CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern hosts its season opener Tuesday against Columbia International. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with the actual start time slated for 30 minutes after the conclusion of the women's game versus Converse, which begins at 5:30.
CSU returns four starters and six lettermen from a young team that peaked at the end of last season. The Bucs shared the Big South Conference's best record during the back half of league play, going 7-2 before adding another win in the first round of the league tournament.
Led by head coach Barclay Radebaugh, CSU is looking to build on that momentum as it starts the year with a stretch of four games in ten days. A road trip to Florida follows Friday, before CSU welcomes South Carolina State and heads to Middle Tennessee State next week.
"Our guys have prepared well, and we're excited to get the journey started," Radebaugh said. "We look forward to seeing the Buc Dome packed. This group is committed to competing at a championship level day in and day out, and we're eager to see how we can grow throughout the year."
The Bucs will be bidding for their 15th consecutive home-opening win. CSU handled Columbia International 98-58 in last season's home opener, placing six players in double figures while recording a 60-14 edge in points in the paint. CSU has defeated CIU each of the last five years, posting an average margin of victory of 44 points.
The Rams, led by first-year head coach Tony Stockman, enter Tuesday's contest at 1-1.
Keeling back for junior year
Christian Keeling returns to lead CSU after becoming just the fifth player in Big South history to reach 1,000 career points as a sophomore. Keeling earned All-Big South Second Team honors while ranking second in the conference in scoring, sixth in steals, seventh in minutes played, eighth in free-throw percentage and tenth in rebounding. He was the centerpiece of CSU's late surge, averaging 19.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG over the year's final 11 games. Keeling paced CSU in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes.
Impact freshmen class now sophomores
Along with Keeling, freshmen Phlandrous Fleming Jr., Ty Jones, Deontaye Buskey and Sean Price were integral to CSU's success in February. Fleming led the group on his way to finishing as runner-up for Big South Freshman of the Year honors. He ranked second among all league freshmen in scoring, and led all league rookies and tied for 11th overall in steals. Fleming capped the regular season in style, tallying a career-high 26 points to lead CSU to its first win at Winthrop since 2002.
Matchups with power conference foes Florida, Marquette and Clemson highlight CSU's non-league docket. The Bucs will also play a home-and-home with North Florida, host South Carolina State and travel to Furman. CSU's 16-game Big South slate includes six home-and-home's and four one-time meetings. The Big South schedule begins with a visit from Tubby Smith and High Point on Jan. 5.