Charleston Southern’s home court, affectionately known as the “Buc Dome”, has become the place to be for dramatic endings and exciting basketball during the Big South Conference schedule.
CSU, unfortunately, has ended up on the wrong end of three exciting contests, the third coming on Thursday night in a 76-72 loss to Winthrop.
The loss ended CSU’s three-game winning streak and dropped the Buccaneers to 4-5 in league play and 10-12 overall. The visiting Eagles snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 7-3 in conference play and 15-8 overall.
CSU’s other two conference losses at home came by one point.
Freshman Dontrell Shuler paced CSU with 16 points, while Phlandrous Fleming added 14 off the bench. Nate Louis scored 12 and Travis McConico chipped in 10 points for the Bucs, who shot 41.7 percent from the floor. CSU made 8 of 26 from three-point range.
Josh Ferguson and Charles Falden led the Eagles with 17 points each. The Eagles lead the nation in 3-pointers and nailed 13 in the game, including eight in the second half. Winthrop shot 47.6 percent from the field, hitting 55 percent in the second half.
“Winthrop is a good team and played very hard,” CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “Congratulations to them. They really stretch you defensively and they shoot the ball well.”
CSU held a 27-18 lead with 5:32 left in the first half but the Eagles tied the game at 28 before CSU took a 35-33 lead at the break.
Winthrop opened the second half on a 25-14 run and led 62-52 with 6:57 left in the game.
“I thought the second half defensively, the effort got a little out of balance and we got tired,” Radebaugh said. “If you make one defensive mistake, they make you pay for it. I thought our effort was an A, our attitude was an A, and our execution was maybe a C-plus. Their shooting percentage in the second half was certainly too high for us to win.”
Trailing by 16 at 73-57 with 3:53 left in the game, CSU forced Winthrop into turnovers on six consecutive possessions and did not allow a field goal over the final 3:53 to put themselves in position to pull off a late upset.
“I thought the last three or four minutes, we showed a tremendous amount of courage and effort to never quit,” Radebaugh said. “I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win it late.”
Shuler’s steal and layup with 2:20 remaining cut the lead to 73-66 and his jumper a minute later made it 75-70. Keeling hit a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left to bring the Bucs to within three at 75-72, but Bjorn Broman made a free throw for the final margin. Broman’s three free throws in the final 1:28 were Winthrop’s only points down the stretch.
“We have seven more games and still a chance to have a great year,” Radebaugh said. “We will see what happens. I am excited about this group and how hard we fought to try to win this game.”
The Buccaneers visit UNC Asheville for a 2:30 tip on Saturday.