CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern closes the regular season with a two-game road trip, beginning Thursday at Winthrop. Tipoff at Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, S.C., is slated for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the Big South Network. Fans can also listen to coverage on csusports.com.
CSU (10-17, 6-10 Big South) appears to be peaking at an opportune time with the Big South Championship on tap next week. The Bucs showed moxie and maturity in one possession wins over Campbell and High Point at home last week to stay in the hunt for a top-six seed and first round bye. CSU is tied with Campbell for seventh place, one game behind Radford for the sixth spot. The Bucs need a victory over Winthrop, or Saturday at Longwood, to put themselves in position for a tiebreaker scenario.
Winthrop (21-6, 13-3 Big South) is playing to keep its hopes of a second consecutive Big South regular season title alive. The Eagles have won three in a row since dropping a 104-101 double overtime heartbreaker at league leader, UNC Asheville. Winthrop shared the conference title with High Point last year, and sports a veteran-laden roster that has powered the program to three straight Big South tournament championship game appearances. The Eagles are currently tied with Liberty, who they swept, one game behind Asheville. Winthrop plays at last place Presbyterian on Saturday, while Asheville faces tough tests against Gardner-Webb and Liberty.
The Bucs will need to be at their very best to knock off the high octane Eagles. Pat Kelsey's squad paces the league in scoring offense, field goal percentage defense, three-point defense and blocked shots. Winthrop features perhaps the conference's top one-two punch in point guard Keon Johnson and versatile forward Xavier Cooks. Johnson ranks tenth nationally in scoring and recently became Winthrop's all-time leading scorer. Cooks averages nearly 16 points per game, leads the conference in blocked shots and defensive rebounds and is second in total rebounds.
Johnson and four other seniors will be honored prior to tipoff of their last regular season home game. The 5-8 dynamo posted 27 points and seven assists to power Winthrop over CSU, 84-68, in the Dec. 29 Big South opener at the Buc Dome. CSU will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak in the series.
Keeling among nation's elite freshmen
Christian Keeling is tied for eighth in scoring among Division I freshmen. Keeling is averaging 16.7 points per game for a total of 450 points, tied with UCLA's TJ Leaf. Keeling paces all Big South freshmen in scoring and rebounding, ranking top-ten league-wide in both categories. On Monday, he was named Big South Freshman of the Week for the sixth time after averaging 18 points and eight rebounds per game to lead CSU to a pair of victories. Keeling hit the game-winning free throw with 1.9 seconds left Saturday against High Point. He notched his eighth 20-point effort of the campaign in the previous win over Campbell, tallying 17 of his 22 points after intermission to lead the Bucs from behind.
Dribble drive at its best vs. High Point
CSU recorded a season-high (against DI competition) 19 assists in the High Point win. The Bucs matched a season-high with 13 made three-pointers, connecting on nearly half (13-for-28) of their attempts. Seniors Rae Robinson and Patrick Wallace combined to go for 9-for-15 from beyond the arc.
Senior Day sendoff with style
Rae Robinson and Patrick Wallace had their best shooting performances of the season in their final regular season home game. Robinson knocked down four of his five triples after halftime, with three coming with CSU ahead by one score and the other erasing its only deficit. Wallace set the tone in the first half, connecting on his first four treys. Zach Durkee, making his first career start and just his sixth career appearance, stole the show early. He opened the scoring with a contested right wing three and also made a pretty pass to Wallace for a triple to help the Bucs to a 9-5 advantage. Ugo Mmonu was also honored prior to tipoff and earned a start.
CSU turns tide in back-to-back nail biter wins (1-3 to 3-3)
CSU had been 1-3 in one possession games prior to last week. The Bucs' only one score win previously was their first Division I victory of the year, a 66-65 road triumph over Abilene Christian. CSU is 5-8 this season in games decided by less than ten points.
Potter regaining stroke
Armel Potter hit two clutch jump shots late in Saturday's win over High Point. Potter's pull-up jumpers came 48 seconds apart, with the latter giving CSU a 75-72 lead with 56 seconds left. He finished with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Potter has scored in double figures in four straight games and seven of his last eight. Although he has taken a back seat in the scoring column, Potter is still the Bucs' second-leading scorer at 11.9 PPG. Potter averaged 13.9 PPG per game last season, earning a spot on the All-Big South Freshman Team.