By Ken Cross
With two of the best ambassadors in college basketball in Frank Martin and Cliff Ellis and then two schools in the same state separated by roughly 175 miles, a potential Coastal Carolina vs. South Carolina rivalry seems logical. The two schools took steps towards that on the basketball court on Saturday as South Carolina took a thrilling 80-78 win in the first meeting between the two teams since 1993.
“This was a tremendous college basketball game,” said Ellis, who has 204 wins at Coastal Carolina as he is now in his 11th season,” If you are a college basketball fan, you loved that game. You didn’t like it, you loved it. We had our chances you have to give South Carolina the credit. They did what they needed to do. We did what we needed to do. we just came up short.”
Check out the best highlights from our 80-78 win vs. Coastal Carolina!! 🏀🐔🤙 pic.twitter.com/p6Io6wzOdc
— Gamecock MBB (@GamecockMBB) December 10, 2017
The lead changed hands and the game was tied eight times each. South Carolina led by seven midway through the first half, but Coastal hung tough and was even at 47-47 at the break.
The Chanticleers then looked like they might be able to pick up the win as they took control midway through second half when Demario Beck hit a jumper with 14:09 remaining that gave them a 58-57 advantage. The Gamecocks took a brief lead before Matt Lindsey hit a three for a 63-62 with 12:14 to play. Coastal led most of the way from there and then the Gamecocks finally drew even at 76-76 when Maik Kotsar scored on a layup with 2:14 remaining.
The competition was at it’s height on every possession as the Chanticleers settled in behind guard Jaylen Shaw, their team leader and a former Gamecock.
“I have been excited about this game since the end of last season when I knew a chance it could be on the schedule,” explained Shawn, who finished with 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists in 33 minutes, “I look at it as any other game, knowing there was a chance we could come out here and win for the team.”
Demario Beck, an athletic 6-8 forward, was able to maneuver inside and give Coastal a go-to presence in the paint, but patrolled around the three-point line as well. He came in shooting 59 percent from the floor over the Chanticleers’ first nine games and he finished with 20 points to lead all scorers and made 8-of-10 shots.
“I think he knows his position and one thing about Frank’s team, they’re going to deny you and they’re going to stop the ball,” said Ellis, the only coach to win 170 games with four different programs (South Alabama, Clemson, Auburn, and Coastal Carolina), “You have gotta be able to handle that. In that, there will be some people who will come open and he found openings and he made the most of it.”
Ellis noted the efforts of Coastal Carolina to move forward as an athletic program in joining the BCS as the Chanticleers’ football team finished their first season in Sun Belt Conference play. He know that being able to compete with the Gamecocks and Clemson will help improve the notoriety of the entire athletic program because of their presence on the national scene.
“We are trying to improve our brand all across the area; not just locally,” noted Ellis, “We are trying to be the other FBS school. We are working hard at it and we have a long way to go. We are down there on the coast and we have Wake Forest and College of Charleston coming up.”
As the Chanticleers role forward into Sun Belt play, the effort at South Carolina has to give them confidence. It’s never about moral victories in any program, but it is how you represent and how playing well can translate forward.
“I am very appreciative to Frank for giving us this opportunity,” Ellis said, “He didn’t have to do it. He did it. It’s good for the state. It’s good for everybody to do this. People were treated to a great basketball game.”