CONWAY – Sophomore point guard Devante Jones scored 17 points and carried Coastal Carolina’s comeback effort in the final minutes, but the Chanticleers missed two 3-point attempts in the final 10 seconds and came up just short in a 69-68 loss to Northern Kentucky Tuesday night at the HTC Center. The loss dropped Coastal to 1-2 on the season.
Jones hit a bucket to pull Coastal to within 67-66 before forward Karl Harris made a pair of free throws for Northern Kentucky to make it a three-point margin. From there, the Chanticleers had three-point attempts from junior guard Keishawn Brewton and junior forward Garrick Green that missed the mark. However, Green was fouled on his last second attempt, giving him three free throw attempts, but he made only two of them.
Jones got scoring help from Brewton and sophomore guard Ebrima Dibba, who had 13 and 10 points respectively. Senior forward Tommy Burton chipped in with seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Harris, a graduate transfer, was the game’s leading scorer with 22 points. Northern Kentucky also had an advantage in hitting five more 3-pointers than Coastal. Northern Kentucky was 10-26 from long range while Coastal was just 5-17, lifting the Norse to a 2-1 early season record after going 29-6 a year ago, winning the Horizon League, and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
“We had our chances, but we missed too many easy shots,” said Coastal head coach Cliff Ellis. “DJ (Jones) tried to keep us in the game. And we had a chance with a play set up for Keishawn He had a free shot. He just missed it.”
Coastal led 26-23 before Harris hit three consecutive 3-pointers on an 11-0 run for Northern Kentucky to close the half and take a 34-26 advantage. During the run, Coastal went more than four minutes without a point and played without Burton, who sat the final seven minutes of the half with two fouls.
Coastal rallied to start the second half, however, and Brewton led the Chanticleers on an 11-0 run to take a momentary lead at 37-34. Brewton had 10 of the 11 points, including a couple of 3-pointers. From there, Northern Kentucky regained the lead at 40-39 on a free throw by Harris with 15 minutes remaining and stayed in front the rest of the way.
Coastal pulled to within a point on five straight possessions in the final five minutes but could never regain the lead. The closely contested game featured 11 lead changes. Neither team led by more than nine points. Coastal finished 21-54 from the field (39%), and out-rebounded Northern Kentucky, 37-32. But Northern Kentucky got 17 points on fast breaks and got 14 more points from its reserves.
Coastal will return to action next Monday (Nov. 18) at 7 p.m. against Middle Tennessee in the first contest of the Myrtle Beach Invitational, which will run through Nov. 24. The Chanticleers will then host Utah at 7 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 21). Games are scheduled for the eight-team tournament on Nov. 21, 22 and 24.