Big South Conference Quarterfinal Recaps
by Jerry Hinnen
No. 6 Charleston Southern 96, No. 3 Birmingham-Southern 76
The curse of the Big South’s third seed continued Tuesday as Charleston Southern upset Birmingham-Southern in Birmingham 96-76 in the Big South quarterfinals. BSC won both regular-season meetings handily, but behind 45 points from guards Chris Moore and Donnell Covington the Buccaneers became the fourth consecutive Big South sixth-seed (and sixth in seventh years) to advance to the semifinals.
For several weeks, Birmingham-Southern’s Achilles heel had been three-point defense, as the Panthers finished last in the conference in opponent’s three-point percentage. Although the Buccaneers hit only 4-of-20 threes in a 62-46 loss to BSC Feb. 20, they took full advantage Tuesday, hitting an unconscious 9-of-11 from deep in the first half on their way to a commanding 48-33 halftime lead.
BSC drew within 13 points twice in the early going in the second half, but Charleston Southern outscored the Panthers 27-15 over a 10-minute period to take an 80-55 lead and put the game well beyond doubt.
Covington hit 8-of-10 from the floor to finish with a game-high 24 points. Moore knocked down 4-of-7 threes to score 21, while Terrell Brown (with 11) and Dwayne Jackson (with 10) also finished in double figures. For the game, Charleston shot 62 percent from the floor and an even 60 percent (12-of-20) from deep.
After starting the season 15-0 at home, BSC lost their final two home games of the season: a battle with Winthrop for the regular season crown Saturday and Tuesday’s crushing defeat, which denied the 19-9 Panthers a shot at a 20-win season. The loss was the worst for BSC in 25 years of games at the Bill Battle Coliseum. Sredrick Powe concluded his BSC career with a team-high 14 points.
Charleston advances to face in-state rival Coastal Carolina in Thursday’s semifinals at regular-season champ Winthrop.
No. 1 Winthrop 93, No. 8 Liberty 52
Winthrop avenged a shocking upset at Liberty in the season’s final week by blasting the Flames at home Tuesday 93-52. Nine different Eagles scored at least four points as the home team opened up a 17-2 lead in the early going and cruised from there.
Liberty’s All-Big South guard Larry Blair led the Flames with 25 points, but shot only 8-of-23 from the field after his 37-point explosion in the teams’ previous meeting, could be said to have been relatively contained. Damien Hubbard finished with an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double, but no other Flame scored more than seven. For the game, the Eagles held the Flames to only 38 percent shooting.
By contrast, Winthrop shot 56 percent and out-rebounded the Flames 36-24. Point guard Chris Gaynor finished with 13 points (on 5-of-5 shooting) to go with 5 assists, a steal, and no turnovers. Five other Eagles finished in double figures, including a career-high 15 for sophomore forward Taj McCullough.
As the Big South’s regular-season champion, Winthrop will host both conference semifinals. They will take on fifth-seed High Point, which Winthrop swept in the regular season.
No. 5 High Point 87, No. 4 Radford 84
High Point senior Issa Konare was named the Big South’s Defensive Player of the Year this week, but it was his offense that saved the Panthers in their 87-84 road upset of Radford Tuesday.
An Andre Bynum three-pointer for the Highlanders with 55 seconds left capped a furious Radford rally that saw them come from 11 back with 5:15 to play to tie the game at 81. But Konare stepped up to hit his second three of the game just 12 seconds later. Bynum missed a three on the Highlanders’ next possession and High Point held on for the victory.
While Konare finished with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, it was All-Big South forward Arizona Reid who was the Panthers’ MVP. The sophomore finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds to lead HPU in both categories. The Panthers out-rebounded the Highlanders and conference rebounding leader Chris Oliver 45-30, despite Oliver’s game-high 15 boards.
The game marked the end of the careers of Radford seniors Oliver and Whit Holcomb-Faye. Holcomb-Faye, the conference’s third all-time leading scorer, finished with 33 points on 12-of-26 shooting, but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers took the rubber match in the season series.
No. 2 Coastal Carolina 78, No. 7 UNC-Asheville 62
The second-seeded Chanticleers pulled away from the visiting Bulldogs in the last 10 minutes to advance to the Big South semifinals with a 16-point victory. Asheville led 42-40 at halftime and 51-49 on an Oliver Holmes free throw with 11:30 remaining, but the red-hot Chants outscored UNCA 29-11 down the stretch to claim their 13th win in their last 14 games.
CCU’s sophomore sharpshooter Jack Leasure was named the Big South Player of the Year this week and showed why Tuesday, shooting 3-of-7 from deep to tie teammate forward Moses Sonko and UNCA big man Joe Barber for game-high honors with 17 points. Three other Chants joined Sonko and Leasure in double figures, including 2005 Big South Player of the Year Pele Paelay, who notched a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double. Coastal also dominated at the free throw line, hitting 23-of-26 to UNCA’s 16-of-27.
The loss ended an injury-ridden and disappointing season for UNCA, which was picked to finish third in the Big South in the pre-season. Barber’s 17 and 7 boards led the Bulldogs.