There are few things bigger during the regular season of conference college basketball than road victories.
High Point and Charleston Southern opened the Big South Conference schedule on Saturday at the CSU Fieldhouse, and the visiting Panthers came away with a 51-50 come from behind win.
The Panthers (8-7) led for just over nine minutes in the entire game but led the final two minutes after erasing a seven-point deficit over the final eight minutes. CSU (7-9) also let a 12-point lead evaporate in the second half.
“I thought High Point played very and with a lot of energy, particularly on the boards,” CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “I thought we played really well defensively, but we struggled to rebound the ball. To hold a team to 34 percent shooting and 26 percent from 3 and lose at home, it’s tough.
“Offensively, that’s where our struggles are. We just couldn’t make shots. I thought our effort was amazing. We just have to continue working on shot-making.”
Neither team was especially sharp offensively, due in part to solid defensive effort on both ends of the floor. CSU shot just 30.2 percent from the field, including a 26-percent effort in the second half. The Buccaneers were 9 of 38 from beyond the arc for the game.
Christian Keeling paced CSU with 12 points. Phalandrous Fleming scored 11 points but was held scoreless in the second half. Deontaye Buskey scored 10 points, all coming after halftime.
The Panthers finished at 34.8 percent shooting but hit 47.6 percent in the second half. High Point was led by Jordan Whitehead’s 11 points and 10 rebounds. Cliff Thomas added 10 points and four blocks.
CSU led 25-21 at the half as High Point shot just 24 percent from the field. The Panthers opened the game with eight points in the first 2:15 before CSU rallied to tie the game at 10. The rest of the first half was tightly contested with CSU taking its largest lead of six late in the stanza.
High Point stayed close due to solid work on the boards, outrebounding CSU 25-14 with 10 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points.
Charleston Southern was better on the glass in the second half but was still outrebounded 46-31 overall.
CSU came out blazing in the second half, opening a 35-23 advantage in the first five minutes. The Panthers, however, used a 12-0 run to cut the margin to one, and CSU held a 43-38 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game.
The Buccaneers led 45-38 with 8:37 left in the game but went nearly six minutes without a point until Keeling’s 3-pointer gave CSU a 48-47 lead with 2:45 to play. Whitehead answered with a tip-in, and Brandon Kamga added two free throws for a 51-48 lead.
Buskey’s driving layup with 46 seconds left cut it to 51-50, and CSU forced a shot clock violation to regain possession with 14 seconds remaining. Keeling’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
“There are some things we have to look at offensively,” Radebaugh said. “We settled for too many jump shots at times. We can keep working on that. We have a higher expectations offensively, that’s for sure.
“Credit High Point for making us play at their pace. We had two fast break points. That’s not what we want. It’s just a combination of things we have to look at and work on fixing.”