Brief second-half spell holds back Buccaneers

A common theme in a season-long struggle rang true again for the Charleston Southern men’s basketball team as a cold-shooting stretch in the second-half led to an 84-76 loss at Gardner-Webb on Thursday night in Boiling Springs, N.C.

After shooting 50 percent from the field in the first-half, Charleston Southern (9-18, 5-11 in Big South) slipped to only 36 percent in the second-half, failing to keep pace with the Runnin’ Bulldogs.

Gardner-Webb had little trouble scoring, shooting 57 percent from the field for the game and making 13 of 26 from beyond the arc while improving to 14-14 overall and 9-7 in Big South play.

CSU senior small forward Aaron Wheeler was the only Buccaneer to feel it offensively on the night, scoring a career-high 31 points while making 11 of 16 shots from the field. Wheeler also grabbed nine points and was joined in double figures by freshman guard Armel Potter (17 points) and junior guard Patrick Wallace (10 points).

Seniors Dylan Poston and Isaiah Ivey paced the Bulldogs with 17 and 16 points, respectively. They led five players in double figures with Adonis Burbage adding 13 points and Harold McBride and Laquincy Rideau scoring 11 points each.

“We played incredibly hard and I continue to be so proud of our effort in every game this season,” CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “It just wasn’t enough to beat a hot-shooting team like we played tonight. We continue to get the most out of this team in terms of effort. We’re just not able to consistently make shots.”

CSU held a few leads in the first half but trailed, 43-37, at the break. The Buccaneers opened the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 46-45 lead on a pair of Potter free throws four minutes into the half.

The game stayed close for the next eight minutes as both teams took turns with one-point leads. The Bulldogs opened the second half up with a decisive 15-3 run over a five-minute span, moving from a 61-60 lead to a 76-63 advantage with 3:10 to play in the contest. Ivey scored five points in the run while Poston drilled two long 3-pointers for the final daggers.

CSU closed to 76-71 on a layup and dunk by Wheeler but Burbage sealed the victory with a 3-pointer with 1:18 remaining.

“It was a highly competitive game for all but about a three-minute stretch where we just couldn’t hit a shot,” Radebaugh said. “I thought Aaron Wheeler played his best game as a Buccaneer tonight. I was really proud of his effort tonight.”

Charleston Southern will play its final home game of the 2015-16 season on Saturday, hosting Campbell in a 5:30 p.m. tip-off. The game marks the final home game for three seniors — Wheeler, Reuben King and Jabbar Washington.