For the first time since before Christmas, the Charleston Southern men’s basketball team tasted defeat as Gardner-Webb snapped the Buccaneers’ eight-game winning streak with a 74-73 overtime victory Wednesday night at the CSU Field House.
But the Buccaneers did not go quietly.
Trailing 64-54 with 1:30 to play in regulation, CSU ended with a 13-3 run, sending the game into overtime on Mathiang Muo’s long 3-pointer from the corner with three seconds left.
The Bucs held two different leads during the extra period, but Gardner-Webb’s Tashan Newsome had a 3-point play with 29 seconds left in overtime to give the Bulldogs the winning margin. Newsome scored all seven of his team’s points in overtime, finishing with 22 points.
Charleston Southern entered the game having won 11 of its last 12 games, but suffered its first loss in Big South Conference play, falling to 12-7 overall and 7-1 in league play.
Gardner-Webb, which won at VMI on Saturday, won its second straight road game to improve to 12-10 overall and 4-4 in the Big South.
“I credit Gardner-Webb for their effort and their play tonight. They were the aggressor tonight,” said CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh. “I have to give our kids a lot of credit for the way they played in the last two minutes. It was an incredible effort.
“However, we cannot get caught up in the comeback. We can’t kid ourselves and think we played well because we did not play well. There were reasons why we were down by 10 points.”
Sophomore point guard Saah Nimley led all scorers with 27 points, connecting on five 3-pointers. Muo added 14 points while Jeremy Sexton scored 12.
CSU shot only 37.3 percent from the field. The Bucs trailed 26-24 at halftime but missed eight shots within two feet of the basket, including three dunks.
“I think we lacked focus and concentration in the first 30 minutes of this game, which is very uncharacteristic of this team,” said Radebaugh.
Nimley gave the Bucs a 69-67 lead early in the overtime with a pair of free throws but Newsome tied the game with a basket with 4:08 to play.
Muo had two free throws with 3:43 remaining but Newsome tied the game at 71 with a basket at the 1:26 mark.
Sexton gave CSU a 73-71 lead with 51 seconds left before Newsome’s basket and free throw with 29 seconds left in overtime sealed the deal.
CSU had two shots at the basket in the final seconds but failed to score as Muo missed a desperation 18-footer at the buzzer.
CSU will play at Coastal Carolina next Wednesday and Radebaugh will work hard over the next week to not let Wednesday’s loss to Gardner-Webb carry over.
“We cannot allow the disappointment of this loss affect us over the next week as we prepare for a very tough game next week,” said Radebaugh.
“We have to get this loss out of our system and fortunately we have a week to do it. We can allow this to devastate us or motivate us. My feeling, knowing this team, is that it will motivate us.”