Bucs drop home game to Radford, 84-77

Radford’s Highlanders won for the fifth time on the road this season, taking down the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, 84-77, in a Big South Conference matchup of two of the hottest teams in the league at the CSU Field House.

Radford won its sixth straight game, while Charleston Southern saw its five-game winning streak snapped and lost at home for only the second time this season.

The Highlanders improved to 15-7 overall and 6-3 in Big South play, while the Buccaneers dropped to 12-8 overall and 6-3 in the conference.

“Congratulations to Radford. They came into a very difficult place to play and played extremely well,” said CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh. “They were the aggressor from the start. They were the hungrier team from the start. I take full responsibility for us not being ready to play in a really big game. We came out flat and that’s my fault. The Buc Dome was incredible tonight. The Buc Dome was much better than the Buc basketball team was tonight.”

Radford forward Javonte scored 22 points and senior guard R.J. Price added 20 for the Highlanders, who shot 52 percent from the floor. The Highlanders connected on 10 3-pointers and converted 18 of 20 from the free throw line.

Senior point guard Saah Nimley led CSU with 26 points, snapping a streak of four consecutive games of at least 30 points. Arlon Harper and Will Saunders added 13 points each, while junior Aaron Wheeler tallied 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Charleston Southern struggled offensively for most of the night, finishing at 37 percent from the floor. CSU made only eight of 26 3-point attempts. The Buccaneers again won the rebounding battle, 41-31, including a 24-9 edge in offensive boards.

It was a night when little went right for Charleston Southern until the final six minutes of the game.

Radford was clearly the more focused team early on, opening the game on fire from the field and building a 19-10 lead with 12:20 left in the first half.

The lead ballooned to 14 points at 38-24 with six minutes left in the half and the Highlanders led, 45-35, at the break. Radford shot 55 percent from the field, connecting on seven 3-pointers, while CSU shot 34 percent from the floor.

Things did not get much better for the home team in the second half. As Charleston Southern was shooting 25 percent in the first 10 minutes of the half, the Highlanders continued to manage solid shots and opened up a 17-point lead at 63-46 with 12:48 to play in the game.

Charleston Southern managed a mini-run, with five straight by Nimley, to pull CSU to within nine at 65-56, and Saunders drilled a 3-pointer with 5:40 left to make it 68-61.

Green answered with two buckets inside, giving Radford a 72-63 lead with 3:54 to play in the game.

In a last-gasp run by CSU, Nimley hit a pair of free throws and buried a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 74-70 with 2:20 to play.

After a turnover, Harper hit a trey from the corner to bring CSU to within one at 74-73 with two minutes left. The veteran Price, however, silenced the home crowd with a 28-foot 3-pointer with 1:20 left for a 77-73 lead. Price, who made four 3’s in the game, is third all-time in made 3-pointers in Big South history.

Charleston Southern was unable to recover from the Price bomb and Radford sealed the win at the free throw line.

“Radford was the better team tonight, without question,” said Radebaugh. “We were not emotionally engaged in this game, which is disappointing. Defensively, we were poor. They came into our gym and shot over 50 percent. We were not ready to play defensively at all. We didn’t play with the level of energy that it takes to beat a quality team. We had a bad game and Radford was a big reason why we had a bad game.”

The Buccaneers begin a three-game road trip on Saturday at Liberty, followed by games at Winthrop and Radford. CSU beat Liberty, 80-58, on Jan. 14.

“We have to ask ourselves, do we want to be in the regular-season race?” said Radebaugh. “We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole by losing one at home. Now we have to go get on the road. If we can do that, we can be in the race. I think this team is capable of winning anywhere on any night if we are emotionally, intellectually and physically engaged.”