Lancers dominate reigning Big South champs, 76-61
A 49-point second half, five double-figure scorers and a raucous home crowd propelled Longwood men’s basketball to a dominant 76-61 win over reigning Big South champion Coastal Carolina Saturday afternoon in Willett Hall.
Kanayo Obi-Rapu scored a team-high 17 points, Shaquille Johnson and Tra’Vaughn White added 16, and Darrion Allen and Lotanna Nwogbo combined for 25 as the Lancers (5-13, 1-4 Big South) dismantled the Big South’s stingiest defense to the tune of a .536 (30-of-56) shooting percentage from the field.
The win came just three days after the Lancers fell apart over the final 10 minutes of a 78-65 road loss at Presbyterian.
Saturday against Coastal Carolina (8-8, 2-4 Big South), Longwood turned the tables, exploding for 49 points in the second half to knock off the perennial Big South contender Chanticleers in front of a home crowd of 1,523.
Senior Leron Fisher and freshman Chris Shields sat the bench and did not play for the third game in a row.
The dominant win, which was Longwood’s first over Coastal Carolina (8-8, 2-4 Big South) since joining the Big South in 2012-13, started days before the Lancers took the court Saturday.
“We had a players-only meeting after the Presbyterian game,” said White, who added six rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals in his sixth game since returning from a broken hand.
”It was just about being real with each other. Sometimes we kind of shy away from addressing things with each other, but that was all we really focused on. We know we have the players to compete in this conference. We just have to do it together.”
The newfound chemistry yielded the best offensive game of the season for the Lancers, who shot .594 (19-of-32) after halftime against a Coastal Carolina team that entered the matchup as the Big South’s stingiest defensive unit. Prior to Longwood’s shooting clinic Saturday, the Chanticleers had held opponents to a Big South-leading 66.8 points per game and had allowed just one team — Wake Forest on Dec. 18 — to shoot better than .500 from the field.
Longwood dismantled that Chanticleer defense and capped the rout by banging 5-of-8 shots from the field over the final five minutes of the game. Led by Johnson’s 14 second-half points, the Lancers led by double figures for the final 17:44 of the second half. The 6-5, 220-pound forward hit 8-of-12 shots from the field for the game and threw down all four of his dunks inside the final six minutes, adding team highs of six assists and eight rebounds.
“We decided it was time to make a change to what we were doing as a group,” Johnson said. “Nothing we were doing was working, so we figured we needed to come out with a different mentality. That was the focus, and just the acknowledgment that we can’t get down on ourselves. We have to have a ‘next play’ mentality. Once we mess up, we can’t dwell on it and have it affect us for the rest of the game.”
Coastal Carolina gave Longwood several opportunities to collapse, but each time the Lancers punched back.
There was a 15-4 run in the first half that put Coastal ahead 17-10. Longwood countered with a 17-6 run and got a three-pointer from Kanayo Obi-Rapu before the buzzer to take a 27-24 lead into halftime.
The Lancers watched a 19-point lead in the second half dissolve to 10 following a 15-6 Coastal run, but Johnson responded with the first of his four slams to swing the momentum back Longwood’s way.
Longwood ended the game on a 15-10 run over the final five minutes, highlighted by six defensive stops on Coastal Carolina’s final 11 possessions.
”We just settled down and got back to doing what we did at the beginning of the game,” White said. “We kept guarding. I feel like this is the best defensive game we’ve played. We just got back to that.”
After giving up an 11-0 run midway through the first half, the Lancers allowed Coastal Carolina more than four consecutive points just once the rest of the way.
The Lancers corralled all but Coastal Carolina forward Badou Diagne, who led all scorers with 21 points. He was one of only two double-figure scorers for the Chanticleers, who got 11 points and 11 rebounds from reserve forward Marcus Freeman. The rest of the Coastal Carolina lineup combined for 29 points and hit just 9-of-38 (.237) field goals.
“The key today was defense,” said Longwood head coach Jayson Gee. “We played Longwood defense and held a really good team — I mean a really good team — to 32 percent shooting. That says a lot about how engaged our guys were and how much they bought into the gameplan.”
The win is the first conference victory of the season for Longwood and precedes a two-game road swing that begins at Campbell Thursday at 7 p.m. The Lancers then square off against rival Liberty on Jan. 19 in Lynchburg, before returning to Willett Hall to host Winthrop on Jan. 23.