CharlestonSouthern placed four players in double figures scoring and controlled most ofthe game, but UNC Asheville rallied from an 11-point deficit behind a brilliant35-point performance by Andrew Rowsey to post an 80-76 win at the Buc Dome onSaturday night.
CSU(8-9, 2-2 BSC) led 73-62 with 4:33 remaining following a Cedrick Bowen layup,only to see Rowsey take over down the stretch for Asheville (9-9, 3-1 BSC). Hescored 11 of his 35 points over the final 4:17 of the contest, keying theBulldogs' 18-4 game-ending run.
Hefirst connected on a deep three from the right wing, and added a pull-up jumperwith the Bucs' Sheldon Strickland hanging all over him to close the deficit to74-67. Asheville's D.J. Cunningham then scored down low to make it a five-pointgame, and Rowsey buried another contested three moments later to suddenly makethe score 74-72 with 2:22 left.
Followinga Saah Nimley jumper, Rowsey found Sam Hughes for a layup on a drive and naileda running three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Bulldogs a 77-76advantage with 1:18 remaining. CSU was unable to convert on its two ensuingpossessions, as Asheville completed the comeback victory.
Nimleypaced CSU with 19 points and eight assists, leading a balanced effort that sawthe Bucs' bench outscore the Bulldogs, 45-15. Strickland pumped in 15first-half points off the bench, Cedrick Bowen scored 13, and Will Saundersrecorded his first career-double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. TheBucs played well for much of the night, shooting 47 percent from the floor andout-rebounding a bigger Asheville team, 36-27. In the end, it was Rowsey's hotshooting that provided the difference.
"You'vegot to credit Andrew Rowsey," CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh said. "He playedwell. He hit some 25-footers, in transition. It was just a strange gameoverall. You're up eight, with three minutes to go, and basically he just tookover."
"Wedid do a lot of good stuff tonight," Radebaugh continued. "I'm sure when welook at the film, we will see we did a lot of good stuff. That was just anexceptional, exceptional display of shooting by Rowsey that you don't see veryoften in college basketball."
CSUled 46-43 at halftime after shooting 55 percent from the field in the firsthalf, and quickly built its lead out of intermission. Alhaji Fullah hit a jumphook off the glass to start the Bucs' second half scoring, but it was Nimleythat set the tone with his ability to continually get in the lane off thedribble.
Nimleyhit a three and then drove inside to find Bowen for a layup. He again got byhis defender to draw a foul and convert a free throw several possessions later,pushing the Bucs' advantage to 56-47 at the 14:57 mark.
CSUstretched its lead out to eleven three times before Asheville staged itsdramatic late surge. Malcolm Bernard tipped in a miss for a 60-49 lead, andFullah threw down a dunk off more Nimley penetration to advance the cushion to66-55. Saunders accounted for a 71-60 lead with 5:37 left, drilling a tripleoff a pick and pop with Nimley.
Harper put the Buccaneers ahead out of the gates with a drivinglayup on CSU's opening possession, setting the tone for a fast-paced firsthalf. In a period that had nine ties and eight lead changes, the Bulldogs heldthe advantage in the early going behind 17 first-half points by Rowsey.
A jumper by Jaron Lane pushed the Asheville advantage to 12-7 atthe 14:36 mark, but Bernard drove in for a layup and Saunders was fouled on athree-point try, making all three attempts to knot the game back up at 12-12 overthe next CSU possessions.
DJ Cunningham and Rowsey again pushed the Bulldogs lead back outto five points at 17-12 following his first three-pointer of the half at the12:44 mark. Nimley cut into the Asheville advantage with an athletic layup onthe opposite end and jumpers by Strickland and Asheville's Corey Littlejohngave way to a Nimley three-pointer from the right wing as CSU tied the game upfor the third time at 19-19.
Neither team was able to gain more than a three-point advantagefor a while as the teams battled through six more ties in the half, andseemingly each Charleston Southern surge was answered by the Bulldogs from thefree-throw line. CSU held the 20-8 advantage on points in the paint, butAsheville shot 17-for-20 from the charity stripe as the teams sat tied at 33-33with 3:28 left in the half.
Nimley snapped the tie with a layup following a tremendous blockby Fullah. Fullah threw the layup attempt by Lane back to half court, whereNimley tracked it down and raced past the Bulldogs' defense for the go-aheadbasket. Strickland followed with his first of three consecutive three-pointers,this one from the left corner to put CSU up 38-33 at the 2:48 mark.
Strickland's trio of triples gave CSU its largest lead of the halfat 44-37 with 1:07 to play and Fullah capped off the Buccaneers' offensivespark in the period with a dunk on a backdoor pass from Bernard as CharlestonSouthern went into the half sporting the 46-43 lead.
The Bucs return to action Wednesday at Gardner-Webb. Tipoff inBoiling Springs, N.C. is set for 7 p.m.
"We'vegot to regroup," Radebaugh said. "We can't let this one get us down. It is along season. We've got 12 conference games left. We will obviously regroup,fight hard and play well on Wednesday."