Jeremy Sexton tallied a career-high 34 points and matched a Charleston Southern single-game program record with eight three-pointers to lead the Bucs over High Point, 83-75, on Saturday night at Buccaneer Fieldhouse.
Sexton finished 12-of-13 from the floor, 8-of-9 from downtown, and set a pair of new benchmarks in the first half alone, hitting seven threes as part of a perfect 8-for-8 performance which saw him pour home 23 points before intermission. Sexton's point total was the highest for a Buccaneer this season, as the Chattanooga native joined Chris Moore, Jamarco Warren, and current Buc Mathiang Muo as the only CSU players to connect on eight-three pointers in a game.
"I've seen it before with him," CSU
Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh said after watching Sexton
pace the Bucs to a 5-0 start in Big South play for the first time since
1985-1986. "It was much needed the way they were playing us. Certainly
they tried to take away Arlon and Saah getting to the rim and Jeremy was the
beneficiary of that and just made good plays. They (Arlon and Saah) made good
plays and Jeremy just made shots."
The senior guard's brilliant outing highlighted a scintillating offensive performance which saw CSU (10-6, 5-0 BSC) shoot 55 percent from the floor and 52 percent from three-point range, sinking 13-of-25 attempts from beyond the arc. The Bucs led wire-to-wire, enjoyed a margin as large as 16 and withstood a late HPU (8-9, 3-2) run which cut the CSU lead to six points.
Sophomore guard Arlon Harper chipped in 14 point and six assists for CSU, while classmate Saah Nimley rounded out a terrific backcourt outing with 13 markers and seven assists. HPU senior transfer Allan Chaney paced the Panthers with 21 points, including 15 in the second half as he spurred the late comeback bid.
CSU appeared poised to run away with the contest when Sexton's layup provided a 73-58 cushion with 6:16 remaining. The Panthers had one last gasp at a comeback, engineering an 11-2 run to close the gap to 75-69 on two Dejuan McGaugy free throws with 3:27 left in the contest. Nimley hit one of two free throws on CSU's next trip down the floor, and the Bucs dodged a bullet on HPU's ensuing possession when Adam Weary's three-point attempt went begging. Sexton then effectively put the game on ice, driving to the left elbow and dropping in another jumper for a 78-69 CSU lead with only 1:18 left on the clock.
"I give all the credit to my teammates," said a humble Sexton following his career night. "They kept finding me. I was trying to find some gaps in the defense, I did, and they just kept finding me and I was knocking them down. They were going in so it was a good night."
Charleston Southern jumped out to a 13-1 lead in the game's opening minutes, holding High Point without a field goal until freshman forward John Brown tipped in a miss at the 14:25 mark. While CSU's defense set the tone from the opening tip, it was the red-hot shooting Sexton which highlighted a first-half that saw the Bucs build a 49-34 halftime advantage.
With the Bucs' zone pressure and 2-3 half court zone stymieing the HPU offense in the early going, CSU went to work on the offensive end as well. Senior Mathiang Muo provided the spark there, as he opened the scoring with a corner three and then drilled a step-back trey several possessions later. Sexton began his virtuoso first half performance with a triple of his own during the opening spurt. Harper and junior center Allie Fullah contributed another highlight when the sophomore drove inside and left off to his junior center for a two-hand slam.
CSU's advantage still stood at twelve when Harper hit a floater in the lane, but HPU answered with eight straight markers to slice its deficit to 15-11. Sexton quickly put a halt to the Panthers' run, however, swishing home a three from the corner before stealing the ball and hitting Sheldon Strickland for a layup in transition.
The senior sharpshooter continued to have the hot hand as the first half wore on, as he hit an elbow jumper and then put some more distance between CSU and HPU with two more threes, the second of which provided a 34-21 cushion.
High Point developed a rhythm of its own offensively after its sluggish start, but could not find a way to slow down the high-powered attack of Barclay Radebaugh's CSU squad. Sexton cashed in yet another three from the top of the key – his fifth of the half – and Harper again exploited HPU off the dribble with a cross-over and lay-in to stake CSU to its biggest lead of the half at 39-25.
The Panthers whittled their deficit back to single digits at 43-34 when Devante Wallace knocked down a jumper, but the Bucs responded with a flurry to end the stanza with Sexton playing the role of catalyst again. Sexton sailed home a three-ball from the right corner off a drive from Harper, and then took his talents to the opposite corner, hitting nothing but net yet again to cap the first half scoring with CSU in front, 49-34.
Fullah brought another sold out Buc Dome crowd to its feet with CSU's first bucket of the second half, soaring for a two-hand dunk off an alley-oop feed from Nimley. The Bucs' sophomore point guard then exploited the Panthers defense following an HPU miss, hitting Muo with a pretty look-ahead pass for a lay-in to grow the lead to 53-37.
Balanced scoring continued to allow HPU to hang around, as the Panthers countered CSU's mini-run with an 8-0 spurt to close the gap to 53-45. Weary capped the surge for head coach Scott Cherry's team, connecting on a three-pointer from the top of the right arc. Another Weary jumper moments later kept HPU within eight, before CSU quickly answered with an 8-2 run to seize a 63-49 advantage.
Nimley began the juncture with a tough step-back triple over the outstretched hand of an HPU defender. After missing his first shot of the night on a three earlier in the stanza, Sexton rediscovered his shooting stroke, pumping home a trey from the top of the circle to account for the 14-point cushion.
High Point managed to stay tough as Chaney found his scoring touch, drawing back within nine at 67-58 on a pair of Chaney free throws with 7:28 remaining.
CSU had a response yet again, though, tallying six straight points to stretch its lead back to 15 before taking HPU's best shot and holding on for victory down the stretch.
"I'm just really pleased with where we are," Radebaugh commented after CSU's sixth straight win and ninth in their last ten overall. "We've accomplished our conference goals up until this point as well as we can and now we have to move forward. We have to focus on Presbyterian at Presbyterian because that's always a very difficult game. We've got to go up there and do the best we can do to play as well as we can play."
CSU heads to Clinton on Wednesday, tipping off against Presbyterian at 7 p.m. inside the Templeton Physical Education Center.