Coastal Carolina used a 53-34 rebounding advantage to score a 71-63 win over LSU on Tuesday night at Kimbel Arena. The Chanticleers got 20 points and 10 rebounds from Anthony Raffa and a 13 point, 16 rebound effort from Sam McLaurin to improve to 3-0 on the season.
LSU was supposed to open Coastal's new arena, but due to construction delays, the Tigers played at one of the smallest gyms in Division I. After a couple of dunks by Jon Pack and Sam McLaurin early, LSU raced out to a 16-7 lead. Chris Gradnigo picked up two early fouls and headed to the bench opening the door for Jordan Griffin to provide a huge spark. Griffin, a senior walk-on, hit a pair of three pointers to key a 14-2 Chanticleers run. Coastal took a 34-24 lead at the half.
Coastal would open up its biggest lead at 48-34 on an Anthony Raffa layup before LSU closed the gap. Justin Hamilton's jumper got the Tigers within one at 52-51, but they would never take the lead in the second half. Raffa buried a three pointer after that possession, part of his 20 point 10 rebound night.
With 1:20 to go, Johnny O'Bryant III slammed LSU to within three at 63-60, but a three point play by Jon Pack sealed the deal. Pack finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds. Kierre Greenwood had 13 points. Ralston Turner led LSU with 15 points and Storm Warren added 14 points and 9 boards.
Coastal Carolina improves to 3-0 on the season and will take on Spalding this Friday night followed by a matchup at Clemson on Tuesday. LSU is now 1-1 and heads to tournament play in Charleston.
WPDE Sports Director Rich Chrampanis is the host of the Cliff Ellis Show and offers his post-game analysis
Sam's the Man
Sam McLaurin was the best player on the court on Tuesday night. Coach Cliff Ellis said in the post-game press conference that it was a statement game. Any time you can get a double-double against an SEC squad, it will raise eyebrows. Johnny O'Bryant III is a McDonald's High School All-American who we will likely see in the NBA someday. McLaurin was able to frustrate him and get him into serious foul trouble.
Video Game Jon Pack
Two years ago, I did a feature on CCU basketball players featured on EA Sports College Basketball. All the guys on the team teased Jon Pack for being unstoppable in the video game and not like his real game. Against LSU, Video Game Jon Pack came to play. You can see significant improvement in his footwork and his moves. With 9 points and 8 rebounds, this should be a major boost of confidence to prove that he can be a consistent starter. Pack is used to being a 10 minute guy in his career, but after 36 minutes against LSU, he is ready to be a key part of this team.
The Griffin Spark
Chris Gradnigo hit the bench with two fouls early in the game. If you told me that Gradnigo would finish with 3 points on 1-7 shooting, I would have told you that Coastal would lose to LSU by 20. Instead, an unlikely hero emerged. Jordan Griffin is a walk-on senior who is the ultimate team player. Respected by the entire team, Griffin works hard and accepted his role on the end of the bench serving the greatest value as a practice player. As a senior, he knows the system well and Ellis entrusted him with key minutes in the first half and he responded with 8 points on 3 of 3 shooting. Those 15 minutes of significant playing time against LSU will be something that Griffin remembers for the rest of his life.
It's Just One Game
LSU may be down in the SEC once again, but it doesn't matter. A major conference win is still a rarity in the CCU basketball program and needs to be embraced. More than anything, this team has proven that the dropoff from Chad Gray/Desmond Holloway will not be as steep as some feared. Coastal gets another chance to get a resume quality win at Littlejohn Coliseum against Clemson next week. The season is a very long journey and as Coastal fans have learned there will be a lot of twists and turns. But one day after Coastal learned that its NCAA penalties were minor, the Chanticleers have the optimism of once again being in the hunt for that elusive trip to the Big Dance.