CSU tops Coastal in Big South opener
Charleston Southern connected on 10 first half 3-pointers to build an 18-point halftime lead and never looked back in a 70-58 win over Coastal Carolina in its Big South Conference opener at the Buc Dome on Wednesday night.
CSU (7-7, 1-0) looked the part of the defending Big South regular season champion. The Bucs held the Chanticleers to 39 percent shooting and outrebounded (38-33) a CCU team that entered second in the conference in rebounding margin. Juniors Will Saunders and Arlon Harper led the way with three first half 3-pointers apiece as the Bucs shot 56 percent from the floor and knocked down 10 of 19 from beyond the arc to go into intermission up 45-27.
Saunders finished with 16 points to pace four players in double figures scoring for CSU. Saah Nimley recovered from a slow shooting start to record 15 points and six assists. Harper tallied 14 and senior Matt Kennedy added 12.
CCU was led by 11 points from junior guard Josh Cameron but struggled all night long against the Bucs' defense.
"We were pretty good offensively in the first half," said CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh after leading the Bucs to their third straight win in a Big South opener. "Defensively, we were terrific and jumped out to a good lead. We didn't play quite as well in the second half, but credit Coastal Carolina."
"We knew we had to stay in front on defense and we did that," Radebaugh continued. "We knew that they are good drivers. They hit a few threes but we did a good job of closing out on their shooters. We took some steps forward defensively tonight. We executed our game plan really well."
CSU reeled off a 12-2 run over the final 3:09 of the first half to pull away from Coastal. Fittingly, three of the four baskets during the stretch were 3-pointers. Harper buried a triple to start the stretch, and Nimley sailed one through from deep on the left wing to push the lead to 39-27. Following a CCU turnover, Sheldon Strickland connected on another 3-pointer to increase the Bucs' advantage to 15.
Nimley then added a jumper and a free throw to stake CSU to a 45-27 advantage.
CSU now heads to Winthrop on Saturday afternoon for a 2 p.m. tilt in Rock Hill. The Eagles opened Big South play with a win over Presbyterian on Wednesday.
"All of them (conference games) are one-sixteenth of our schedule," Radebaugh said. "It is a big game for us because it is our next game. We have a lot of respect for Winthrop, for Coach (Pat) Kelsey and what he is doing there. That team is playing with a lot of enthusiasm and Coach Kelsey has brought that to that program. It will be a real challenge for us."