Conway, S.C. – Senior forward Zac Cuthbertson scored a team-high 24 points to lead four Coastal Carolina players in double figures as the Chanticleers pulled away in the final minutes for an 89-72 win over Appalachian State Saturday in a Sun Belt conference game at the HTC Center.
The win snaps a 3-game losing skid for the Chanticleers and puts them at 8-9 overall and 2-3 in the conference. Appalachian State, which was led by guard Justin Forest’s 21 points, fell to 5-13, 0-5, with its sixth loss in a row.
Senior guard Aja Sanders added 14 points and freshmen guards DeVante Jones and Ebrima Dibba added 12 points apiece after being out of action for much of the early season with injuries. Jones and Dibba also had seven assists apiece, leading to 18 assists on 29 field goals. The two also combined for six steals, leading to a season-high 13 steals for the game.
For the game, Coastal hit on 29-56 field goals (50%) and held Appalachian State to 21-53 from the field (40%). The Chanticleers also ended a two-game drought from 3-point range, hitting on 10-21 (48%). In addition, Coastal had a 37-29 advantage on the boards.
“We were just trying to survive while DJ (Jones) and Dibba were out. They are two of my best players,” said Coastal head coach Cliff Ellis. “You can see the difference they make to our lineup. Those two along with Ajay can really play defense, and that sets the tone for our offense.”
Jones had missed 13 games with an arm injury and Dibba missed nine games with a foot injury. The pair saw limited action in the last week but were back in the starting lineup against Appalachian State.
The Chanticleers muscled inside for a 16-0 start, holding Appalachian State scoreless for the first 6:30. An 8-0 run 8 minutes later gave the Chanticleers a 20-point advantage, at 29-9. Coastal continued to get strong inside play the rest of the first half, getting 26 points in the paint on the way to a 43-32 half time advantage. Cuthbertson had 12 of his points in the first period and Coastal’s good guard play showed as well, with 10 assists on 15-27 shooting (56%).
However, the Mountaineers closed the gap quickly opening the second period by hitting 6-7 3-pointers to cut the lead to 56-54 with 12:45 remaining. Appalachian State didn’t get any closer, as Coastal ran off the next 12 points to pull away for a 68-54 lead, punctuated by Tommy Burton’s breakaway dunk. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Cuthbertson helped Coastal take its largest lead of the game, 23 points, at 83-60 with 4 minutes left.