No Saah Nimley, no problem.
With their leading scorer and floor leader sitting out the game with a sore back, the Charleston Southern Buccaneers had no trouble filling the basket, connecting on 14 3-pointers in a 92-69 win over visiting VMI on Thursday night.
Charleston Southern improved to 16-9 overall and 11-3 in the Big South Conference, clinching a share of the South Division in the Big South Conference and also clinching a first-round bye in the conference tournament with two conference games remaining.
CSU also maintains hopes of winning the regular season championship, which would secure an automatic berth to the National Invitation Tournament if they do not win the Big South tournament.
Charleston Southern’s Mathiang Muo hit seven 3-pointers en route to 23 points, while sophomore guard Arlon Harper added 21 points. Jeremy Sexton scored 19 points and Sheldon Strickland scored 11 points. Sexton added seven assists and CSU outrebounded VMI, 44-27.
Charleston Southern shot 60.3 percent from the field for the game, including a sizzling 65.4 percent in the second half.
“Everybody on this team can play, and we don’t rely on just one person,” said Muo. “We trust one another, and we play as a team every time we play.
“It was a fun game. We had a good gameplan to stop them defensively and then we were able to hit our shots. We shared the basketball, and when we do that we are pretty good.”
In a game that at times resembled a summer men’s league game at the local YMCA, the top two scoring teams in the Big South went back and forth in a first-half that saw CSU take a 50-40 lead at the break.
CSU bolted out to a 61-44 lead early in the second-half, but VMI rallied to cut the margin to 61-55 with 15:15 to play.
From that point it was all CSU, as the Buccaneers opened up an 85-65 lead on a two-point basket by Muo with 7:11 to play. CSU limited VMI to only 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game.
“We played well tonight,” said CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh. “We shared the ball and we played pretty well defensively, as well we could against a very good offensive team.
“We’re a team and Saah will be the first to tell you that we are a team. There is no one of us any more valuable than anyone else, me included.
“We have preached that from day one. We had some guys step up tonight. Our seniors (Muo and Sexton) were very good. Jeremy was not going to let us lose tonight.”
VMI was led in scoring by D.J. Covington’s 16 points, with Brian Brown and Tim Marshall each scoring 15 points.
Forward Stan Okoye, the Big South’s leading scorer at 21.1 points per game, finished with 14 points.
Charleston Southern continues a brutal four games in seven days stretch of the schedule, traveling to Rider for an ESPN Bracketbuster game on Saturday.
With two very important Big South games next week, Radebaugh could rest most or all of his starters in a meaningless game.
“In good conscience, I cannot go up there and not try to win that game,” the coach said.
“It would not be fair to Mathiang and Jeremy. I think we go up there and go as hard as we can and leave it in God’s hands.
“We’re going to try to win the game, which will be difficult enough even with our starters playing. They (Rider) will be a real challenge for us.”