CSU hosts Columbia International on Monday
Charleston Southern wraps up its regular season out-of-conference schedule on Monday night against Columbia International. Tipoff at the Buc Dome is slated for 6 p.m.
The Bucs begin their 2012-13 Big South regular season title defense Wednesday night against rival Coastal Carolina before traveling to Winthrop on Saturday afternoon. Four of the Bucs' first six conference games will come at the Buc Dome, beginning with the Chanticleers' visit Wednesday.
CSU (5-7) had a two-game winning streak snapped last Monday at Florida State but head coach Barclay Radebaugh's team competed well against a Seminoles squad on the outskirts of the Top 25. The Bucs battled a long, tall, and athletic FSU team down to the wire in a 67-59 loss, utilizing a trapping full court press to force four late turnovers and put a scare into the Tallahassee crowd.
"I'm really proud of the effort our guys gave," Radebaugh said. "They were on the floor seven, eight, ten times. We've played a really tough schedule. 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."
Radebaugh entered the year hoping to challenge a veteran team coming off a 19-win season and an NIT appearance, and CSU's early season slate has done just that. The Bucs have traveled almost 8,000 miles over the season's first two months, taking on Top 25 teams in New Mexico and Baylor, two more power conference clubs in Alabama and Florida State, a CAA favorite in Delaware twice, and solid UNC Wilmington and Western Carolina teams.
CSU has experience some growing pains against that schedule, but fueled by the three-point shot, has continued to rank among the nation's most productive offenses. The Bucs began last week as the national leader in made threes per game, and sit second in scoring offense.
The junior backcourt of Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper – both preseason All-Big South Conference selections – is leading the way in the scoring column but the play of several others has showcased the Bucs' depth as conference play approaches.
Senior Matt Kennedy has been outstanding, picking up where he left off in a solid end to last season. Kennedy set career-highs in scoring in each of the season's first three games, and most recently poured in 23 in CSU's dramatic overtime victory at Central Arkansas. The West Ashley High School product has scored in double figures in nine of the Bucs' 12 games, and has been remarkably efficient, shooting 54 percent overall and nearly 53 percent from three.
Fellow senior Sheldon Strickland has also been effective at both the point and off-guard positions, displaying an improved outside shot (48 percent from three) while handing out 28 assists and committing just nine turnovers.
The Columbia International Rams (3-7) compete in the NCCAA and are led by junior Ben Johnson, who averages 17.6 points per game.