CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern embarks on the second half of its Big South Conference slate Saturday against Gardner-Webb. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the Big South Network.
CSU (7-13, 3-6 Big South) will look to bounce back from a hard-fought 72-69 overtime setback at High Point on Thursday. The Bucs led by seven points with 9:29 left and had opportunities to extend their winning streak to three games but costly fouls and missed free throws proved too much to overcome. Gardner-Webb (11-11, 4-5 Big South) nearly rallied from a 19-point deficit before falling at home to first-place Winthrop, 72-70. The Runnin' Bulldogs have alternated wins and losses over their last five games since defeating CSU, 79-75, in Boling Springs on Jan. 7.
CSU's improved play since that Gardner-Webb loss was evident again on Thursday. The Bucs forced 16 High Point turnovers and limited the Panthers to 38 percent shooting, marking the fourth time in five games they've held the opponent below the 40-percent mark. Through its first four conference games, CSU had been allowing foes to shoot nearly 52 percent.
Cortez Mitchell, meanwhile, put forth perhaps his best outing in a CSU uniform against High Point. Mitchell scored a career-high 21 points and also added six rebounds, three steals and two steals in an extremely active 28 minutes of play. The Bucs continually put the ball in Mitchell's hand down the stretch, and the junior delivered on a pair of explosive drives in the final minutes of regulation. Javis Howard also continued his run of strong play with eight points and nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. He also helped keep High Point's Miles Bowman, Jr., the Big South lead in double-doubles, fairly quiet for much of the night.
Physical play figures to be needed Saturday if CSU is to gain a season split with GWU. The Runnin' Bulldogs racked up 58 points in the paint in the first meeting between the two clubs, and posted a 34-29 rebounding advantage. LaQuincy Rideau compiled a near triple-double of 14 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to lead GWU. The sophomore guard currently leads the league in assists and steals, ranking first nationally in total thefts. Senior forward Tyrell Nelson, a first-team all-conference preseason pick, had 15 points and six boards in the first matchup. Nelson paces the league with a 56 percent field goal clip.
Following Saturday's contest, CSU faces a stretch of three-of-four away from home. Five of the Bucs' final eight regular season games will come on the road.
Gardner-Webb has won four straight games against CSU. The Bucs' last win was a 93-80 victory during the Big South Conference regular season championship campaign in 2014-15. Prior to last year, the previous four games in the rivalry had been decided by a total of ten points, with two going to overtime.
Bucs' defensive strides continue
CSU limited High Point to 38 percent shooting in Thursday's overtime loss. The effort marked the fourth time in five games the Bucs have limited the opponent to 40 percent or less from the field. CSU did not achieve that in any of its first 12 games against Division I competition.
Career night for Mitchell vs. Panthers
Cortez Mitchell tallied a career-high 21 points against High Point. Mitchell was the focal point for the Bucs' offense down the stretch of regulation and in overtime. His previous career-high came in an efficient 18-point outing against Gardner-Webb on Jan. 7. Mitchell was 7-for-10 from the field in that game and helped spark the Bucs' comeback bid from a 17-point second half deficit.
Howard exerting self on offensive glass
Javis Howard continues to lead the Big South in offensive rebounds. Howard's 3.45 offensive rebounds per game is the 24th highest mark in the country. He had five offensive boards against High Point, marking the fifth consecutive games he's corralled at least three. Howard brought in a season-high nine offensive boards against Winthrop in the conference opener on Dec. 29.