-6 9; A. Raffa 6-18 7-8 20; S. McLaurin 6-8 1-2 13; K. Greenwood 4-10 5-6 13; C. Gradnigo 1-7 1-2 3; W. Gillis 2-6 0-0 4; J. Griffin 3-3 0-0 8; B. Crawford 0-1 1-2 1; D. Moore 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 25-61 18-26 71.
Three-point goals: LSU 5-19 (A. Stringer 1-6; R. Turner 2-4; A. Hickey 1-4; J. O'Bryant III 1-3; J. Isaac 0-2), CCU 3-12 (C. Gradnigo 0-1; A. Raffa 1-4; D. Moore 0-2; J. Griffin 2-2; K. Greenwood 0-2; W. Gillis 0-1); Rebounds: LSU 32 (S. Warren 9), CCU 51 (S. McLaurin 16); Assists: LSU 8 (A. Hickey 2), CCU 9 (K. Greenwood 4); Total Fouls -- LSU 24, CCU 15; Fouled Out: LSU-J. O'Bryant III; CCU-None.