Charleston Southern unveiled its 2012-13 Big South Regular Season Championship banner prior to tipoff and then opened the 2013-14 season with a 130-51 blowout of Johnson University at the Buc Dome on Friday night.
The Bucs made their first ten shots of the night and shot 83 percent from the floor in the first half. Junior forward Cedrick Bowen led five players in double figures with a career-high 20 points, and added a career-best ten rebounds as CSU posted a whopping 50-15 advantage on the glass.
The way CSU executed against an outmanned Johnson team impressed head coach Barclay Radebaugh.
"Honestly, that was a terrific first half," Radebaugh said. "That would have been a good first half regardless of a lot of opponents. The way we ran, the way we executed, the way we moved the ball, was excellent. Our unselfishness, our determination to play the right way was very, very evident in the first half. Hopefully that's the way we'll continue to play as the season progresses."
Senior guard Sheldon Strickland was right behind Bowen with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while sophomore Malcolm Bernard and senior Matt Kennedy set career-highs with 16 and 13 points, respectively.
Junior point guard Saah Nimley controlled play throughout the first half as CSU built a 77-29 halftime advantage. He scored 13 points and handed out seven assists in 13 minutes of playing time before resting in the second half.
"The way we shared the ball was outstanding," Radebaugh said. "I was so pleased with the way we played in the first half. In the second half, the young guys got in there and worked hard. They weren't as efficient offensively but worked really hard. It was a good win. We did a lot of good things tonight that can transfer no matter who we play."
Even without preseason All-Big South selection Arlon Harper, who sat out with an injury and is expected to return to the lineup Sunday at Delaware, CSU did not miss a beat offensively. Kennedy provided the spark early, opening scoring with a jumper before adding a dunk and a three-pointer as CSU raced out to a 16-2 lead.
Johnson had no answer for the Bucs' dribble penetration and athleticism. Bowen beat the Royals' big men down the floor for dunks on several occasions, and was the beneficiary of feeds from Nimley.
Bernard gave CSU a lift early in the second half, hitting a three from the right wing to highlight a stretch of six straight points.
Freshman Bakari Copeland and Ty'Quan Bitting made their college debuts as well, and entered the scoring column with six and eight points, respectively. Copeland chipped in three assists, while Bitting showcased a nice low post game.
Twelve of the Bucs' thirteen players who appeared in the game reached the scoring column.
CSU now faces a road challenge at Delaware on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Blue Hens won 19 games a season ago, and are expected to be a contender in the Colonial Athletic Association this year. They opened the season with a hard-fought 71-69 loss at Richmond on Friday night.
"That's just going to be a big-time environment," Radebaugh said of the matchup. "There's going be a lot of enthusiasm. They're good and are picked near the top of the Colonial and we're good too so it should be a good early season gauge."
The Delaware contest is the first of two straight games against CAA opponents for CSU. The Bucs will host UNC Wilmington on Wednesday, November 13 at 7:30 p.m.