CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern forced 20 first half turnovers and knocked down seven of its first eight shots of the second half to coast to a 97-65 win over Johnson & Wales on Wednesday at the Buc Dome. The victory is CSU's 12th straight in a home opener.
CSU (1-2) opened up cold from the field and shot just 38 percent overall, but overwhelmed Johnson & Wales (4-2) with its pressure defense. The Bucs produced deflections throughout the night, and harassed the Wildcats into 27 total turnovers.
Patrick Wallace swished through two three-pointers to spark CSU after a sluggish offensive start, and finished with 14 points. Armel Potter tied for the team-lead with 14 markers, and Rae Robinson and Demetrius Pollard each added 12. Javis Howard pulled down ten rebounds to pace CSU to a 55-38 advantage on the glass. Ugo Mmonu was active as well, recording six of his nine rebounds on the offensive boards.
CSU unfurled its 2014-15 Big South regular season championship banner prior to tipoff, and Bucs' head coach Barclay Radebaugh was happy to see his club make progress as they head into a Friday test at Arkansas.
"We played really well for about a ten to 12-minute stretch," Radebaugh said. "Other than that, it was pretty sloppy at times but we're a work in progress. We've played three games in six days and have traveled across the country so we're a tired team a little bit. We have a ton we need to work on and get better at, but we're happy to walk out with a win tonight."
Johnson & Wales' Rickey Porter tallied game-highs of 25 points and 11 rebounds, and got the Wildcats on the scoreboard first with a basket two minutes into play. CSU rattled off a 22-4 un over the next ten minutes, though, to take control. The press was crucial in that surge, as the Bucs compiled nine steals in the opening stanza.
"We were just working and hustling. That's it. That's the key," said Radebaugh of CSU's pressure. They are a difficult team to press because they play five guards and are a pretty athletic team. We were effective with our press in the first half, and that was encouraging."
Wallace knocked down three of his four threes in the first half to help stake the Bucs to a 46-18 halftime edge. Mmonu punctuated an excellent opening half with an offensive board and stick back for the final points of the period.
Wesley Johnson threw down a two-handed dunk off an alley oop pass from Danny Upchurch to jolt CSU toward its best offensive stretch of the night after intermission. Rae Robinson buried two threes from in front of the Bucs' bench to push the margin to 59-24 with 15:52 remaining. Potter cashed in another from the corner off a pretty pass from Wallace just moments later. Demetrius Pollard hit Wallace for a trey to cap the second half flurry and send CSU to a 66-28 lead.
Johnson & Wales ended the game with a strong period of offensive play, shooting an even 50 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes.
CSU hops on a flight again Thursday morning, as it jets to Fayetteville to meet the University of Arkansas on Friday night. Tipoff at Bud Walton Arena is slated for 8 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network + and ESPN3. The contest is the second of four for CSU as part of the 2015 NIT Season Tip-Off.
"We are three games in with nine new players so we are still figuring it out," Radebaugh said. "We are trying to find our rotations and trying to get comfortable. Arkansas is a tough team, and we know it will be a big challenge. We just need to keep focus on getting better within a tough opening stretch."