CLINTON - Charleston Southern capped off a stretch of four games in a week with an emphatic 86-47 win over Presbyterian at the Templeton Center on Saturday.
Charleston Southern (12-15, 6-8 Big South) was playing its third road game in six days but looked energized from the opening tipoff and dominated from start to finish. Will Saunders buried five 3-pointers and scored 17 points to pace four players in double figures scoring, while Alhaji Fullah chipped in a career-high 14 points.
Presbyterian (6-23, 2-12) was led by 17 points from Jordan Downing, but the Big South's third-leading scorer had to work for it against a stingy CSU defense. The Bucs held Downing to 8-of-22 shooting and limited PC to 39 percent shooting as a team. CSU forced 17 turnovers, leading to a 28-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
Saunders also pulled down nine rebounds for CSU, which outrebounded Presbyterian 41-28 overall and 13-4 on the offensive glass. CSU had a 21-2 edge in second-chance points.
The Bucs put forth one of their most though performances of the season even with junior point guard Saah Nimley, who sat out a second straight game due to injury.
"I thought that was as well as we've played the last month," CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. "It's taken us a while to learn how to play without Saah, but we're starting to get better. I was really pleased with the way we competed defensively and on the boards, particularly being our fourth game of the week. We were active and did a good job making Downing work for his points."
CSU led 39-20 at halftime and never let PC threaten in the second half. Fullah started the Bucs' second half effort with a pair of layups, pushing the advantage to 23. PC would cut the lead to 20 on a Downing layup but could get no closer. Matt Kennedy drained a 3-pointer on CSU's next possession, and the rout was on.
CSU freshman Ty'Quan Bitting was solid yet again off the bench, matching a career-high with eight points for the second straight Saturday.
The second of Bitting's free throws gave CSU a 60-35 lead at the 11:48 mark. Presbyterian's Austin Anderson hit a trey on the next possession to bring the Blue Hose within 22, but CSU closed out the contest with a 26-6 run. Saunders connected on three 3-pointers during the spurt, with the last two coming back-to-back to stake the Bucs to an 84-44 lead.
"We know Will is a great shooter and it was a matter of time until he had a night like that again," said Radebaugh of Saunders, who has been struggling with shot a bit of late. "Will has really had to learn to play defense, so he's committed a lot of time and energy to that, and if he can combine that with his ability to shoot it, he's a really good basketball player."
In the first half, the Blue Hose whittled the CSU lead to 29-18 before the Bucs ran off 10 of the final 12 points of the period to take a 19-point lead into halftime. Saunders swished home a 3-pointer toward the end of the half, and Gombwer capped the first half scoring by grabbing an offensive rebound and dribbling out to the corner, where he drilled a 3.
CSU returns to the Buc Dome for its senior day game Wednesday against Gardner-Webb. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m., and the Bucs will honor their six seniors prior to the start.
"We have to get a good day of rest in and then prepare for a good Gardner-Webb team," Radebaugh said. "We played really well tonight and now the challenge for us is to start doing it consistently and try to build some momentum going toward the Big South tournament."
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