Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Tallahassee, Fla. - Charleston Southern battled back from down 14 points early in the second half to close within five with 1:20 remaining but Florida State held on for a 67-59 win at the Tucker Center on Monday night. CSU (5-7) forced four late turnovers to trim a 12-point deficit down to 61-56 on a Saah Nimley free throw. FSU (9-3) received a dunk from center Boris Bojanovsky on its next possession, though, and was able to escape with the victory. Juniors Paul Gombwer and Arlon Harper led the Bucs with 11 points apiece. Florida State was paced by 19 points from sophomore Aaron Thomas, while Ian Miller added 15. The Bucs played valiantly against a big and athletic Florida State team on the outskirts of the Top 25, forcing 14 turnovers while mostly holding their own on the glass. CSU jumped out to a 6-0 lead on two Gombwer threes in the opening 1:11 of the game, and trailed 30-22 at halftime and by double figures for most of the second half before staging a late rally. "They're a very difficult team to guard," CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh said of an FSU team featuring a 6-7 guard, two 6-9 forwards and the 7-3 Bojanovsky in its staring lineup. "Their size is astounding. I've never seen size like that on a college team, and they utilize it very well. With that being said, I thought our team played valiantly. We played with a tremendous amount of courage and executed our game plan almost to perfection. It was a six-point game with a couple minutes to go. We were right in there and just didn't make a couple of plays late." FSU appeared to be in control when Thomas threw down a two-handed dunk in transition for a 56-42 lead at the 6:04 mark of the second half. CSU would not go away easily, however, as six free throws by Sheldon Strickland, Gombwer and Matt Kennedy kept the Bucs within 10 points at the final media timeout. Harper grabbed a steal on the ensuing possession and went coast to coast for a layup to make the score 58-52 with 3:21 left. CSU had the ball with a chance to come closer following a Miller travel but Will Saunders misfired on a 3-pointer and FSU's Devon Bookert negated an offensive rebound by securing a steal. After Florida State built its lead back up to nine with 1:58 left, CSU closed the gap to 61-56 before Florida State scrapped its way to the win. "I'm really proud of the effort our guys gave tonight," Radebaugh said. "They were on the floor seven, eight, ten times. We've played the 40th toughest schedule in the country. We were right in there with Baylor and then we were right there in a two or four point game at Alabama in the second half. We've been there, unfortunately we haven't gotten over the hump in one of these games. We've been just a few plays away. I thought our guys played with tremendous toughness against a monster of a team." CSU is back in action Jan. 6 at the Buc Dome as it plays host to Columbia International at 6 p.m. Big South Conference play begins on Jan. 8 when rival Coastal Carolina makes the trip to CSU.