CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern built a 16-point first half lead and staved off several ETSU rallies to register a quality 77-76 victory at the Buc Dome on Tuesday.
CSU (2-3) led wire-to-wire, but opened the door for ETSU (3-2) by missing a pair of one-and-one opportunities in the final minute. ETSU’s A.J Merriweather was fouled on a drive with 3.6 seconds left and stepped to the free-throw line with a shot to give the Buccaneers from Johnson City, Tennessee the win. Merriweather missed both, though, and Danny Upchurch grabbed the rebound and threw the ball ahead to help CSU prevail.
Armel Potter led the Bucs with 18 points in his first college start. The freshman point guard buried a tough contested three-pointer late in the shot clock to give CSU a 75-70 lead with 3:44 left. ETSU trimmed the CSU lead to one possession seven times in the second half, but the Bucs responded with answer after answer.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh was pleased with a team-effort that saw three players reach double figures scoring, and three others score seven or more points. ETSU entered fresh off a win at Georgia Tech on Sunday.
“We really needed a big win and we got one here tonight,” Radebaugh said. “We had to scratch and claw and really fight for it, but we did it. We’re a really young team, and the more wins we can get, the more we can relax and just play. ETSU is a team that we feel will compete at the top of the SoCon so it’s a really good win.”
Rae Robinson continued a stellar run of play off the bench, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and two steals. Javis Howard notched 13 points on an efficient 6-of-9 shooting, and delievered several timely baskets in the second half. Melvin Brooks and Wes Johnson each chipped in seven points and five rebounds apiece. Both came up with offensive put backs as CSU out-rebounded ETSU, 34-31.
Ge’Lawn Guyn helped rally ETSU from a 44-31 halftime deficit with three straight threes early in the second half, and finished with a game-high 23 points. Merriweather pumped in 17 before missing the two free throws with 3.6 ticks left on the clock.
CSU led 51-39 following one of Patrick Wallace’s two threes, but ETSU rattled off a 13-2 to close within a point. Guyn, who hit a game-winning three at Georgia Tech, connected on three treys in a span of 1:17 to cap the surge. The Bucs responded with five quick points, as Robinson drilled a corner three and Howard drove the lane to flip in a jump hook.
Howard dropped in another hook after ETSU closed within a score again moments later, and Potter tacked on a three to push the CSU edge to 66-58 at the 9:02 mark.
Potter hit perhaps the biggest shot of the night after two T.J. Cromer free throws brought ETSU within 72-70. He dribbled to the right wing and hit nothing but net with the shot clock dwindling to give the Bucs a five-point edge. Potter scored 20 points at Arkansas on Friday, and has scored in double figures in four of five games. He added five assists, and sports a 3:1 assist-turnover ratio (21-7).
“That was a big time shot by Armel,” Radebaugh said. “I’m proud of Armel. I’m tough on him and he is a tough kid. He’s really growing and we’re happy to see him improve the way he has. Just one turnover against Arkansas, and just two tonight in 34 minutes. That’s pretty good.”
Robinson finished off an excellent showing with two clutch free throws to stake CSU to a 77-72 advantage with 38 seconds remaining. Guyn drove for a pair of layups, however, and Upchurch and Demetrius Pollard both missed free throws to give ETSU a chance. Merriweather drove the lane and was fouled on the Buccaneers’ final possession, but came up short on both.
CSU put together an outstanding opening 12 minutes to race out to a 30-14 lead. The Bucs hit their first four threes of the night, with Potter and Wallace getting the hot shooting started. Robinson then jolted CSU off the bench for the third straight game, sailing home two triples in a span of 48 seconds to account for a 19-7 advantage.
Brooks had back-to-back follows off offensive rebounds, with the latter resulting in a three-point play, later in the stanza. Potter netted a three to finish off the opening flurry and give CSU its largest lead of the night.
ETSU closed within five late in the half on a Merriweather jumper, but CSU came back with an 8-0 spur to go into intermission up 13. Howard, Potter and Pollard all scored before Johnson tipped in a Potter miss just in front of the buzzer.
CSU continues a tough out-of-conference schedule with a visit to the University of Akron on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.