Game #9-246: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Longwood LancersJanuary 5, 2013 2:00 pm
Henry I. Willet, Jr. Hall
When I chose to go to Longwood in 2004, I certainly thought that I'd get to see the Lancers play a conference game before I graduated. Man was I wrong...because of a "political" spat between the Longwood president and the Winthrop president, it took awhile and a presidential change to get Longwood into their desired destination, the Big South Conference. For eight years I've seen Longwood play anyone that would have us and build a bond with teams like NJIT, Savannah State, Utah Valley State, and seemingly every school in the Dakotas. Saturday was the beginning of a new era for Longwood and a beginning that didn't disappoint.
It hard to describe a basketball or sports season in which you have absolutely nothing to play for. While other teams are heading for postseason play in March, Longwood's season just would end in February against a non-DI school or against another Independent. It was just an unsatisfying finish to say the least. Longwood was invited to the Great West, but in a good move (in my opinion) the school declined. Everyone knew that Longwood wanted in to the Big South, it just made too much sense in terms of geography, rivals, competition, etc.
Everything has been great since joining the Big South. The announcement and celebrations were great, fall sports were more meaningful, but the touch of conference play hadn't yet hit Longwood's flagship sport of basketball. Longwood entered Saturday as a struggling 3-11 team with a slew of young players and no true identity. I really didn't know what to expect going in and services like KenPom had the Lancers losing by 13 or 15 points to the Lancers opening opponent, Coastal Carolina.
After meeting up with friends and fans at Buffalo Wild Wings before the game, I entered Willett Hall for Longwood's first ever Big South game! The first thing I heard was "Shooting two technical free throws for the Chanticleers...Kierre Greenwood." WHAT?!?!?! Our first Division-I conference game ever is going to start with Longwood down 2-0 before the ball had even been tipped off? Well this is deflating... Many around me were confused to what had happened, but I knew what had happened as soon as they announced the free throw. I had watched Longwood warm up plenty of times in Willett where they freely dunk and when the refs come out a couple a lookouts yell to stop. Apparently the lookout system failed Saturday and LU finally got caught.
It was a little disappointing that the students were out of town for the conference opener, but I found a much more excited crowd than the group at the Fairleigh Dickinson matchup Monday. There were only about 650 fans in attendance, but there was a different level of intensity in the stands and on the floor.
Longwood found themselves in a battle right off the bat and the game had a feel in the beginning of which team was better...Coastal. But an early change by Mike Gillian seemed to change the tone of the whole game. Gillian benched starting point guard Nik Brown for Lucas Woodhouse. Both guards are freshmen; Brown is a lot more talented than Woodhouse, but Woodhouse is clearly the smarter point guard who can control the offense and the game a lot better with the ball in his hand. Inserting Woodhouse was a great move that brought Longwood back to life. Lucas was able to find freshman big man Michael Kessens for a monster dunk and a couple of other open jumpers, as the European import had 8 points in the first half.
About halfway through the second half, TMM9 contributor Matt Cayuela (a Coastal season ticket holder) tweeted me to ask me if Anthony Raffa had gotten under my skin yet. To be honest I hadn't thought much about Raffa until that point. I knew about Raffa's scoring prowess but he seemed like the kind of guy that collected points very quietly. Thanks to Matt's tweet (THANKS MATT!) I started to watch Raffa a little more and started to see why people could find Raffa...umm...mildly irritating. He certainly works the referees, but I wasn't a big fan of how he would yell in our players' faces throughout the game. I'm sure he gets under plenty of guys' skins, but against Longwood he was matched up against "the Admiral," David Robinson. If you had to pick one Lancer to try to get a reaction out of and fail, your pick would be Robinson, who just ignored Raffa throughout the afternoon.
The second half was one of the best I've seen all year. Lucas Woodhouse was running the point well, sometimes with Nik Brown on the court at the same time. It was a system that seemed to work as the game was tied at 58 for the under-eight-minute media timeout. With the crowd making a lot of noise and both teams playing passionately it hit me...THIS IS WHAT CONFERENCE PLAY IS ABOUT! To say it was refreshing to see a fan base and a team so invested into a game in January would be a vast understatement.
The game remained close; it was 71-69 with 1:31 left. Longwood kept drawing closer and tied a couple of times, but they could never get over the hump. Coastal pulled away in the last minute to win 80-72, but it was by far the best Longwood had played at home all year. When I saw the box score after the game, I was surprised to see that Raffa scored 26 points on the afternoon. Also two Chants, Kierre Greenwood, and Warren Gillis, combined for another 40 points. That's right, seventy-five percent of Coastal's points came from three guys.
I was even more surprised to look at the Longwood side of the column and to see that Nik Brown had lead the Lancers 19 points and also had 5 assists. Woodhouse ended the day with 5 points but had 8 assists to just 2 turnovers. It was great to see, knowing that these freshman guards and team were turning the ball over 20 plus times per game just a month ago. Star freshman Michael Kessens got lost in the second half (to no fault of his own), but finished with his seventh double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 boards.
From here, Longwood will host their first divisional opponent of conference play on Wednesday as the Campbell Camels come to town. Coastal heads to Clinton, SC, to take on a struggling Presbyterian squad.
COASTAL CAROLINA 80, at LONGWOOD 72
COASTAL CAROLINA 6-6 (1-0) -- J. Jerome 4-13 5-8 13; A. Raffa 10-14 5-6 26; K. Greenwood 5-10 8-9 19; E. Ndieguene 1-4 3-4 5; W. Gillis 10-16 0-2 21; M. Enanga 1-5 1-2 3; U. Ljeskovic 1-2 0-0 2; T. Curtis 0-1 0-0 0; C. Ashford 0-0 1-1 1; B. Diagne 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 29-55 18-24 80.
LONGWOOD 3-12 (0-1) -- M. Kessens 6-8 0-2 12; D. Robinson 3-9 0-1 9; T. Carey 3-10 1-3 8; J. Dublin 5-8 0-0 10; N. Brown 6-10 6-7 19; L. Woodhouse 2-7 0-1 5; K. Ziegler 3-4 1-1 7; S. Shockley 1-2 0-0 2; J. Havenstein 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-59 8-15 72.
Three-point goals: CCU 4-6 (A. Raffa 1-1; K. Greenwood 1-1; W. Gillis 1-3; B. Diagne 1-1), LONG 6-21 (S. Shockley 0-1; T. Carey 1-6; D. Robinson 3-8; N. Brown 1-3; L. Woodhouse 1-3); Rebounds: CCU 35 (E. Ndieguene 12), LONG 26 (M. Kessens 10); Assists: CCU 11 (K. Greenwood 6), LONG 20 (L. Woodhouse 8); Total Fouls -- CCU 16, LONG 20; Fouled Out: CCU-K. Greenwood; LONG-None.