CONWAY, SC – Anthony Raffa’s 20 points, including a desperation three-pointer late in the game, led Coastal Carolina to a 74-69 win over UNC Asheville Tuesday night at Kimbel Arena.
Raffa started his heroic run on the defensive end when he made a clean steal from Asheville‘s top scorer Matt Dickey, who finished with 19 points. Raffa completed the play with a 3-pointer from the left corner that put CCU up 65-56 with 3:21 to play.
“My adrenaline was pumping,” said Raffa, the team’s leading scorer on the year with a 16.6 point average. “He stole the ball from me earlier so I really wanted to get him back.”
He closed out the night by making four free throws in the last 20 seconds.
“He plays all out and he plays with passion,” said CCU head coach Cliff Ellis “It showed tonight.”
The loss snapped Asheville’s (19-8, 14-2 BSC) ten-game road winning streak in league play dating back to last season.
Matt Dickey's 19 points moved him into a tie for third-place on Asheville's all-time scoring list
The Bulldogs were led by senior Matt Dickey’s 19 points and Jeremy Atkinson’s 16 points and nine rebounds. Dickey moved into a tie third place on Asheville’s career scoring list (Paul Allen) with 1,693 points.
The second-place Chanticleers (18-8, 11-5 BSC) have been waiting since last season to beat the Bulldogs. Just last year it was Dickey’s miraculous 3-point shot as time expired that started the downward spiral for the Chants, who were having a terrific season, until that game. Then, of course, the Dogs defeated the top-seeded Chanticleers in Conway to win the Big South Conference tournament and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We did a great job battling back in the second half but we shouldn’t have gotten that far behind in the first half,” commented Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “We did a lot of good things in the second half but Raffa hit some tough shots, including the one late in the game that hurt us.”
Asheville fell behind 15-4 to begin the game, after scoring the first two buckets of the contest. CCU hit on their first four three-pointers of the game and took a commanding 35-20 halftime lead.
The 20 points was a season-low for Asheville, as the Dogs shot just .250 (8-of-32) from the field in the opening half.
“We didn’t do a good job guarding the three-point line in the first half, and that really killed us, ” stated Biedenbach.
In the grand scheme of things, does this loss hurt? Yes and no. Already guaranteed the number one seed in the post-season tournament, Asheville probably needed to win out to MAYBE avoid getting placed in the “First Four” game for the right to be a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So, yes, it hurts. But, on the other hand, the Dogs travel to Athens, Ohio for a Saturday night game against Ohio University in the ESPN Brackbetbusters (ESPN3) at 7:00 p.m. Ohio has a higher RPI than Asheville, so a win there would really help.
The Bulldogs ended up 8-1 on the road in league play this season…a mark I am certain, Coach Biedenbach would have taken back in November. They have two remaining home games after the non-conference game at Ohio. They return to Kimmel Arena Thursday night to begin Homecoming Weekend against Gardner-Webb and conclude the regular season on Saturday afternoon with a game against arch-rival Winthrop.