CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern concludes a challenging three-game road swing Tuesday at Clemson. Tipoff at Littlejohn Coliseum is set for 7 p.m., as the Bucs and Tigers tangle for the first time since Nov. 24, 2006. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra, which is also available via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN App. Fans can listen to coverage on csusports.com, with the pregame show starting at 6:45.
CSU (4-6) is looking to snap a four-game losing streak following two narrow losses to North Florida and an encouragingly close setback at undefeated and No. 24 Furman. Clemson (7-3), which was ranked as high as No. 16 several weeks ago, has dropped three of five since a 5-0 start. The Tigers have played their last two games without the ACC's fourth-leading scorer in Marcquise Reed, who sprained his knee in a win over Saint Peter's.
Effort continues to be no problem for the Bucs, who rank second nationally in forced turnovers, fifth in turnover margin, tenth in steals and 22nd in offensive rebounds. CSU forced 27 turnovers, swiped 18 steals and pulled down 18 offensive rebounds en route to taking 25 more shots than UNF on Saturday. A rough shooting night proved too much to overcome, though, as the Ospreys took control with a 15-3 run to start the second half and held off CSU from there.
Freshmen Dontrell Shuler and Duncan LeXander have emerged as two of CSU's biggest bright spots during the non-conference slate. Shuler poured in a career-high 20 points against UNF to bump his season average up to 10.9 PPG. LeXander posted nine points and six boards against the Ospreys, and continues to pace CSU and rank third in the Big South in offensive rebounds, seventh in made three-pointers and eighth in rebounding.
The Bucs figure to need production up and down their roster to spring the upset at Clemson. The Tigers won 25 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 a year ago, and return much of that nucleus. In addition to Reed, Shelton Mitchell (14.5 PPG), Elijah Thomas (12.5 PPG) and Aamir Sims (10.8 PPG) average in double figures. The 6-9, 245-pound Thomas also pulls down 7.5 rebounds a night, and will pose a matchup challenge for freshmen bigs Timmy Sellers and Sadarius Bowser.
Clemson has hung its hat at the defensive end in the past, and is a very strong rebounding squad. The Tigers' +6.0 rebounding margin currently ranks 50th nationally.
Following the Clemson trip, CSU will book-end the Christmas break with home games against Johnson & Wales and Piedmont International. Conference play opens Jan. 5 at home against High Point.
Bucs rate high across board in effort stats
CSU currently sits second nationally in forced turnovers, fifth in turnover margin, tenth in steals and 22nd in offensive rebounds. The Bucs forced 27 turnovers Saturday at North Florida, marking the fifth time in ten games its created at least 20. Six different players have already posted double-digit steals, led by Christian Keeling's 17 and LeXander's 15.
More on the turnovers
CSU is developing an identity with defensive pressure. The Bucs ranked 17th in turnovers forced last year, and led the Big South in turnover margin. After ramping up the pressure plan during the offseason, CSU is once again getting results in the department. The Bucs have forced 99 turnovers in their four victories.
Still a young group
Twelve of CSU's 15 players are underclassmen, with seven freshmen and five sophomores. Travis McConico is the Bucs' lone senior. CSU has also been playing without sophomore wing Phlandrous Fleming Jr., a 2017-18 All-Big South Freshman Team pick. Last year, Keeling, Fleming and fellow freshmen Deontaye Buskey, Ty Jones and Sean Price helped CSU peak with eight wins in its final 11 games.