FARMVILLE, Va. – Charleston Southern built a 22-point lead and weathered Longwood's second half rally to notch an 86-78 win at Willett Hall on Saturday afternoon.
CSU (11-18, 7-11 Big South) dominated the opening twenty minutes to take a 47-27 halftime lead, and pushed the advantage to 49-27 on Javis Howard's put back to open the second half. Longwood (6-23, 3-15 Big South) pecked away at the deficit from there, eventually drawing to within 66-65 via a 16-5 run that Jashaun Smith capped with a layup at the 6:24 mark. Christian Keeling responded with four straight points, though, sparking a 7-0 spurt that allowed the Bucs to hold on for the season sweep. Patrick Wallace's three-pointer with 1:30 left put CSU up 78-69 and provided the final dagger.
The victory, CSU's third in its last four games, sends the Bucs into the Big South Championship with momentum. CSU is the No. 8 seed and will meet Longwood, the No. 9 seed, again Tuesday at the Buc Dome.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh was pleased with the way his club answered after Longwood seized the momentum.
"Credit our guys," Radebaugh said. "They made some really, really tough plays late. Patrick's shot was important and a big shot, Cortez down the stretch made free throws, Christian down the stretch made big shots. It was a good job by our team. Our young team needs games like this. That was the ultimate in adversity. To be on the road and lose a 20-point lead and then respond is really big."
Cortez Mitchell scored 22 points, finishing one off his career-high, to lead five Bucs in double figures. Armel Potter buried three of CSU's seven first half threes, and came up with four consecutive crucial points down the stretch, en route to 20 points. Antwan Maxwell, Jr. had several timely baskets in the second stanza on his way to a career-high 15 points. Wallace and Keeling added 13 and 12, respectively.
Khris Lane sparked Longwood's comeback, scoring 19 of his game-high 27 points after intermission. He added ten rebounds for a double-double. Darrion Allen chipped in 23 points but was just 1-for-9 from downtown. Longwood finished 3-for-26 from three.
CSU shot 49 percent in the first half and made 7-of-13 threes but opened the second half just 5-for-20 as Longwood worked its way back into the game. Maxwell steadied CSU several times during that span, connecting on a jumper to push the lead back 56-44 and a three later that increased the edge to 64-55 with 8:52 remaining.
"Antwan played really well," Radebaugh said. "He made big shots, especially that three at the top of the key. He plays with a lot of confidence and is really progressing."
Keeling, quiet for much of the night, scored perhaps the four biggest points of the contest after Longwood closed the gap to 66-65. He drew a foul late in the shot clock and hit two free throws, and then converted a tough turnaround jumper in the lane to put CSU back up two scores. Potter drained a pull-up jumper and Mitchell added a free throw to cap the timely spurt and account for a 73-65 lead with 2:57 left. Potter added a driving score and hit Wallace for a trey in front of the CSU bench to help put the game away.
CSU set the tone early, jumping to leads of 9-2, 19-8 and 22-10. The Bucs opened 6-for-10 from distance during that juncture, with Potter and Wallace connecting on two apiece. Potter drilled another three and scored on a second chance opportunity to finish the first half scoring and send CSU into the locker room up 20.
CSU hosts Longwood on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the 2017 Big South Championship. The Lancers have ousted the Bucs from the conference tournament each of the last two years. Tuesday's game will be carried live on the Big South Network, with the winner advancing to play top-seeded Winthrop at the Winthrop Coliseum in Thursday's quarterfinals.