CONWAY -- The College of Charleston left Kimbel Arena on Thursday night with a 77-70 victory over Coastal Carolina. And the seven-point differential came in two gift-wrapped packages.
Before the game started, two Coastal Carolina players were charged with technical fouls for illegally dunking during pregame warmups. Andrew Lawrence hit four technical free throws, giving the Cougars a 4-0 lead before the tip.
Then there was junior Matt Sundberg's desperation heave from well behind the halfcourt line as the first-half buzzer sounded. Nothing but net. And the College of Charleston led at halftime, 41-29. Seven totally unexpected points.
"We stole seven points," College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins said. "We had a lot of things go right. I'm really, really happy. What a game before Christmas. I didn't expect to win this game."
In light of what happened before his final first-half shot, it probably shouldn't be that surprising that he hit it. The 6-8 junior came off the bench and hit his first three 3-point attempts, including back-to-back 3s midway through the half. He finished the first half with 15 points, all from beyond the arc, where he was 5 for 7.
The Cougars trailed 22-21 with less than nine minutes to go, but went on a 7-0 run and had a 38-29 lead and the ball going into the final minute. Coastal Carolina forced a turnover but missed its shot. Antwaine Wiggins grabbed the rebound with two seconds left and rifled the ball to Sundberg, who let it fly.
"I just threw it up there," Sundberg explained.
The Cougars continued to pound away at Coastal Carolina and built the lead to 17, 50-33, when Wiggins converted a 4-point play, hitting a 3-point basket while getting fouled.
But some careless turnovers by Charleston helped ignite the Chanticleers, who went on an 14-2 run, cutting Charleston's lead to 52-47. Coastal eventually got within three points at 56-53, but could never get any closer.
Wiggins and Andrew Lawrence both hit 3-pointers and freshman Adjehi Baru altered a couple of Coastal shots in the paint as Charleston took the lead back to double figures for the final two minutes of the game.
Lawrence led Charleston with 18 points, including 3 of 5 3-pointers. He also had seven assists and four rebounds. Sundberg finished with 17 points and three rebounds and Wiggins scored 13 points. Trent Wiedeman had nine points and six rebounds, while Baru had eight points and seven rebounds.
Coastal was led by guard Anthony Raffa, who finished with 17 points. Sam McLaurin added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Charleston improved to 10-2 while Coastal Carolina, coming off a loss at East Carolina on Monday, fell to 9-3. The Cougars' next game is Dec. 30 against George Mason at TD Arena.
"This was a classic basketball game. They are the best team we've played," said Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis, whose team has wins over LSU and Clemson this season. "We knew Sundberg could do it. Their outside shooting puts so much pressure on your inside guys."
Sundberg said the Cougars picked up some confidence in their 69-62 loss Tuesday at No. 4 Louisville.
"We should have won. We had it in our hands. But that gave us a lot of confidence," Sundberg said. "We knew Coastal was going to come out strong and take it to us. We just had to work hard at every turning point."
Cremins said the Cougars made "clutch play after clutch play."
"To come in here and get a win in this environment is great," Cremins said. "We went up by 17, but we've got to have that killer instinct. I'm learning about this team. Tonight we knew the pressure was coming at us. We struggled defensively. We're still trying to figure some things out. But it was a great, great win going into the holidays."