Monday night’s Big South Conference matchup between Charleston Southern and UNC Asheville showcased three of the league’s top guards.
CSU senior point guard Saah Nimley scored a career-high 31 points and backcourt mate Arlon Harper added a season-high 27 points, offsetting UNC Asheville sophomore Andrew Rowsey’s 34 points, as the Buccaneers notched a home league win, 82-75.
Charleston Southern won its fourth straight conference game, improving to 11-7 overall and 5-2 in league play. The visiting Bulldogs fall to 8-9 overall and 4-2 in conference action.
Nimley’s night came after back-to-back 30-point scoring efforts last week. Nimley was a perfect seven for seven from the free throw line, including four in the final 31 seconds as CSU held on for win.
“It was a great game,” said CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh. “I thought our guys were excellent. I thought we were tough. We continued to score late in the game to survive Andrew’s (Rowsey) run and it’s a credit to our guys. Both teams made big shots tonight.”
Charleston Southern never trailed in the contest but never held more than an eight-point lead in the second half.
Harper scored the game’s first seven points as the Buccaneers got out to a 7-0 lead three minutes into the opening half.
The early scoring streak continued for Harper as back-to-back 3’s gave Harper 15 points and pushed CSU to a 24-14 lead with 9:15 to play.
Rowsey got going midway through the first half, scoring five straight to bring the Bulldogs to within six at 24-18.
While Harper took a breather, Nimley took over for CSU. After hitting his first trey of the game, Nimley added another bomb from the corner and made it a four-point play after being fouled, giving CSU a 33-20 lead with 5:50 remaining.
The Bulldogs scored seven straight to cut the lead to 33-27 before Nimley hit consecutive buckets to up the lead back to 10 at 37-27.
Nimley’s basket just before the buzzer gave CSU a 41-35 halftime advantage.
Rowsey hit a trio of 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the second half, keeping the Bulldogs close at 58-54 with 10:20 remaining in the game.
Harper’s two free throws with 8:32 to play gave CSU a 65-57 lead but Rowsey stayed hot. The 5-10 sophomore, who scored 35 points in a win at CSU last January, scored eight straight points over a two-minute span. His 3-pointer with 1:49 to play cut CSU’s lead to 74-71. He added two free throws with 21 seconds left to bring the Bulldogs to within 77-75.
Nimley enjoyed the competition with Rowsey. The pair could be seen during free throws chatting and laughing near midcourt.
“It’s always extra special to play against one of the top players in the Big South,” said Nimley. “I give him a lot of respect. He’s a heck of a player. It was really fun tonight. You always know playing against a guy like that, you have to bring your ‘A’ game and I think we did that tonight as a team.”
Charleston Southern out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 43-26, including a 21-9 edge on the offensive glass. The Buccaneers also connected on 18 of 25 free throws in the second half and scored 25 second chance points.
Junior Aaron Wheeler added eight points and six offensive rebounds for Charleston Southern.