Buccaneers won’t ‘just show up’

Al Samuels/Special to The Post and Courier ¬ Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh looks on during Sunday's Big South tournament championship game.

For the first time in 16 years, Charleston Southern is participating in a postseason tournament game.

The 19-12 Buccaneers are in Hattiesburg, Miss., for a first round National Invitation Tournament game with Southern Miss tonight, and while this postseason game is not what CSU had hoped for, the Bucs are taking the game quite seriously.

“The NIT will not be a ‘just show up’ game,” said coach Barclay Radebaugh. “We will go into the game with every intention of competing and winning. It’s a great opportunity for our program and for these players who have worked so hard to have a great season. We’re disappointed to not be in the NCAA tournament, but we’re very excited about being in the NIT. It’s our next game. That’s how we viewed the entire season.”

The trip to Hattiesburg was far from easy for CSU. The team had layovers in Atlanta and New Orleans before arriving in Hattiesburg, spending nearly all Tuesday on a plane or in an airport.

Charleston Southern, the regular season Big South champion, had been hoping to be playing this weekend in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Those hopes were dashed last Sunday when CSU lost to Liberty in the finals of the Big South tournament.

In Southern Miss, the Buccaneers face a 25-9 team that came within an eyelash of winning the Conference USA tournament over the weekend, a victory that would have resulted in a trip to the NCAA tournament as well. The Eagles lost to heavily favored Memphis in double overtime.

The Eagles are led in scoring by senior forward Dwayne Davis, who averages 16.4 points per game. The balanced scoring effort includes four other players who average at least nine points per game. Southern Miss allows only 63.1 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the field as a team.

“They’re extremely talented and well-coached in every area,” said Radebaugh of the Eagles. “To win 25 games is very impressive. They could make an argument to being in the NCAA tournament.”

Charleston Southern enters the game averaging 73.9 points per game and is one of the nation’s top 3-point shooting teams. The Bucs have made 283 3-pointers this season, shooting nearly 36 percent from beyond the arc.

Sophomore guards Saah Nimley (15.7) and Arlon Harper (15.2) are CSU’s leading scorers on the season.

Charleston Southern is seeking its first 20-win season since the 1986-87 season and has won 19 games in each of the last two seasons.

Southern Miss and Charleston Southern have played three common opponents this season. Both lost to competitive games to NCAA tournament teams Arizona and Wichita State. Both also beat Liberty during the regular season.