CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Charleston Southern Buccaneers saw unbeaten Alabama break open a six-point game in the final five minutes to escape with a 59-46 win on Friday night at Coleman Coliseum.
With the win, Alabama moves to 5-0, while CSU falls to 1-4.
Alabama held the Bucs to 19 second-half points and 32 percent from the floor. The Tide didn't fare much better offensively, shooting only 40 percent and 32 in the second half.
"We're just out of rhythm," CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh said afterward. We have really struggled to score the ball and that's unlike us. We were 22nd in the country in scoring last year and tonight we score 46 points after scoring 57 last game. We've got to find some answers. I was disappointed with our offense late. It was a six-point game late and I felt like we imploded."
CSU did everything it had to climb back into the game after seven turnovers in the opening four minutes. The Bucs outrebounded the much bigger Tide, 37-36 and had 15 offensive boards, but the story remained the same. CSU couldn't get the ball to fall, connecting on 7-of-21 from three-point range.
The difference in the game was Tide guard Trevor Releford. Releford led all scorers with 22 points and had 15 in the first half to give the Tide a nine-point halftime lead. He finished 5-of-8 from three-point range.
The Tide forced 17 turnovers and had a 30-18 advantage in points in the paint, almost the exact difference in the final margin.
"Alabama is a well-coached team that plays extremely hard," Radebaugh added. "They play the game the right way and did what they had to win."
CSU starts a three-game home stand on Wednesday night against the College of Charleston, before hosting Barber Scotia on Dec. 1 and The Citadel on Dec. 4. CSU doesn't take another road trip for 25 days as the Bucs offense tries to get well at home.
"This should be a great opportunity for our University and for Charleston," Radebaugh said of his Wednesday night matchup with the Cougars. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for their program. It's a game we're looking forward to and I know they are looking forward to."
Alabama raced to a 9-0 start as CSU struggled early to find good looks against the Tide's zone defense. Alabama converted six early turnovers into to nine points to build a quick lead.
CSU's Paul Gombwer ended the run with a hook shot in the lane to give the Bucs their first bucket with 16:04 to play in the opening half.
Senior Mathiang Muo would score the Bucs' next six points, connecting on his first two three-point attempt on the night to cut the Tide lead to 13-8. A jumper by Nimley pulled the Bucs to within three at 13-10 with 11:53 to play in the half.
The Bucs extended their run as CSU began to force Alabama into tough shots deep on the shot clock. The Bucs held the Tide without a point for over five minutes. A layup on an offensive putback by Nick Jacobs ended the streak, but not before CSU grabbed its first lead.
CSU took an 18-13 lead as Gombwer knocked down back-to-back three pointers and Harper finished a leaner on a feed from Bowen to give the Bucs their first lead at the end of the 18-4.
The Tide answered back as Alabama's size started creating opportunities down low. The Tide's Devonta Pollard scored on a turnaround jumper in the lane to cap a 9-0 run as Alabama regained the lead 22-18 following a 9-0 run.
Nimley and freshman Malcolm Bernard continued the Bucs' three-point barrage in the first half to cut the lead to one at the 3:22 mark in the first half at 25-24.
The Bucs regained the lead on a steal on the baseline by Harper and a run out to Bernard for a layup to give the Bucs a 27-26 lead.
Reigning SEC Player of the Week Trevor Releford took over the final minutes of the first half as Alabama exploded on a 10-0 to close the half. The junior drained back-to-back threes, including one as the first half clock expired as the Tide built a 36-27 lead into the locker room.
CSU countered 10 first half turnovers with a 6-of-11 effort from behind the arc in the first half, but Releford's 15 point in the half were the difference.
CSU held Alabama scoreless for 5:38 to open the second half, but couldn't solve the Tide defensively. A steal-and-score by Jeremy Sexton cut the lead to 36-32 at the 14:30 mark, but a three-pointer by Levi Randolph ended the Tide's drought and pushed the lead to 39-32.
The Bucs would stay close, cutting the lead to seven on a pair of technical free throws and a layup by Cedrick Bowen to make it 47-41 with just under six minutes to play, but the Tide held the Bucs scoreless over the next three minutes to build their lead to 55-41.
Nimley and Gombwer led CSU with 10 points each, while Muo added eight. Gombwer led the team with seven boards.
Levi Randolph added 10 points for Alabama and ENgstrom led the Tide with eight rebounds.
The Bucs return home on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Buc Dome against College of Charleston.