CONWAY – Senior guard Tyrell Gumbs-Frater scored a career-high 33 points to lead Coastal Carolina, but South Alabama hit three free throws in the final second to take a 74-71 win in a closely contested Sun Belt Conference game Saturday afternoon at the HTC Center. Senior guard Chad Lott had 22 points to lead the Jaguars, who won their sixth consecutive game to improve to 18-11 overall and 11-7 in the conference. The Chanticleers, who are fighting to stay alive for the post-season conference playoff, slipped to 14-15 overall and 7-11 in the league.
Neither team led by more than four points in the final 6:30, and it was Coastal guard DeVante’ Jones who hit back-to-back driving layups to give Coastal a 67-63 lead with four minutes left. South Alabama countered with eight straight points to go ahead, 71-67. From there, Isaac Hipppolyte and Tommy Burton made buckets from close range for the Chanticleers to knot the score at 71-71 with four seconds left.
On the last possession, Andree Fox was fouled on a desperation three-point attempt with .8 remaining. He made one of three free throws with and then Trhae Mitchell added a couple meaningless free throws with .4 seconds to go.
Gumbs-Frater and Jones were the only two players in double figures for Coastal, as the two combined to shoot 19-33 from the field. Gumbs-Frater hit his first seven shots and finished 12-22 on the day, tying his career-high nine three-pointers.
“We had our chances to win. If we make some foul shots down the stretch and don’t turn the ball over 22 times, the outcome is different,” said Coastal head coach Cliff Ellis. “This is a tough one to take, but you can’t have 22 turnovers and expect to win. Without Tyrell (Gumbs-Frater), we wouldn’t have been close. He kept us in the game.”
The two teams traded baskets to start before South Alabama took the lead at 14-13 on an inside bucket by Mitchell and the Jaguars held a slim advantage the rest of the first half. They led at the half, 36-33, in spite of a brilliant display of long-range shooting by Gumbs-Frater. He scored his team’s first 11 points and already had 23 points at the break, with seven three-pointers on 8-10 shooting overall.
Sophomore guard Malik LeGania had four points in Coastal’s 12-3 run to start the second half, giving the Chanticleers their biggest lead of seven points, at 48-41, just four minutes into the second stanza. Neither team had more than a seven-point lead all day, and late in the game junior guard John Pettway hit back-to-back baskets to give the Jaguars a slim 71-67 lead with less than two minutes left, setting the stage for an exciting finish.
In addition to Gumbs-Frater’s hot hand, Coastal stayed close by winning the rebounding battle and getting second chances. Freshman Tim Ceaser grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds and Burton had eight. Overall, the home team held a 38-29 rebounding advantage.
The shooting stats were almost even, with Coastal shooting 27-59 (46 percent) and South Alabama hitting 26-55 shots (47 percent). Coastal made just 7-12 free throws and missed its three attempts in the final two minutes. In contrast, South Alabama converted 5-7 free throws down the stretch when it mattered most.
The loss spoiled another outstanding game for Jones, Coastal’s go-to guy. In addition to getting 10 of his 18 points in the second half, he finished with a career high seven steals and four assists.
CCU will be on the road for its final two regular season games; next Saturday (Feb. 29) at Appalachian State and March 3 (Tuesday) at Louisiana. The first round of the Sun Belt Conference Post-Season Tournament is set for March 7 (Saturday) on campus sites.
Courtesy – Coastal Carolina Athletics