CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern hosts USC Upstate Saturday in a 5:30 p.m. tipoff at the Buc Dome. The Bucs are looking for their second consecutive win before hitting the road to take on Abilene Christian on Tuesday.
*Tailgate on the Lawn: CSU students and Buc Club members are invited to a pre-game tailgate in front of the Buc Dome, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
After playing a Florida State team ranked in several preseason top-25's and an overmatched Columbia International squad, USC Upstate figures to offer CSU a truer gauge of where it stands early in the year. The Spartans compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference and come off a 73-57 loss to UNC Asheville at home on Thursday. Upstate led the game by eight in the second half before succumbing to a 32-9 game-ending run.
"Upstate is a very athletic team that will challenge us," said CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh. "We've done some encouraging things in our first two games but we need to avoid lulls and play a full 40 minutes. We're excited to have another opportunity to improve and look forward to feeding off the energy in the Buc Dome."
Along with the home-and-home with Abilene Christian and the Dec. 13 trip to VMI, the Upstate game should give CSU a good feel for what lies ahead in Big South play. USC Upstate is led by 15th-year head coach Eddie Payne and went 10-22 a year ago. Guards Deion Holmes (15.3 PPG) and Mike Cunningham (13.3 PPG) pace Upstate in scoring. The Spartans have struggled to defend the three-point shot, allowing 28 made treys at a 41 percent clip.
The contest marks the first meeting between the two programs since the 1979-80 season. The Bucs hold a 5-0 advantage in the series.
DEFENSE PROPELS CSU IN HOME OPENER
CSU held Columbia International to 38 percent shooting and forced 23 turnovers to roll to a 90-53 win on Tuesday. The Bucs held the Rams scoreless for 7:13 during a 19-0 first half run that opened up a 26-7 lead. A CIU scoring drought of nearly five minutes early in the second half enabled CSU to push an 18-point halftime led to 35. The advantage eventually reached as many as 42. The Bucs overwhelmed the Rams, recording a 23-4 edge in second chance points thanks to a 49-28 rebounding advantage. CSU also tallied 32 points off turnovers.
KEELING PLAYING LEADING ROLE
CSU freshman Christian Keeling led the team in scoring on the Canadian tour this summer and has thus far picked up where he left off. Keeling tallied 16 points last week at Florida State and added 19 more against Columbia International. He is shooting nearly 54 percent from the floor. He is also CSU's second-leading rebounder through two games. Keeling was named 2015-16 Georgia Basketball Player of the Year by the Augusta Chronicle.
MARTIN PROVIDING BOOST OFF THE BENCH
CSU junior Jamar Martin is the Bucs' second leading scorer and has contributed 12 points in each game. Martin buried four three-pointers against Florida State and added two more in the CIU win. He also leads CSU with five steals, and secured three of the Bucs' 13 to key the pressure-filled effort against CIU. Martin was a First-Team All-Region XIV pick last year at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.