Bucs travel to Gardner-Webb for showdown with championship implicationsFebruary 26, 2013
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern will try to put an end to a 26-year championship drought this week as the Buccaneers sit two wins from a Big South onference regular-season title. The Bucs open their week, maybe their most anticipated week since a berth in the 1997 NCAA Tournament, on Wednesday night at Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
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While CSU has given itself an opportunity for its first Big South regular season title since the 1986-’87 season, there is still a tough road ahead, beginning with a rugged road test against the red-hot Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb has won five-straight games since mid-February and has had the Bucs full attention since the final horn sounded in Saturday’s loss at Rider in ESPN’s BracketBusters.
"They beat us (at the Buc Dome) already this season," Radebaugh said. "(Gardner-Webb is) a team with big, strong, and physical guards. We’ll have to move the ball well and knock down open shots. Our team has answered the bell every game but one this season. We’ll be ready to play. They know the moment they’re in."
It is tough to downplay Wednesday night’s game. The Bucs entered the year as the preseason favorite in the conference's South Division, a prediction which became accurate last Thursday when the Bucs clinched at least a share of the division title with a 92-69 win over VMI. CSU needs two wins to assure itself of keeping pace with High Point, which is also 11-3 in Big South play and hosts Radford and Campbell to close out its regular season.
Gardner-Webb is playing for a first-round bye in next week’s
Wednesday’s game will go a long way toward shaping both the regular season and the tournament races, so it becomes hard for Radebaugh to sell the "just another game" approach.
"We’ve told our guys in conference play that each game is just one-sixteenth of the season," Radebaugh said. "That’s not going to work (Wednesday) night. It will be a crazy atmosphere and they know what is at stake."
The Bucs and Runnin’ Bulldogs have combined to win eight-straight Big South games. Something has to give tomorrow night, and, as the case has been throughout the season, the game will likely swing on CSU’s three-point shooting.
The Bucs are 16-0 when shooting a higher percentage than their opponent, a hard number to ignore. Gardner-Webb was the hot team in the first meeting, shooting 52 percent in the second half and 60 percent in overtime in a 74-73 win that ended the Bucs’ then eight-game winning streak.
CSU rallied after trailing 64-54 with 90 second to play to force overtime, but went cold - just 1-for-6 - in the extra period. The Bucs also played without Cedrick Bowen, who is averaging seven points and four boards since his return. The Bucs have also missed his 57 percent field-goal percentage at the front of the rim.
CSU is coming off a week in which it played four times in three states over seven days. CSU reeled off wins over UNC Asheville on the road, and handled Presbyterian and VMI at the Buc Dome to build momentum heading into the season’s final week.
Gardner-Webb has put together five-straight wins to put itself in position for a bye in the conference tournament, but the Bulldogs want more by the way they are finishing games in tough environments. Of the five wins, three have come by three points or less and three have been on the road.
GWU beat College of Charleston on the road on Saturday, 55-52, and is No. 2 behind the Bucs (183) in the Big South in the RPI (192).
Senior Tashan Newsome has been the leader scorer throughout the season for the Bulldogs. He had 20-plus points in four-straight games earlier this month, including 26 in wins against both Longwood and Liberty.
SENIOR DAY (NOTE START TIME):-CSU- The Bucs will host Coastal Carolina on Saturday 4:30 p.m. at the Buc Dome. The game will be the final home appearance for seniors Mathiang Muo and Jeremy Sexton. The game tips off at 4:30 p.m. due to Big South Conference policy. www.visitmyrtlebeach.com Big South Tournament and is still mathematically alive for a share of the South Division title and the conference championship.