Charleston Southern's Saah Nimley matched a season-high with 21 points and Arlon Harper added 18 as the Buccaneers wore down Longwood, 75-62, on Saturday afternoon at Willet Hall.
Charleston Southern (8-6, 3-0 Big South) didn't have its usual shooting stroke (third nationally in 3-pt field goals made), but the Bucs did everything else well to put together a complete effort for their second road to open league play.
The Bucs forced 20 turnovers and controlled the boards with 18 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded Longwood, 44-38, in the win. CSU was just 6-of-25 from three-point range, and made only two in the first half, but was in control throughout. CSU did not trail after the opening four minutes.
"We did a good job defensively," CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh said afterward. "You're not going to shoot the ball well every night, and tonight was an example of that. We got terrific looks and the ball didn't go in, but we defended and we rebounded."
The Bucs held Longwood (3-14, 0-3) to 36 percent from the floor and just 3-of-18 from three-point range. The Lancers never found an offensive rhythm and stuggled to string together baskets.
"We did a good job on some of their key guys," Radebaugh said. "We didn't do well on Nik Brown (18 points), but we limited everyone else and accomplished our goal."
Nimley's game-high 21 points came alongside eight assists and eight rebounds as the sophomore flirted with a triple-double. He was 8-of-19 from the floor and the only Buc to make a three heading into the game's final 10 minutes.
"I've run out of superlatives for the little guy," Radebaugh said of his sophomore guard. "I love him to death. He's competitive and plays with a chip on his shoulder. I'm comfortable with him and he's one of our leaders. We had some guys not have their best shooting days, but we did what we had to for the win. It wasn't pretty, but I'll take it."
Longwood struggled to keep Nimley from penetrating and Allie Fullah and Cedrick Bowen capitalized. The two combined for 18 points and a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor, with all eight field goals coming at the rim. Both players were 4-of-4 shooting.
CSU turns its attention to defending Big South Champion UNC Asheville, which visits the Buc Dome on Wednesday night.
"We have a big one on Wednesday night, Radebaugh added. "The two-time defending champ. Our students will be out in full force. The (Buc Dome) is going to be rocking. We haven't played great yet, but we've accomplished our goal of a 3-0 start, and I'm excited about how good we could be. We're going to rest tomorrow and get ready for UNC Asheville on Wednesday."
The Bucs built an early lead behind a stingy defense early as CSU held Longwood without a point for four minutes to build an 11-6 lead. Harper had an early layup and was fouled on a three-pointer and converted the free throws to lead the CSU offense out of the gate.
Nimley also took advantage of a couple of mismatches on the perimeter to get to the rim for an easy layup and a nice feed to cutting Allie Fullah for a two-handed dunk as the Bucs moved ahead in the opening 10 minutes.
Harper and Fullah would continue to fuel the Bucs' offense as Harper scored on a slashing layup and Fullah capitalized on penetration by Bucs' guards with another dunk and a layup on an inbounds play.
CSU built its lead to 25-13 on a put back by Cedrick Bowen at the 8:34 mark. The Bucs' defense limited Longwood to a 4-of-20 start from the floor in the opening 13 minutes.
The Bucs would maintain their lead over the Lancers over the high-scoring final seven minutes of the half.
Nimley knocked down back-to-back three pointers as CSU connected from long range for the first time in the game. He added a finger roll on a drive to the basket on the Bucs' final possession of the half to give CSU a 40-28 lead at the break.
The Bucs overcame poor three-point shooting (2-of-13) in the half by feeding Fullah, who had eight points in the half, and rebounding well, with 10 offensive boards.
Nimley started the Bucs fast in the second half with a steal and a goaltending call on his layup as CSU built its lead to 42-28. He added his third three of the day at the 16:20 mark to give the Bucs their largest lead of the day at 54-36.
CSU mixed up its defense to frustrate the Lancers throughout.
Longwood cut the Bucs' lead to 54-40 with 11:48 to play, but couldn't take advantage of a five-minute stretch where the Bucs managed only a Bowen lay-in. Longwood had only three field goals in the opening 11 minutes of the second half.
CSU's Jeremy Sexton knocked down an open three off a Nimley drive, and Harper followed with five-straight points as the Bucs' offense started to find a rhythm at the 10-minute mark.
Another Sexton three with 7:40 to play gave Charleston Southern its largest lead at 65-46 with 7:50 to play and capped a stretch where the Bucs scored 11 points on four possessions. The Bucs buried three three-pointers in a two-minute span after making just three in the opening 30 minutes.
CSU took its largest lead of the game at 71-48 with 5:23 to play on a layup by Mathiang Muo.
Charleston Southern returns to action on Wednesday night as it opens a two-game home stand against UNC Asheville. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. in the Buc Dome.