CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern handed Radford its first conference loss after a second-half comeback effort pushed the Buccaneers past the Highlanders for a 57-45 victory at home on Saturday.
"It's a great victory and it was something that we needed," CSU Head Coach Fred Applin said. "We played hard together and we played as a team, so I'm very proud of the outcome."
The Buccaneers (9-8, 3-3) were led by the double-digit offensive performances of Ke'Asia Jackson (13) Alyssa Mann (12) while Rachel Burns sparked Charleston Southern's defense with a career-high seven steals and seven rebounds.
Charleston Southern opened the game with intensity as Burns recorded the first bucket with a jumper along the baseline. The Buccaneers would quickly regain possession with back-to-back steals from Burns and a Mann three-pointer for the 5-0 lead in the opening minutes. Radford (13-4, 5-1) got on the board with a pair of free throws from Janayla White, but an aggressive CSU defense answered back and forced four turnovers in the first ten minutes. The Highlanders closed the gap late in the quarter with a three-pointer from Khiana Johnson off an inbound play and a jumper from Destinee Walker to tie the game up at 11.
Radford was led by White's double-double performance, scoring 11 points for the Highlanders and a game-high 16 rebounds. Walker also put up double-digits with a game-high 15 points and was just shy of a double-double with eight rebounds.
The Buccaneers struggled to get their shots to fall in the second quarter as Radford went on a 20-0 scoring run building a 15-point lead (26-11) at the 2:43 mark. CSU put up six unanswered points late in the quarter with a Jackson jumper, two Mann free throws and a basket from Nayla long to cut the Highlanders lead to 28-20 at the half.
"At halftime I just told the team to relax," Applin added. "I told them to play CSU basketball and it'll come back to us."
Radford opened the third quarter with a basket from Jayda Worthy, but a revived Buccaneer offense responded with an 9-0 scoring run. CSU's defense also showed up for the second half, forcing 10 Radford turnovers over eight minutes. The Highlanders struggled with ball control throughout the contest with 25 turnovers in the game.
After scoring their first basket in the opening minute of the second half, the Highlanders would not score another point until Worthy split a pair of free throws with 44 seconds remaining in the quarter. CSU's Elyse Kiploks closed out the quarter with a trip to the charity line and made both baskets to tie the game up at 31-all with 10 minutes left to play.
Breannah Bretches gave the Buccaneers their first lead since the first quarter with a defensive rebound she would take down court and finish with a layup for the 33-31 lead. Radford ended a 10-minute scoring drought with a jumper from Walker to put the game within two (35-33) but CSU never let go of the lead. Bretches went on to score a total of nine points and six Buccaneers contributed points in the final quarter. CSU would seal the upset with multiple trips to the free-throw line, shooting 86.4% against Radford's 70.6% from the stripe. Burns closed out the CSU victory with a free throw, putting an end to Radford's undefeated conference record with a 57-45 Buccaneer win.
"We beat the number one team in our conference," Applin said. "They are a great team and we want to be at that top spot they are at, but we have to take everything one game at a time."
The Buccaneers now turn their attention to next week as they host Gardner-Webb on Tuesday night. Tipoff at the Buc Dome is set for 7:00 p.m. on the Big South Network.