Charleston Southern battled South Division champion Coastal Carolina to double overtime on Friday night at the HTC Center before falling, 73-68, in the quarterfinals of the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Championships.
CSU (13-18) limited Coastal Carolina (19-12) to 29 percent shooting and held a four-point lead twice during the first overtime, but came up short in its bid to advance to the semifinal round for a third straight year.
Arlon Harper led CSU with 21 points and forced the second overtime on a driving layup with 11 seconds left. Coastal scored the first seven points of the second extra session, though, behind five of Josh Cameron's team-high 20 points. CSU rallied within three on a Harper trey with 1:13 remaining and had possession with a chance to force a third overtime. Harper misfired on an off-balance three, however, and Coastal's El Hadji Ndieguene hit two free throws to cement the win.
Coastal advances to Saturday's semifinals to play the winner of the game between VMI and Gardner-Webb. CSU's season concludes at 13-18.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh was proud of his team's effort Friday night and their resolve late in the season. The Bucs began the year as the South Division favorite but struggled through an up-and-down campaign and played nine games without all-conference point guard Saah Nimley, who was sidelined due to injury.
"I can't begin to tell you how much respect I have for my team," Radebaugh said. "There's a lot of lessons that college athletics teach and our guys dealt with adversity and they're tough. We could have won this tournament and we know we can compete with anybody in the league. I just respect them for the way they responded to losing one of the best players in the league and certainly the best point guard in the league. It's been a really hard year but it's been very rewarding. This is a really special group of kids."
Neither team led by more than seven in a slow-paced game that featured 14 ties and 16 lead changes. CSU heated up late in the first half behind 12 points from Sheldon Strickland to take a 25-22 lead into halftime. Strickland finished with 19, while Harper tallied 19 of his game-high 21 after intermission to pace the Bucs.
Harper and Strickland went on a 7-0 run to push CSU in front, 47-42, with 4:17 left. Strickland hit two free throws to bookend the surge, while Harper converted a three-point play on a fast break.
Coastal responded to go up 53-49 at the 1:27 mark on a Josh Cameron three. CSU answered back, as Harper converted two clutch free throws and Strickland buried a tough step back jumper to tie the game at 53 and force the first overtime.
CSU would lead 57-53 and 59-55 in overtime, the latter advantage coming with 2:41 remaining on a Matt Kennedy layup. Coastal scored seven of the next eight points to take a 62-60 lead, but Harper made a layup with 11 seconds left to bring the game to a second overtime.
"We've been facing adversity all season and we took it head on, and we did it again tonight," Harper said. "We fought back and gave ourselves a chance. We were a couple shots away, a couple stops, a couple rebounds away from moving on."
Strickland finished with 19 points and Kennedy added 17 in their final collegiate games. CSU graduates six seniors from this year's squad. Radebaugh will tie Gary Edwards as the program's all-time winningest coach with one more victory.