No. 6 Buccaneers utilize strong second half to push past No. 11 USC Upstate in first round matchup

No. 6 Buccaneers utilize strong second half to push past No. 11 USC Upstate in first round matchup
Christian Keeling had 22 points in CSU's 1st round Big South Tournament win over USC Upstate (Source: Charleston Southern Athletics)

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern overcame a sluggish first half as the No. 6 Buccaneers advanced past No. 11 USC Upstate on Tuesday evening in the Buccaneer Field House, 71-52.

VIDEO: CSU advances in Big South Tournament with win over USC Upstate

CSU (16-14) went on a 14-2 run early in the second half to build a double-digit advantage over the Spartans (6-26) and the Buccaneers led by as many as 21 in closing out the Big South First Round win.

USC Upstate was up by as many as seven points in the first half as the Spartans dictated the pace of the game early. Everette Hammond posted 14 of his team-high 17 points over the first 20 minutes as the Spartans went up 27-20 with 4:28 remaining in the first half.

The Bucs battled back to tie it up just before the break on Nate Louis' layup with 52 seconds remaining in the half and swung the momentum to the second half in pulling away with the win.

Christian Keeling led all players with 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor. The junior guard was aided by an 8-of-11 mark from the free throw line and added five rebounds in the win. Travis McConico connected on his first eight shots from the floor to finish with 19 points and added six rebounds.

Deion Holmes joined Hammond in double-digits for the Spartans with 10 points in the game. USC Upstate shot 35.3% from the floor and 23.8% from the three-point line in the loss.

How It Happened

  • After a Timmy Sellers layup on the game's opening possession, the teams went over three minutes without another score before Hammond converted a pair of free throws at the 16:37 mark to tie it up at 2-2.
  • Keeling held the hot-hand early for the Bucs with six quick points to put the Bucs ahead 8-4, before Brandon Martin and Hammond answered to tie it up at 8-8 with 14:35 to play in the half.
  • The teams battled through five first-half ties before USC Upstate went on a 7-0 run sparked by a jumper and three-pointer from Hammond. Martin concluded the run with a jumper in the paint with 4:28 to play giving Upstate the 27-20 lead.
  • CSU went on a late 7-0 run over the final 2:25 of the first half to send the game into the half tied at 29-29 following Louis' layup.
  • Josh Aldrich put the Spartans ahead for the final time in the game with 16:53 to play following a three-pointer.
  • McConico answered with a triple of his own sparking a 23-6 run that spanned the next eight minutes that stretched the Bucs' lead to 57-41 with 8:38 to play.
  • The Bucs' defensive pressure maintained CSU's lead the rest of the way as Duncan LeXander capped the home team's scoring with a pair of free throws at the 1:32 mark.

News & Notes

  • Charleston Southern advances into the quarterfinal round for the third season in a row and for the 32nd time since the inception of the Big South Tournament following its 71-52 win over USC Upstate.
  • The Buccaneers improved to 4-1 all-time in the Big South First round and their win over the Spartans marked CSU's fourth different opponent they've topped in the conference's opening round of tournament play.
  • Christian Keeling's 22-point effort was his 13th of the season and 34th of his career. Keeling's double-digit scoring effort was his 29th of the season and 83rd of his career.
  • Travis McConico's 19-point effort was his 30th career double-digit scoring game.
  • CSU topped USC Upstate for the third consecutive game this season and improved to 9-1 all-time against the Spartans.
  • Christian Keeling (First Team, All-Academic) and Dontrell Shuler (All-Freshman) were recognized by the Big South Conference in a pregame ceremony in the Buc Dome.
  • The Bucs ran their defensive streak of holding opponents under 40.0% shooting to six consecutive games as CSU held USC Upstate to 35.3% shooting from the floor and 23.8% from the three-point line in the win.
  • The lineup of Sellers, LeXander, Fleming, Keeling, and Shuler marked the 12th different starting lineup Coach Barclay Radebaugh has utilized in the 2018-19 season.
  • Phlandrous Fleming took over the statistics sheet with seven points, six assists, and four rebounds in 29 minutes.
  • The Bucs outscored the Spartans 33-19 off the bench and 28-16 in the paint.

Coach's Comments

"For most of our team, this is their first time in the tournament. The way you compete in a tournament is you defend and rebound. I thought our collective effort in the second half defensively was very good. These are tough games. We're at home, we're the sixth-seed playing an 11. These are games we are supposed to win. In the Big South, there are never those games. I knew we had to be able to fight our way through. I thought our guys played with tremendous heart tonight. I was so impressed with the way we played in the first half because nothing was going right, but our heart stayed right. Our effort and attitude stayed high." - Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh

Up Next

Charleston Southern has another rematch with Winthrop in the Big South Championships Quarterfinal Round as the Buccaneers advance to take on the No. 3 Eagles in Gore Arena. Tipoff in Buies Creek on the campus of Campbell University is set for 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. The game will be streamed live via ESPN3.