LYNCHBURG, Va. – Charleston Southern plays the second leg of its Virginia road swing on Saturday at first-place Liberty. Tipoff at the Vines Center is slated for 2 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3. Fans can also listen to coverage on csusports.com.
Both teams face quick turnarounds off Thursday night contests. CSU (8-16, 4-9 Big South) fell victim to Radford's torrid three-point shooting in a 79-67 loss, its fourth in five games. The Bucs traveled to Lynchburg following the game and practiced at Liberty on Friday night. Liberty (16-10, 11-2 Big South) won its fifth straight game in the wildest of fashions, overcoming a six-point deficit in the final minute of regulation and an eight-point deficit in the final minute of the first overtime en route to claiming a 92-87 double overtime victory at Gardner-Webb. The Flames are tied with UNC Asheville atop the Big South standings with five regular season games remaining.
CSU is looking to stay in the hunt for a top-six seed and a bye into the quarterfinal round of the Big South Championship. The Bucs are currently one game out of a sixth-place tie between Radford and Campbell.
Defending the three-point line will be important if CSU is to pick up its fifth consecutive win in Lynchburg. Liberty sunk 15 threes in its 81-70 win at the Buc Dome on New Year's Eve and leads the league in threes made (30th nationally) and attempted (14th). Ryan Kemrite knocked down four triples en route to a game-high 19 points in the first meeting between the two clubs. Kemrite (13.6 PPG) is the leading scorer for a balanced Liberty squad that features five active players averaging at least seven points per game.
The Flames also lead the league in scoring defense (63.4 PPG) and play a somewhat methodical style under second-year coach Ritchie McKay, the associate head coach at Virginia the six years prior. Liberty had held four straight opponents under 60 points prior to Thursday's game. CSU is one of only three Big South teams to have broken the 70-point plateau against the Flames.
CSU did out-rebound Liberty 34-25 in the first matchup and will hope to exploit that advantage again. Liberty is last nationally in offensive rebounds per game and second-to-last in the Big South in rebounding margin. Led by Javis Howard, the league's top offensive rebounder, CSU has been strong in both areas (3rd offensive rebounds; 4th rebounding margin).
CSU bidding to continue recent success at Liberty
CSU has won four straight games at Liberty, with three of those coming at the Vines Center. The Bucs defeated the Flames in a game played off-campus at Randolph College in the 2011-12 season. Prior to its loss on Dec. 31, CSU had won five consecutive games in the series, including a pair of season sweeps.
Recapping the first matchup
Liberty sunk 15 three-pointers and weathered several second half comeback bids to hand Charleston Southern an 81-70 loss at the Buc Dome on New Year's Eve. CSU played from behind the whole way but drew within six at the 6:13 mark thanks to a 7-0 spurt. That was as close as CSU would come, however, as the Flames won their second in what is now a seven-game road winning streak.
Keeling enjoying stellar rookie year
Christian Keeling was tabbed Big South Freshman of the Week for the fifth time this past Monday. Keeling averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per game to lead CSU to a 1-1 week. He drained four clutch free throws in the final 12 seconds to help the Bucs beat Presbyterian in overtime last Saturday. The Augusta, Ga., product tallied a game-high 19 points Thursday at Radford. Keeling is CSU's leading scorer and rebounder, leads all Big South freshmen in both categories and is top-ten league-wide in each (4th scoring; 7th rebounding).
Antwan Maxwell matched a career-high with 12 points for the second consecutive game against Radford. Maxwell recorded 12 points and ten rebounds for his first career double-double last Saturday against Presbyterian. He drained the game-winning three-pointer with 33 seconds left in overtime. Since moving back into the starting lineup at High Point, the Savannah, Ga., product is averaging 7.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.