Martin Leads Bucs into Big South TourneyFebruary 28, 2012
by CSU Sports Information
|Photo by Al Samuels - AlSamuels.com|
CHARLESTON, S.C. – With one of the better regular seasons in program history complete, the Charleston Southern men’s basketball team embarks on Big South Conference Tournament play this Wednesday versus Liberty. The matchup pits two of the hotter teams in the league, as the Bucs enter winners of four of their last five while the Flames ended the conference season on a five-game winning streak. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m., with the winner advancing to play the victor of the #8 High Point vs. #1 UNC Asheville contest in the semifinals on Thursday.
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Bucs No Stranger to # 4 Seed
CSU’s 4th place finish was its highest since taking 3rd in the 2002-2003 season, but the Bucs have played as the number four seed in the conference tournament on five separate occasions, compiling a 7-4 record along the way. CSU advanced to the finals of the Big South Tournament in its first ever trip as the 4 seed as they defeated Coastal Carolina and #1 Radford before falling to Campbell in the title matchup. The Bucs got over the hump as the No. 4 seed in 1997, clinching the program’s first and only ticket to the NCAA Tournament with victories over Coastal Carolina, top-dog UNC Asheville, and Liberty. The Flames finished that regular season in second place and hosted the league tournament at the Vines Center, but CSU pulled out a 64-54 win to set a date with UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, where they fell 109-75. CSU last competed in the number four slot in 2002, losing to Elon in the quarterfinals.
CSU-Liberty History in Big South Tourney
Wednesday’s meeting will mark the 6th time CSU and Liberty have met in the Big South Conference Tournament. The Bucs hold a 3-2 all-time advantage over the Flames, highlighted by their title game triumph in 1997. Here’s a look at all the outcomes over the years:
1994 Quarterfinals: Liberty 82, CSU 71
1995 Semifinals: CSU 60, Liberty 58
1997 Finals: CSU 64, Liberty 54
2004 Quarterfinals: Liberty 60, CSU 54
2005 Quarterfinals: CSU 66, Liberty 60
In addition to defeating Liberty for the title in 1997, CSU downed the Flames in the 1995 semifinals en route to capturing the championship that year as well. CSU also won back-to-back conference tournaments in 1986 and 1987 -- the inaugural two years of the championship. The Bucs’ 21 wins in each of those campaigns is a program record, meaning a tournament title this year would allow CSU to match those clubs in the victory department. Liberty, meanwhile, earned the Big South’s automatic bid to the big dance in 1994 and 2004.
Radebaugh Reaps Reward for His Work
Charleston Southern head coach Barclay Radebaugh was named the Big South Conference Coach of the Year this past Sunday through a poll conducted by the league’s head coaches, SID’s, and media members. Picked to finish 8th in the preseason poll in the wake of losing the program’s 2nd all-time leading scorer in Jamarco Warren, CSU exceeded outside expectations to earn a tie for third with a lineup that featured three freshmen and a junior college transfer in the starting five. Personally, Radebaugh went over the 100-career win plateau courtesy of CSU’s 91-73 rout of Campbell on Jan.5, and the Bucs posted eight more wins to clinch the program’s first winning season since 1996-1997. Here’s a look at some of the other milestones CSU accomplished as a team this year, with previous year’s achievement in parentheses.
Most victories since 1994-1995 (19)
Best conference finish since 2003 (3rd)
Most conference wins since 1994-1995 (12)
At 10-5, best 15-game start since 1969-1970 (11-4)
At 13-7, best 20-game start since 1986-1987 (13-7)
Back-to-back seasons of 16+ wins for first time since 1985-1986 and 1986-1987 (21, 21)
Compiled four winning streaks of 3 games or more (5, 3, 4, 3)
Led Big 12 power Kansas State by 14 at halftime in the season opener
Beat cross-town rival The Citadel for 3rd year in a row in an 88-69 rout at McAllister Fieldhouse
Handed UNC Asheville its first league loss of the season after an 8-0 start, and were only team to beat Bulldogs on their home floor this season
Individual Awards for the Ultimate Team Player
Coach Radebaugh has had praise for Kelvin Martin’s selflessness throughout his four-year career at CSU, and a player who has helped direct the Bucs from 10 to 13 to 16 to 18 wins and counting over his four years received some much deserved recognition on Sunday. On the same day his head coach was honored by the league, Martin earned a spot on the all-conference first team and netted Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second season in a row. While Martin’s junior year was terrific -- he was named Defensive Player of the Year and earned a spot on the Mid-Major All-American Defensive Team, as well as the Big South all-conference 2nd team -- he saved the best for his final campaign with the Bucs. Martin finished the regular season with a flurry, posting a double-double of 27 points and 14 rebounds in a 77-59 blowout of Southern Conference heavyweight Wofford. The 6-5 senior forward surpassed that career-high just five days later when he pumped in 31 markers in a road loss at VMI. Martin was at it again as the Bucs wrapped up the regular season with a hard-fought 65-59 triumph at Radford, tallying 21 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, and a career-high tying five blocks. Martin finished the year with 12 double-doubles, and ranks tops in the Big South in rebounding, defensive rebounding, and steals, while ranking 2nd in field-goal percentage and blocks. All in all, Martin concluded the regular season top-10 conference-wide in seven different statistical categories, and now stands as the 7th all-time leading scorer at CSU. Martin is the program’s 2nd all-time leading rebounder, and will move into 3rd on the Big South’s all-time list with his next carom -- number 955.
With Martin as the lone senior on the roster, CSU entered the season knowing it would need to receive big-time contributions from its freshmen class. That class delivered in a big way in its inaugural campaign, serving notice that the Bucs will be a forced to be reckoned with in years to come. On Sunday, two members of that group earned a spot on the Big South All-Freshman team in Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper. Nimley and Harper teamed to form one of the better backcourt duos -- regardless of class -- in the conference as Nimley started all 29 games and Harper netted 24 starts after coming off the bench over the first five contests. It took little to no time for the high school friends to get on the same page with one another, as both displayed confidence, maturity, and an ability to score the ball in bunches. Harper racked up five 20+ point outings on the season, including a 28-point outburst at UNC Asheville in CSU’s dramatic 93-88 win on Jan. 19. Nimley exceeded the 20-point plateau six times, highlighted by a brilliant 23-point, 12-assist outing in the Bucs 88-81 win at Stetson on Dec. 21. Harper became the only rookie in the league to earn the Crons Brand Big South Freshman of the Week honor three times when he took the award home again for the final week of the regular season, while Nimley garnered the accolade twice. Harper finished the year second in the league in steals, while Nimley ended the regular season top-10 league-wide in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, and three-point field goals.
Defense Wins Championships, and CSU’s is Rounding into Form
Opponents are scoring 71.6 points per game against the Bucs while shooting 46 percent from the floor for the season, but CSU turned the corner defensively to win four of its final five games of the regular season. The Bucs held High Point scoreless for 6+ minute stretches in both the first and second halves of the 70-67 triumph on Feb. 11, and held back-to-back opponents below the 60-point plateau for the first time this year in decisive wins over Gardner-Webb and Wofford. Wofford entered the night sporting a 17-11 record and an impressive 10-6 mark in the always-competitive Southern Conference, but couldn’t get much generated against CSU’s pressure defense. The Terriers shot only 32 percent from the floor to dig themselves a 39-23 halftime hole, and committed 18 turnovers which the Bucs converted into 20 points on the other end. VMI exploited the Bucs defensively in a 90-81 final on Feb. 23, but CSU bounced back two days later to hold an offensively challenged Radford squad to 39 percent shooting -- including just 36 percent after halftime.