Charleston Southern's early 2013-14 basketball season has not gone exactly as planned, according to head coach Barclay Radebaugh, but the coach feels his team can benefit from playing a tough early season schedule.
CSU has played the 41st toughest schedule in the country this season, including road games at Top 25 New Mexico and Baylor, as well as a pair of games against Delaware, a team that played Villanova and Notre Dame to the wire this season.
Radebaugh feels his team let two home games slip away during the month of December, losing close contests to UNC Wilmington and Delaware. However, the coach says his Bucs are on track to compete well in the upcoming Big South Conference. CSU opens Big South play on Jan. 8 against Coastal Carolina.
"The most important part of our schedule is ahead of us, so it has been important that we improve and learn as a basketball team," said Radebaugh. "The biggest thing I have learned about this team is we are better when we are on edge. I thought a couple of games early on, we have come out flat. I don't understand how a team can come out flat against the caliber of teams we have been playing. We are better when we have them on edge."
As is the case with every Division I program during December, CSU had a break in the schedule on Saturday, easily defeating NAIA foe St. Andrews College, 122-40. The victory, CSU's largest margin of victory in school history, improved CSU's record to 5-6 heading into another tough matchup on Monday, at Florida State.
Senior guard Matt Kennedy followed up his 23-point scoring effort last Saturday with an 18-point night, 14 coming in the first half. Junior guard Saah Nimley also scored 18, while freshman Bakari Copeland scored a career-high 17 points in just 12 minutes off the bench.
Junior guard Arlon Harper scored 12 points, becoming the 20th player in CSU history to score 1,000 points. Harper is the second CSU player this season to reach the milestone, joining Nimley.
"I'll admit, I was anxious about this game because they are hard to guard," said Radebaugh of St. Andrews. "They take 25 seconds off the shot clock each possession and if you are not ready defensively, they can be difficult. We wanted to get back to mixing up our defenses and creating more tempo.
"Against the schedule we have played so far, and the disadvantage in size, we have been more of a zone team. Tonight we wanted to get back to some of what we like to do defensively. I was really pleased with our press and pleased with how we were able to get the tempo up."
CSU entered Saturday's game in a bit of slump from beyond the arc. The Bucs made a concerted effort to work on that part of the game early, hitting 4 of 8 3-point attempts in the first eight minutes of the game. CSU connected on a school-record 20 3-pointers in the game while shooting 67 percent from the field for the game.
"They chose to play zone against us, and this team has played pretty well against the zone. We were able to shoot the ball pretty well," said Radebaugh.
CSU made 10 3-pointers in the first half and shot 58 percent from the floor overall, en route to a 56-21 halftime advantage.
Radebaugh emptied the bench very early into the second half, but the Bucs kept up the scoring pace, opening up an 89-29 lead with 10:16 remaining in the game.
CSU's bench accounted for 65 points in the game.
Pat Black/CSU Athletics Charelston Southern's Arlon Harper squares up one of CSU■─˘s 20 3-pointers in the 122-40 win over St. Andrews on Saturday. Harper became the 20th Buc to reach the 1,000-point plateau in the win.×