CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern rallied from a 12-point deficit to take a late lead but Radford persevered to stay unbeaten in Big South Conference play and hold off CSU, 64-61, Tuesday at the Buc Dome.
Christian Keeling's steal and layup capped a 16-3 run to vault CSU (6-9, 1-3 Big South) in front, 58-57, with 2:51 remaining. Radford (11-6, 4-0 Big South) tied the game on Randy Phillips's free throw 29 seconds later and moved ahead for good on Carlik Jones's pull-up jumper at the 1:37 mark. Keeling's long three-pointer fell off the mark just in front of the buzzer, allowing the Highlanders to prevail.
CSU showed grit and toughness to challenge a first-place Radford squad coming off a 20-point win over preseason league favorite, UNC Asheville. The Bucs forced 17 turnovers, out-rebounded the Highlanders 30-25 and held dynamic forward Ed Polite Jr. to nine points and a 1-of-7 effort from the field. Offensive struggles proved the difference, though, as CSU shot just 43 percent overall and 4-for-18 from three-point range.
"Radford has good, tough veteran guys and they made enough plays to win," CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh said. "I was so proud of our guys. That group we had on the floor the last ten minutes or so – three freshmen and two sophomores – brought us back down from 12 and played with tremendous energy and tenacity. I'm encouraged because of the toughness that we played with but we just didn't execute well enough or make enough open shots to win."
How It Happened
- Back-to-back threes by Donald Hicks and Travis Fields Jr. gave Radford a 54-42 advantage with 9:19 left. CSU ratcheted up its defense from there, holding the Highlanders to just three points over the ensuing 6:57 to take the lead.
- Phlandrous Fleming Jr., on his way to a game-high 17 points, sparked the Bucs' 16-3 run with a three. Fleming scored again on a layup, off a Keeling steal, to cut the deficit to two at the 5:01 mark, energizing a vocal crowd. Jones quelled the momentum momentarily with a triple to give Radford a 57-52 edge but CSU answered with six straight to go on top.
- Radford eventually took a 62-58 lead with 14 seconds left but Keeling kept CSU alive with a trey seven seconds later. Following two Caleb Tanner free throws, Keeling came up short on a long three from several feet beyond the arc.
- Both teams struggled offensively in a choppy first half. CSU built an early 12-7 lead thanks in part to threes by Fleming and Travis McConico. Radford countered with a 9-2 spurt to take the advantage back.
- Jones, who hit several contested jumpers throughout the night, buried a pull-up outside the lane at the buzzer to send Radford into intermission with a 30-26 lead.
Inside the Numbers
- Ty Jones did an excellent job on Polite, who entered averaging over 25 points and nearly 12 rebounds per game in three conference games. Jones stayed in front of the athletic Polite throughout the second half.
- CSU's lineup of Fleming, Keeling, Ty Jones, Jordan Jones and Deontaye Buskey sparked the rally over the game's final nine-plus minutes.
- The Bucs forced 17 turnovers, marking the eighth time this season they've forced 15 or more.
- Keeling finished with 14 points to reach double figures for the 22nd consecutive game.
- Jones, the five-time Big South Freshman of the Week, paced Radford with 15 points. Tanner added 13 points and hit four clutch free throws over the final 14 seconds.
CSU plays host to Winthrop at the Buc Dome on Friday. Both teams are 1-3 in league play. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.