Charleston Southern tied a school record with 17 made 3-pointers and improved to 8-1 at home this season, notching an 80-58 win over visiting Liberty University in Big South Conference action on Wednesday night.
The Buccaneers, 9-7 and 3-2 in league play, improved to 62-17 at home since 2009, including a 35-12 record in Big South games.
Seniors Saah Nimley and Will Saunders each connected on seven 3-pointers with Nimley posting a career-high 30 points. Saunders finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds and improved to 23 of 44 from beyond the arc in CSU’s five conference games.
“Our movement and our unselfishness were terrific tonight,” CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “Overall, it was a very solid performance, particularly in the second half. This is a win that we can certainly build on. Tonight we made shots.”
Nimley’s big night started early as the senior scored CSU’s first 11 points as the Buccaneers opened up a 14-3 lead with less than seven minutes gone in the half.
Liberty (6-12, 0-5) was able to trim the margin to three at 24-21 with 3:50 to play before the Buccaneers closed the half on a 10-5 run for a 34-26 halftime advantage.
Nimley finished the half with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, and seven of CSU’s 10 first-half field goals came from beyond the arc.
The Bucs opened the second half missing their first six shots in the first four minutes but missed very few shots over the last 16 minutes.
Led by Saunders and Nimley, CSU connected on 10 of 15 shots from beyond the arc in opening up a 66-44 lead after Saunders made consecutive treys with 6:06 remaining in the game.
“If Saah Nimley is not among the elite point guards in the country, it won’t take long to call roll,” said Radebaugh of Nimley. “He didn’t even play basketball for six months and he’s really just rounding into shape. He is playing as well as any player in this league right now.”
Nimley is averaging 22.8 points per game over five league games and has been able to take advantage of some slight changes offensively in recent games.
“I have to credit my teammates for creating a lot of opportunities for me tonight,” said Nimley. “Every shot I hit, I think, came off a ball screen or a kick out so the other guys deserve a lot of credit.
“We have changed our scheme a little bit to give me more open shots and I have to knock them down. We’re adjusting well to the new system as a team.”
Senior guard Arlon Harper also reached double figures for Charleston Southern, adding 12 points.
Liberty, which committed 22 turnovers, was led in scoring by Peter Moller’s 12 points. Theo Johnson added 10 points and 10 boards for the Flames, who dropped to 0-7 on the road this season.
The Flames were without leading scorer Tomasz Gielo, who averages 12 points per game, and Joe Retic, who averages 5.7 assists.
“Obviously, playing without two of their top players is tough. We know what that’s like with what we went through last season. Liberty played very hard though.”
Charleston Southern visits Presbyterian on Saturday night, to be followed by three consecutive home games.
“Tonight was 1/18th of our schedule and there is no possible way we will overlook in opponent in this league,” said Radebaugh. “They are well-coached and they are playing well. It will be a game that we will have to play very well to have a chance to win.”