CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern meets Abilene Christian for the second time in 11 days on Saturday at the Buc Dome. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Both teams are looking to get back over the .500 mark. Both CSU (3-3) and Abilene Christian (3-3) have been tested early with two games each against power conference opponents. The Bucs come off a 30-point setback to a strong Alabama squad, while the Wildcats enter off a competitive 64-55 loss at New Mexico. Both clubs are hoping to start the December slate on a high note, with the beginning of conference play now less than a month away.
CSU picked up a confidence-building 66-65 victory at Abilene on Nov. 22, erasing a 17-point deficit over the final 12:33 of the contest. Armel Potter capped a 21-point second half with a game-winning jumper from the top of the key with four seconds remaining. The comeback allowed CSU to overcome ACU's 56 percent shooting. Jaren Lewis paced the Wildcats with 18 points, while Hayden Howell and Jaylen Franklin chipped in 12 apiece. Franklin, the 2015-16 Southland Conference Freshman of the Year, has missed the last two games after suffering an injury in a loss to Oklahoma.
Seeing a familiar foe should offer a glimpse into preparation for league play for both sides. CSU also played in-season home-and-home's in 2011 (Stetson), 2012 (ETSU) and 2013 (Delaware).
To sweep Abilene, CSU will have to execute against what has been a stout defense thus far. The Wildcats are limiting foes to less than 40 percent shooting, including a 26 percent mark from three-point range. Several early turnovers in the first matchup led to transition opportunities, helping Abilene build a 34-22 halftime lead.
Lewis, an athletic 6-6 wing, leads Abilene in scoring (13.7 PPG – 53% FG) and rebounding (7.5 RPG). Jalone Friday averages nearly 12 points and six rebounds per game and gives the Wildcats an interior presence at 6-9, 250 pounds.
Following Saturday, CSU will take a week break from game action for final exams. Three of the Bucs' final four non-conference games will come on the road.
Wallace finding range from three
Patrick Wallace knocked down three three-pointers on Tuesday at Alabama. It was the third time in four games Wallace has hit three triples. Since starting the year 0-for-5 from downtown, the senior has connected on 10-of-16 attempts. Wallace was sixth in the Big South last year with 72 made threes (2.4 per game). He shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc in non-conference play and sunk multiple treys in each of the season's first 15 games.
Howard hitting the glass
Through games played Thursday, Javis Howard ranks T-13th nationally with four offensive rebounds per game. Howard was fifth in that category before being shut out against a physical Alabama team. He has posted three outings of five or more offensive rebounds, highlighted by an output of eight against USC Upstate.
Young Bucs learning on the fly
CSU welcomed seven new players to its program this year, and five are seeing significant playing time. Christian Keeling and Cortez Mitchell are doing so in a starting role, while Jordan Jones, Jamar Martin and Jamal Thomas are all proving to be factors off the bench. Antwan Maxwell, who redshirted last year, has also found a spot in the rotation. Junior Javis Howard is the Bucs' veteran. Zach Durkee and Rae Robinson are in their third seasons as well but both redshirted in the 2014-15, helping CSU claim the Big South regular season title from the scout team.
Keeling tabbed Big South Freshman of the Week
Christian Keeling earned Big South Freshman of the Week honors on Monday after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game to lead CSU to a pair of wins last week. Keeling scored 15 of his season-high 20 points after halftime to help propel CSU over Abilene Christian on the road in a game it trailed by 17 points. He added ten points, seven rebounds and two assists in Saturday's drubbing of Toccoa Falls.