A tough early season schedule is taking a toll on the Charleston Southern men's basketball team.
CSU fell to 3-6 after dropping a 92-84 road decision at Western Carolina on Wednesday night in Cullowhee, N.C. The Buccaneers have lost five of their last six games and are 1-6 against Division I competition this season.
The story of the night was a former Charleston Southern player now wearing the purple and gold. Western Carolina senior Tom Tankelewicz, who played his freshman season at CSU before transferring to Western, lit up his former team with a career-high 30 points, connecting on 10 3-pointers. Tankelwicz came into the game with 25 3-pointers in Western Carolina's first 12 games.
Western, shooting only 33 percent from beyond the arc as a team for the season, hit 20 of 35 attempts (57.1 percent) Wednesday night. Brandon Boggs added 22 points and Trey Sumler scored 18 for the Catamounts, who improved to 6-7 overall and 5-0 at home this season.
CSU junior guard Arlon Harper had his best game of the season, scoring 26 points in the loss. Senior Matt Kennedy added 18 points and junior Will Saunders added 12.
Junior guard Saah Nimley, CSU's leading scorer this season at 15.4 points per game, was 0 for 10 from the field but did finish with eight assists.
"We continue to be a work in progress defensively and it's something we are definitely putting in a lot of time and effort to get better at," said CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh. "Good defensive teams are able to make up for mistakes with great effort. We are still working on our effort."
Charleston Southern was coming off its best defensive effort of the season, holding Alabama to 35 percent shooting and 59 points on Saturday. There was no such success on Wednesday.
Tankelewicz connected on five 3-pointers as the Catamounts opened up a 48-40 halftime advantage. Western Carolina hit 11 3-pointers and shot 60 percent from the floor in the first half.
Harper scored nine points in CSU's 11-3 run in the first five minutes of the second half, tying the game at 51 with a layup. Tankelewicz' sixth trey pushed Western back to a 54-51 lead with 14:51 left in the contest.
A 3-pointer by Strickland and a pair of free throws by Kennedy tied the game at 56, and Harper's layup and free throw gave CSU a 59-56 lead with 13:19 to play.
Enter Tankelewicz, who broke a 65-all tie with his seventh 3-pointer at the 6:22 mark. After Saunders tied the game at 71, Tankelewicz hit his eighth bomb for a 74-71 lead with four minutes left.
His ninth trey gave Western Carolina a 79-74 lead, and his final shot pushed the advantage to 84-77 with less than two minutes to play in the game.
"It was an incredible shooting performance by him and really their entire team," said Radebaugh.
Charleston Southern did not help its cause late, missing five free throws in the final two minutes.
The Buccaneers play game three of the road trip at Central Arkansas (2-6) on Saturday. Radebaugh is hoping for a confidence boost after his team's tough schedule.
"We've played three top 50 teams and a Delaware team that's ranked 70th twice," said the coach. "I really believe this schedule will help us in January and February, but this is a real test for us mentally. We have to fight our way through this and gain some confidence back."