MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Christian Keeling poured in 29 second half points to spearhead a spirited Charleston Southern rally that fell just short in a 76-73 loss to Middle Tennessee on Friday at the Murphy Center. Keeling matched a career high with 33 points and nearly willed the Bucs back from a 21-point hole.
CSU (2-2) trailed 66-46 following two Antonio Green free throws with 11:02 left and was still down 18 before Keeling ripped off 18 points over the final 8:59 to put a scare into MT (3-1). His fourth three-pointer closed the gap to 76-73 and CSU got a stop on the ensuing possession, giving it a chance to force overtime. Keeling’s off-balance three from the top of the key fell off the mark, though, allowing MT to prevail.
CSU trailed 45-25 at halftime and was down 21 twice, but wouldn’t go away thanks to Keeling and a solid defensive stretch late in the second half. The Bucs held the Blue Raiders scoreless for 5:03 during a 13-0 run that almost swung the game in the first ever meeting between the two programs.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh hopes his young team can channel the rally into a more consistent effort going forward.
“I saw a group that made a ton of mistakes in the first half but we were able to gather ourselves at halftime and gave a little bit of a glimpse of what we’re capable of,” Radebaugh said. “We’re capable of competing at a high level, doing the right thing and making plays. We’ve just gotta be able to play 40 minutes and we haven’t done that yet.”
How It Happened
- After two free throws by Deontaye Buskey cut CSU’s deficit to 66-48, Keeling buried back-to-back threes, fed Timmy Sellers for a layup and knocked down three free throws to quickly get the Bucs back in the game.
- Freshman Dontrell Shuler added a triple of his own to bring CSU within 68-62, before MT upped its margin back to 72-62.
- MT appeared poised to hold CSU off with relative ease, but missed six straight free throws late to leave the door cracked open. Keeling rebounded a Jayce Johnson missed jumper with eight seconds left and went coast-to-coast before coming up short at the final horn.
- In the first half, CSU jumped out to a 5-0 lead before struggling offensively. The Bucs were held to 26 percent shooting in the opening stanza, committed 11 turnovers and were riddled with foul trouble. Keeling sat the tail end of the half after picking up his third foul at the 7:11 mark.
- MT outscored CSU 24-10 over the final 10:28 of the period to take a 20-point advantage into the locker room.
Inside the Numbers
- Keeling passed Chris Moore (2004-08) for sole possession of 19th place on CSU’s career scoring list. The 33-point night equaled the total he put up in a home win over Radford on Jan. 11, 2016. It was his third career 30-point game. The Augusta, Ga., product now has 1,122 points in 63 games.
- Buskey and Travis McConico joined Keeling in double figures with 10 points each. McConico tallied all ten of his markers in the first half.
- Green recorded 22 points to pace MT and match his season average entering the game. Four others posted eight points or more. The Blue Raiders shot 52 percent in the first half, but just 42 percent after intermission.
- CSU out-rebounded MT 43-36, including an impressive 18-8 count on the offensive glass.