Charleston Southern punctuated its late-season turnaround in resounding fashion in Saturday’s regular season finale at the Winthrop Coliseum. The Bucs built a 20-point lead and held on down the stretch to defeat Winthrop, 78-75.
*Big South Championship: CSU is the No. 8 seed and will host No. 9 Presbyterian in first-round play Tuesday at the Buc Dome. The winner advances to play No. 1 seed and regular season champion UNC Asheville in Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Bucs, at 9-9, finished tied for fifth place with Liberty, Gardner-Webb and High Point.
CSU’s (14-15, 9-9 Big South) seventh win its last nine games came courtesy of a swarming defensive effort and the 1-2 punch of Phlandrous Fleming Jr. and Christian Keeling. The Bucs forced 19 turnovers – 12 in the first half – and limited Winthrop (18-11, 12-6 Big South), the Big South’s top scoring offense, to 5-for-25 three-point shooting. Fleming tallied a career-high 26 points, while Keeling posted 22 en route to becoming the fifth player in conference history to reach 1,000 career points as a sophomore.
Both Fleming and Keeling scored 14 of their points after halftime and CSU needed all of that production to stave off a furious Winthrop rally. The Eagles trailed 56-36 following Keeling’s dunk with 10:13 remaining and were still down 11 at the 4:24 mark before threatening in their bid to win a share of the regular season title. CSU’s lead was whittled to two twice and to one with two seconds left but the Bucs hit 10-of-12 free throws over the final 41 seconds to prevail. Two Fleming free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining accounted for the final margin, as Xavier Cooks’s three fell short at the buzzer.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh was thrilled with the feistiness his team displayed to beat a seasoned Winthrop squad on its Senior Day. The Bucs completed the second half of the league slate 7-2, with the only blemishes a two-point loss at Gardner-Webb and an overtime loss to regular season champion UNC Asheville.
“It was so much fun to celebrate in the locker room after winning like that on the road,” Radebaugh said. “At the beginning of the season, we knew we had a special group and we also knew with these young guys, we needed to stay patient and positive. We made a decision that we were gonna stay positive and that’s the biggest reason we’ve been able to do what we have. These guys work, and they made a ton of plays today to get a really quality road win.”
-per CSU Athletics