Coastal Carolina advances to Big South Semifinals

Anthony Raffa had 23 points, 5 assists and 2 steals

Give round three to the Chanticleers. Coastal Carolina got 23 points apiece from Chad Gray and Anthony Raffa to score an 83-72 win over Gardner-Webb at Kimbel Arena. The Chants will face VMI on Thursday night at 8pm on ESPNU. Gardner-Webb came into Tuesday's Big South quarterfinal with a subpar 10-21 record, but had given CCU a pair of tough matchups in the regular season. CCU needed a blocked shot at the end of regulation to win in Boiling Springs, NC 58-55. On February 15th, the Runnin' Bulldogs ended CCU's 22 game win streak with a 61-58 upset.

The 8th seed once again had confidence playing the regular season champs building a 5 point lead midway through the first half, but Chad Gray's authorative throw down at the end of the half put CCU in front 42-41 at the break. The Chants would score the first five points of the second half and lead the rest of the way. Gray finished with 23 points and Anthony Raffa was once again the big spark off the bench with 23 points, 5 assists and 2 steals. Sam McLaurin delivered a double-double with 14 points and a career high 14 rebounds to go along with 4 blocked shots.

WPDE Sports Director Rich Chrampanis is the host of the Cliff Ellis Show and was at Kimbel Arena for Tuesday's Big South Quarterfinal

They call them the Great 8

Cliff Ellis has dubbed the nickname Great 8 to describe the only Chants standing heading into March. With Desmond Holloway once again on the bench, but still ineligible, CCU is really the six-pack. Jordan Griffin played two minutes and Jon Pack played six minutes leaving six players to gobble up all of the minutes. Pack's minutes will increase if Sam McLaurin or Chad Gray get into any foul trouble on Thursday night.

BC showing the range

Brandon Crawford entered Tuesday night's game 0-8 from three point range, but BC delivered a pair of triples and a solid 14 points, 7 rebound, 5 assist performance. Crawford shot 5 of 6 from the floor and as a team, CCU shot 55 percent from the floor for the game.

The unsung hero

Danny Nieman's stat line was almost non-existent (0 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound), but the point guard is a warrior. After getting sick in the locker room at the half, Nieman came back after receiving IV and played 32 minutes and once again provided a steady hand running the CCU offense. Rest will be a premium for Nieman over the next 48 hours as the Chants need him close to 100 percent.

Fill it up!

Shocking, but true. Kimbel Arena was nowhere close to filled to capacity on Tuesday night. The students are always the catalyst for getting the crowd going, but the home court advantage needs to be even greater for the rest of the week. Adrenaline and emotions are two things CCU will need to keep on playing through the week. There's no excuse for not having Kimbel Arena packed to the gills on Thursday night.

Big South Scoreboard

VMI 78 Winthrop 71

High Point 66 Liberty 60

UNC-Asheville 72 Charleston Southern 63

CCU 83 Gardner-Webb 72

Favorable draw

I thought that the two teams CCU would have the most trouble with in the draw would be Winthrop and Liberty. Both were eliminated in quarterfinal action. Having said that, Coastal always matches up well with VMI, but there's a big difference this time around. The Keydets play that up and down shoot it every 10 seconds and with a depleted roster, the Chants could get absolutely exhausted. Is there enough gas in the tank? Coastal continues to take the "us against the world" mentality and it is working well for them. Doubters seemed to be a popular word in the post-game press conference. The High Point win over Liberty is an absolute shocker. This is what makes conference tournament week a double edged sword. For all eight teams, it's a three game win streak away from a trip to the dance. For the teams that dominated in the regular season, one off night can ruin three months worth of work. Cliff Ellis calls it a 120 minute game. 40 down, 80 to go.