Bucs tame Chants in conference opener

Something had to give in Wednesday night's Big South Conference opener between Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern.

Coastal Carolina came into the game as the top team in the Big South in field goal percentage defense, while CSU is the nation's leader in made 3-pointers per game, averaging 11.5 per contest.

Charleston Southern's long-range shooting won out on this night as the Bucs used a hot shooting first half to build a big lead en route to a 70-58 victory.

CSU beat Coastal Carolina for a second consecutive time after dropping seven in a row to the Chanticleers. The meeting was the 64th all-time between the two schools, with Coastal now holding a 33-31 edge in the overall series.

Junior Will Saunders led CSU in scoring for the second consecutive game, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Saunders, who leads the Big South in three-point shooting and ranks 23rd nationally from beyond the arc, hit five 3-pointers in the win.

Junior point guard Saah Nimley added 15 points and six assists while moving into 18th place on the CSU career scoring list.

Junior guard Arlon Harper scored 14 points and senior guard Matt Kennedy scored 12 for CSU, which improved to 7-7 on the season.

"The first half, that's about as well as we have played this year," said CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh, who moved to within two wins of becoming CSU's winningest coach in school history.

"Both offensively and defensively, I thought our guys played very well. Obviously we shot the ball well and struggled a little bit in the second half, but defensively I thought we were very good for the entire game."

Charleston Southern hit 10 3-pointers in the opening half to build a 45-27 lead at the break. Saunders' third trey of the first half gave CSU a 26-16 lead with 8:39 remaining and the Bucs put the game away with consecutive 3s from Harper, Nimley and Sheldon Strickland late in the half.

CSU shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the first half but cooled considerably in the second. The Buccaneers shot only 27 percent from the field in the second half, making only three of 12 attempts from beyond the arc.

"I thought we did enough in the second half to get a win," said Radebaugh.

"We had some open looks but the ball didn't go in. We kept the lead at 20 or so for most of the second half. For the most part, we did what we needed to do."

Saunders and Kennedy hit early 3s in the second half for a 53-31 lead with 16:40 to play, but CSU went nearly seven minutes without a field goal, allowing Coastal Carolina to narrow the margin to 57-41 with 9:56 to play.

A dunk by Allie Fullah pushed CSU's lead back to 20 at 61-41 with 8:20 remaining in the game, and the Bucs maintained the advantage down the stretch.

Josh Cameron's 11 points led Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers shot 39 percent from the field for the game, connecting on three of 16 attempts from beyond the arc.

"We won this game defensively," said Harper. "It was a big game for us, playing our rivals on our home floor. We came out with a sense of urgency and knew we had to play well. Tonight was defense, though. We really set the tone defensively in the first half. If we're up 18 and they can't score, they can't win."

Charleston Southern will play at Winthrop on Saturday afternoon.