CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern tips off its December slate Saturday at the Buc Dome against North Florida. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+. Fans in attendance will enjoy 'Christmas in the Buc Dome,' with prizes, candy canes and other Christmas items available. There will also be a raffle to win $500, and a halftime performance by the CSU dance team.
On the court, the matchup starts an in-season home-and-home series between CSU (4-3) and North Florida (3-5). The Bucs will make a return trip to Jacksonville in two weeks. Both teams are expected to contend in the top half of their leagues, with CSU picked fifth in the 11-team Big South and UNF fourth in the nine-team Atlantic Sun.
The Bucs will be looking to bounce back from a 76-55 loss Tuesday at Marquette. CSU trailed by just four points at the 3:01 mark of the first half before the Golden Eagles pulled away with an 18-4 run spanning both halves. The Ospreys face a quick turnaround following Thursday's 81-62 blowout of Florida A&M. UNF lost by 32 points at Florida on Tuesday, and has faced a challenging early-season schedule featuring trips to Dayton and Penn State. The Ospreys defeated Southern Miss convincingly, 64-48, on Nov. 20.
CSU will be challenged to contain one of the ASUN's top players in UNF junior Noah Horchler. The 6-8 forward is averaging 15.9 points per game on gaudy 62 percent shooting, and also ranks 13th nationally with 10.6 rebounds per game. He tallied 23 points and eight rebounds in the Florida A&M win. Horchler posted 12 double-doubles last season en route to being named ASUN Newcomer of the Year.
UNF also features Preseason All ASUN point guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa, who has already handed out 41 assists against just 18 turnovers. Garrett Sams, a 6-7 swingman, is the Ospreys' second-leading scorer at 13.6 points per game.
Following Saturday's contest, CSU will have a ten-day break from game action for final exams.
Last time out
Marquette engineered an 18-4 run spanning both halves to break open a tight game and hand CSU a 76-55 loss Tuesday in Milwaukee. CSU trailed 32-28 with 3:01 left in the first half but Marquette capped the stanza on a 6-0 spurt and tacked on after halftime, forging a lead as large as 24 points. Christian Keeling paced the Bucs with 18 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting, while Ty Jones and Duncan LeXander added 11 each. Jones, who entered with three career three-pointers, was a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown.
Keeling continues ascent in record book
Keeling has already jumped from 21st to 19th on CSU's career scoring chart this season, and needs just seven points to take over sole possession of 18th place. He is only 134 from entering the top ten. Last year, Keeling earned Second Team All-Big South honors while becoming just the fifth player in conference history to surpass 1,000 career points as a sophomore. He worked out with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks last May before deciding to return to CSU for his junior campaign.
CSU currently ranks third nationally in forced turnovers, causing 20.6 per game. Only Florida International and New Orleans have forced more. The Bucs have created 99 turnovers in their four wins, including 34 against Trinity Baptist, 30 against Columbia International and 20 against South Carolina State. CSU was very active in that department a year ago, ranking 17th nationally while pacing the Big South Conference in turnover margin. CSU is currently 15th with a +6.0 turnover margin.