CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern opens its road slate Friday at the University of Florida. Tipoff at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network +, available on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Fans can also listen to coverage on csusports.com.
The contest is the first of three for CSU against power conference opponents. The Bucs come off a 100-68 rout of Columbia International, while the Gators are looking to rebound from an 81-60 loss at No. 17 Florida State. Florida trailed that game by as many as 35 points in suffering its fifth straight defeat to the rival Seminoles.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh was pleased with much of what he saw in Tuesday's opener, but knows the Bucs will need to be sharper to have a chance against a Florida program that has won 48 games over the last two seasons.
"These early-season tests are really good for us," Radebaugh said of the matchup and future trips to Marquette and Clemson. "Florida will test us in every way, and we're eager to go compete and try to execute at a high level. Coach (Mike) White has done an excellent job with his program, and we know they'll be ready to go so we have to match that intensity."
Florida returns three starters and most of its rotation from a 21-win team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 a year ago. Senior guard Jalen Hudson is back to lead the way after averaging a team-best 15.5 points per game as a junior. The Gators are seeking to replace All-SEC First Team point guard Chris Chiozza, who graduated last year. Highly heralded recruit Andrew Nembhard is stepping into that spot but struggled some in the opener, committing four turnovers.
Friday's game mark CSU's first trip to Florida since December 19, 2007, when the Gators were coming off back-to-back national championships. CSU has played Florida State each of the last five seasons, but will not make the trip to Tallahassee this year.
Both of CSU's Power 5 wins have come over SEC opponents. The Bucs upset South Carolina, 85-81, in December 1996 and knocked off Ole Miss, 66-65, in overtime in their 2014-15 season opener. The Gamecocks and Rebels both made the NCAA Tournament in those respective campaigns.
CSU forced 30 turnovers, including 19 in the first half, Tuesday against Columbia International. The Bucs were active in that department a year ago, ranking 17th nationally in forced turnovers per game (15.6). CSU forced 15 or more turnovers 18 times, and led the Big South Conference in turnover margin.
Newcomers shine in opener
All eight of CSU's newcomers, including seven freshmen, made their Division I debuts against CIU. Freshmen Duncan LeXander and Timmy Sellers earned starts and combined for 27 points and 14 rebounds, with both players reaching double figures scoring. Dontrelle Shuler delivered the freshmen class's other best effort, filling out the stat sheet with nine points and team highs of six assists and four steals.