It has been quite a while since the Charleston Southern men’s basketball team has played a game as big or as important as tonight’s Big South Conference matchup at Gardner-Webb.
Charleston Southern vs. Gardner-WebbWHEN: 7 p.m.WHERE: Paul Porter Arena, Boiling Springs, N.C.RADIO: WJNI 106.3-FMRECORDS: CSU 16-10, 11-3 Big South; Gardner-Webb 18-11, 9-5 NOTES: Charleston Southern seeks to clinch the South Division title of the Big South Conference with a win … Gardner-Webb, which beat CSU earlier this season in overtime, can clinch the South title with a win tonight and Saturday … Charleston Southern has clinched a first-round bye in the Big South tournament next week … Bucs are coming off a 61-54 non-conference loss at Rider on Saturday, the team’s fourth game in seven days … CSU has had its share of struggles in the shooting department on the road of late and shot a season-low 27.9 percent on Saturday … CSU played the last two games without leading scorer Saah Nimley, but the sophomore point guard is expected to play tonight … Gardner-Webb beat College of Charleston, 55-52, on Saturday and has won five straight games … CSU last won a regular season Big South title during the 1986-87 season.
The Buccaneers (16-10, 11-3 Big South) enter tonight’s contest in first place in the South Division of the Big South standings. CSU has clinched at least a tie for the South crown, but a win tonight would clinch outright the South Division title.
Winning the South Division would be a major accomplishment for Charleston Southern, but winning the final two games would mean even more.
If the Buccaneers can win tonight and beat Coastal Carolina at home in the regular season finale on Saturday, they would win the overall Big South regular season title.
With that comes the league’s automatic berth to the National Invitation Tournament, should they not win the Big South conference tournament.
Charleston Southern last won a regular season championship in the 1986-87 season.
The Bucs won the Big South tournament in 1997, making the school’s only appearance in the NCAA tournament that season. CSU lost to UCLA in the first-round game at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich.
The Bucs’ opponent tonight, Gardner-Webb, beat them in overtime three weeks ago. Gardner-Webb needs to win tonight and Saturday to clinch a tie for the South title. CSU already has earned a first-round bye in next week’s conference tournament. The top two teams in each division earn first-round byes.
“They beat us (at the Buc Dome) already this season,” CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “(Gardner-Webb is) a team with big, strong, and physical guards. We’ll have to move the ball well and knock down open shots. Our team has answered the bell every game but one this season. We’ll be ready to play. They know the moment they’re in.”
High Point has already clinched the North Division title and will be the league’s overall champion if CSU does not win it. Each team has three losses, but CSU owns the tie-breaker with High Point by virtue of the head-to-head meeting.
CSU enters tonight’s game with the highest RPI (183) in the Big South, while Gardner-Webb is second at 192. Gardner-Webb (18-11, 9-5) has won five straight games, including a 55-52 win over College of Charleston on Saturday night.
The Bucs are coming off an 61-54 loss at Rider in Lawrenceville, N.J., on Saturday.