CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern gets its 16-game Big South Conference slate underway Saturday against High Point. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
The league schedule leads up to the Big South Championship March 5-10, with the event again employing an earned seed format that incentivizes regular season play. The top six seeds earn a bye into the quarterfinals, while the regular season champion earns the right to host the quarters, semifinals and potentially the title game on its home floor.
CSU (6-7) is coming off a strong showing Sunday in a 111-65 victory over overmatched Piedmont International. Phlandrous Fleming Jr., making his season debut after sitting out the first 12 games with an injury, sparked the Bucs with 17 points and three steals in 18 minutes. High Point (7-7) is also coming off a lopsided win over a non-Division I foe, as the Panthers topped Washington College 101-60 on Wednesday. The Panthers shot 65.5 percent in the second half and 56 percent overall to cap their non-conference slate at .500.
CSU and HPU split the season series last year, with each team winning at home. The teams were two of four that finished in a tie for fifth place a year ago. This October, CSU was tabbed fifth in the Big South Preseason Poll while HPU was selected seventh.
The Panthers are led by HPU alum and three-time National Coach of the Year Tubby Smith. Smith, who most notably led Kentucky to the 1998 national championship, returned to his alma mater following stints at Tulsa, Georgia, UK, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Memphis.
On the floor, Saturday's matchup will feature two of the Big South's top scorers in CSU's Christian Keeling and HPU's Jahaad Proctor. Keeling currently ranks fourth in the league in scoring and assists, while Proctor is third in scoring and field goal percentage. Proctor, an Iona transfer in his second season at HPU, poured in a career-high 29 points in a win over CSU last January. Both players were second-team all-conference picks in 2017-18.
Swingman Brandon Kamga, averaging 14.5 points per game, complements Proctor as HPU's other top player. Post man Ricky Madison paces the circuit in offensive rebounds, and is third in overall rebounds. HPU sports the Big South's top rebounding margin at +4.9.
Saturday's game is the only regular season meeting between the two. CSU will also play Hampton, Longwood and Campbell just once.
Fleming makes presence felt in return
Fleming scored eight of CSU's first 15 points in an opening blitz that gave the Bucs a 38-8 lead by the 10:01 mark against Johnson & Wales. His two-handed dunk follow was the highlight of the opening flurry. Fleming sat out the season's first 12 games with an injury. Last season, Fleming earned a spot on the All-Big South Freshman Team and was runner-up to Radford's Carlik Jones for Freshman of the Year. Fleming was CSU's second-leading scorer and paced all league freshmen in steals while ranking second in points.
The effort is there
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh wants his team to pride itself on creating pressure defensively, and the Bucs accomplished that during non-conference play. CSU currently ranks second nationally in turnovers forced, third in turnover margin and eighth in steals. The Bucs lead the Big South in all three categories. CSU also paces the league and sits fourth nationally in offensive rebounds.
Buskey much improved offensively
Deontaye Buskey is giving CSU another scoring option at point guard. He knocked down a career-high five three-pointers en route to 17 points against Johnson & Wales, and added 14 against Piedmont International. Buskey has reached double figures eight times this year, after doing so just once in 29 games as a freshman. The Daphne, Ala., product has already surpassed last season's totals in points, field goals and threes made. Buskey was just 12-for-40 (30%) from downtown last season, but is 21-for-53 (40%) thus far this year.