CHARLESTON, S.C. – Abilene Christian scored the final nine points of overtime to edge Charleston Southern, 85-82, on Saturday at the Buc Dome. The Wildcats overcame a seven-point deficit over the final 19 seconds of regulation to force the extra session and earn a split in the hard-fought season series.
Jaren Lewis capped off a game-high 26 point night to put ACU (4-3) over the top. He banked in a spinning shot from the baseline to give the Wildcats an 83-82 lead with 11 seconds left. Lewis added two free throws to provide the final margin, as Armel Potter's long three-pointer hit off the back rim at the buzzer.
Potter paced CSU (3-4) with 21 points, including all eight of the Bucs' markers in overtime. His three-pointer late in the shot clock sent CSU's advantage to 82-76 at the 2:36 mark before ACU rallied.
The Bucs appeared poised to win in regulation, fighting back from as many as 11 down behind sterling second half efforts from Raemond Robinson and Cortez Mitchell. Robinson buried three clutch threes, while Mitchell tallied 15 of his 16 points after halftime. Mitchell's last driving bucket gave CSU a 72-63 lead and the cushion was still seven following two Robinson free throws with 33 seconds left. Jovan Crnic forced overtime with a contested, step back trey from the right wing with 2.8 seconds on the clock. Crnic's three followed a turnover on an inbounds pass.
CSU had erased a 17-point deficit to defeat ACU, 66-65, on the road just 11 days ago. CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh remarked on a tough finish that undid a strong second stanza.
"We let a very winnable game slip away," Radebaugh said. "These are very valuable lessons that are gonna benefit us in the future and we've just gotta keep working. Those are two heart breaking losses at home and we could very easily be 5-2."
"For 15 or 17 minutes, we played very well," Radebaugh continued. "We were hard to guard, played very well defensively in spots and built a lead with less than a minute to play. We've gotta learn to finish those games. We've just gotta keep working and stay positive."
The game featured six ties and ten lead changes. Joining Potter in double figures for CSU were Robinson (17 points), Mitchell (16 points) and Christian Keeling (15 points). Crnic knocked down four triples en route to 16 points, while Jalone Friday was a presence underneath with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Abilene shot 60 percent in the first half to take a 43-35 lead into halftime. The Wildcats led by nine twice early in the second period but the Bucs methodically chipped away with a balanced scoring attack. Ugo Mmonu's layup and one of Robinson's treys gave CSU its first advantage of the second half, 56-55, at the 7:42 mark. Abilene surged back in front, only to see Mitchell hit nothing but net on a straight-on three with 5:22 left. Mitchell showcased his explosiveness on CSU's next possession, blowing by a defender for a three-point play to stake the Bucs to a five-point advantage and put them in position for the win.
The score was virtually even for the first half of the opening half before Abilene mounted a 13-2 run to assume control. Lewis started the spurt with a lay in and Crnic and Payten Nicks quickly tacked on threes to push the Wildcats' lead to nine. Ricks made two free throws to cap that stretch and make the score 25-14 with 8:23 remaining.
The Bucs would draw back as close as four twice late in the half, most notably on a Keeling three from the corner. Potter gave the crowd several highlights as well, with a pair of pull-up jumpers and a three of his own. He shook free of Abilene's Isaiah Tripp with an impressive crossover dribble on one of those shots.
CSU will now take a week break from game action for final exams, before hosting Johnson & Wales (N.C.) on Dec. 10. Tipoff at the Buc Dome is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.