CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern looks for its fourth win in five games Saturday at Presbyterian. Tipoff at the Templeton Center in Clinton, S.C., is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the Big South Network. Fans can also listen to the action on csusports.com.
CSU (10-14, 5-8 Big South) has played its best basketball of the season since losing to Presbyterian (10-16, 3-10 Big South) on Jan. 24. The Bucs delivered arguably their best offensive outing of the campaign Wednesday against Liberty, shooting 61 percent overall and burying a season-high 13 three-pointers in an 87-75 win. PC has dropped two in a row to the top two teams in the Big South in UNC Asheville and Winthrop. The Blue Hose led Winthrop by two with about 12 minutes left Wednesday before the Eagles controlled the stretch run to prevail, 63-49.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh knows his club will need a sharper effort than the first matchup between the two teams. Paced by game-highs of 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists from point guard Davon Bell, the Blue Hose beat the Bucs, 57-49, to snap a 12-game losing streak in the series. CSU struggled offensively, shooting only 34 percent overall and 3-for-26 from downtown.
"Our guys have really responded well since that PC game and certainly we're going to need another strong effort," Radebaugh said. "Dustin (Kerns) has done a really good job and they gave us problems here. Wednesday was a quality win for us and we need to come with that same type of mindset against Presbyterian."
Cortez Mitchell and Travis McConico recorded career scoring highs to power the Bucs past Liberty. Mitchell notched 16 of his 24 points after halftime to help CSU answer after Liberty rallied to take a two-point lead with 7:45 left. McConico sparked the Bucs to a 15-point lead in the first half by burying his first four three-point attempts.
PC, under first-year head coach Dustin Kerns, has already won five more games than it did all of last season. Bell is a dynamic point guard that leads the Big South with 127 assists. Reggie Dillard, a fifth-year senior guard with good size at 6-4, 222 pounds, paces PC and ranks ninth in the league in scoring at 16.2 points per game.
The Blue Hose have committed the fewest turnovers in the Big South but struggled with CSU's pressure defense in Charleston. The Bucs forced 19 turnovers, including several down the stretch as they tried to rally from a 12-point deficit.
Offensive wave lifts Bucs over Flames
CSU connected on a season-high 13 triples and shot a season-best (vs. D-I competition) 61 percent against Liberty. The Bucs built a lead as large as 15 in the first half behind a blistering 65 percent (15-23) shooting effort. CSU was limited to a 31 percent clip and an 8-for-26 mark from three in last month's 70-53 loss at Liberty.
CSU allowed Liberty to shoot 53 percent Wednesday but the Bucs did force 17 turnovers that resulted in 21 points. It was the 15th time this season the Bucs have forced at least 15 turnovers. CSU currently ranks 22nd nationally in turnovers forced (16.1 per game) and 51st in steals per game (7.5). The Bucs forced 51 turnovers in their first two Big South games, including 29 in a suffocating defensive showing against Longwood. CSU has forced 20 or more on four occasions.
McConico and Fleming headline ten first-year players
Junior Travis McConico and freshman Phlandrous Fleming Jr. have made the biggest immediate impacts for a CSU team getting over 55 percent of its scoring and rebounding from first-year players. McConico ranks sixth in the Big South in made threes. Fleming, meanwhile, is second among all league freshmen in scoring. He had 20 points in the Gardner-Webb win on an efficient 6-of-10 shooting, including a 4-of-6 mark from three. The four threes were a career high. Fleming has been named Big South Freshman of the Week twice.