Fresh from the land of miniature golf and Kenny Powers come the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina. It is the second game of the year for both teams. The Chanticleers squeaked by the Akron Zips on Friday in overtime 74-70. While CCU were fighting for their lives, Ole Miss cruised past Mississippi Valley State 93-57. The 93 Rebel points were the most they have scored in almost two years.
Tonight will likely be Coastal Carolina’s biggest challenge of the season as Tad Smith Coliseum is rarely a hospitable venue. Since Andy Kennedy took the helm in 2006, Ole Miss is 56-2 in home games against non-conference foes. While that is daunting, Kennedy has his work cut out for him against counterpart Cliff Ellis.
Ellis is at his fourth Division I stop, the first three being at South Alabama, Clemson, and Auburn. He is currently Clemson’s all-time leader in wins and was twice the ACC Coach of the Year. Ellis left Clemson for another Tiger club at Auburn. In 1998, Auburn set the school mark for wins in a season with 29, reaching their first of two Sweet Sixteens under Ellis. He was the SEC Coach of the Year twice as well.
Since getting to Coastal Carolina, Ellis has been the orchestrator of a rebuilding process that peaked with back-to-back 28-win seasons in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Both seasons saw NIT first round exits and the Chants took a step back last year, going 19-12 and falling in the first round of the CIT tournament. One more win for Ellis would give him 100 wins at four different colleges and 670 overall.
Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss sit at opposite sides of the spectrum as far as experience goes. CCU returns just two starters from last year’s team while Ole Miss returns four of five. Neither team starts a true center, opting for three guard and two forward lineups, with Ole Miss sporting a size advantage at the guards.
The point guard matchup pits Kierre Greenwood against Jarvis Summers. Summers has the slight height advantage at 6’3, with the two players with similar offensive games, but contrasting defensive games. While both can shoot moderately well, they score more inside the lane. Summers facilitates inside the arc, making him susceptible to turning the ball over. Greenwood led the team in assists against Akron with four, but matched that with four turnovers as well.
Warren Gillis and Anthony Raffa fill the other two guard spots for CCU with Raffa being the scorer and Gillis looking to rebound from a nightmarish performance. Raffa led the team with 27 points on 8-15 shooting, including 4-9 behind the arc. Gillis on the other hand had 10 points, almost matched by his 8 turnovers. The three guards are not very big, but have fast perimeter defense, recording two steals each in the opener.
Ole Miss will bring a stable of guards at the Chanticleers, marked with size. Marshall Henderson and Nick Williams will likely garner starts again and each have size advantages over their opponents. Henderson is a scorer who is as bashful to shoot as a marksman on the first day of deer season. The junior college transfer scored a game-high 22 points against MVSU in his Ole Miss debut. While he often gets in trouble by jumping in the air to pass without an intended target, he is a capable two-guard passer too. Look for Kennedy to try and get him going early, because if he can, it’ll be a hard time for Ellis all night.
Williams, the former Big Ten Freshman of the Year at Indiana, is a big guard at 6’4 and relies on a lot of mid-range and runners. It was a rough shooting night for him on Friday, where he went 1-6 with four points. He is probably the second-best passer on the team behind Summers and when he is hot, can be very dangerous from deep.
While Coastal Carolina played just one guard off of their bench, the Rebels have a plethora from off the pine. Freshmen Martavious Newby and Derrick Millinghaus are both guards who can score and are capable away from the ball too. Newby is the bigger guard and grabbed eight rebounds in the opener. Millinghaus is the only player on the roster under 6-foot at 5’10, but made up for it with three steals against the Delta Devils.
Sophomore Snoop White is 6’6 and will be a dangerous option for Kennedy off the bench. He also had a rough shooting night, but is a terrific rebounder and athlete. If he can drive and box the guards away from long rebounds, he could have a big game.
The biggest advantage for Ole Miss is at the forward positions. CCU freshman and Cameroon native Michel Enanga is undersized at 6’5, and could struggle against the experience of Ole Miss senior Murphy Holloway. The South Carolina stat-stacker had 15 points and 11 rebounds and is a consistent bet for a double-double. Look for Holloway to take him to the rim all night.
At the power forward position, Ellis has another African native, Senegal born El Hadji Ndieguene. At 6’10 he is the tallest player on either roster but like Enanga, has only played in one game in his career. Ndieguene was dominated by Akron’s 7-footer Zeke Marshall. Marshall limited him to just five points and four rebounds, with Ndieguene fouling out after just 27 minutes. He’ll have another big test tonight against Reginald Buckner.
Buckner is a big physical forward who seemingly has a pitbull snarl on his face all game long. The school leader in blocks had 10 points, five rebounds, four steals, and three blocks in 27 minutes on Friday. His athleticism lets him provide great help defense when a guard gets in the lane or when a double-team is called for up top.
The staples of Kennedy’s time in Oxford have been his defense and his rebounding. The Rebels won the turnover battle 23-11 against MVSU, a must against Coastal Carolina. Ole Miss also had 54 rebounds in the game, putting them 2nd in the country in rebounds per game. The Chanticleers are not a strong rebounding team, something that could put the Rebels over the top. Both teams averaged 14 turnovers per game last season and whoever wins the turnover battle will find themselves in a good position.
Look for Henderson to try and get going early along with the high-flying acts of Holloway and Buckner to grab an early lead. If they do, look for windmills to start turning on the Chanticleer’s upset hopes.
Topics: Andy Kennedy, Anthony Raffa, Cliff Ellis, Coastal Carolina Basketball, Derrick Millinghaus, El Hedji Ndieguene, Jarvis Summers, Kierre Greenwood, Marshall Henderson, Martavious Newby, Michel Enanga, Murphy Holloway, Nick Williams, Ole Miss Basketball, Reginald Buckner, Snoop White, Warren Gillis