Appropriately, 68 was the magic number for kicking off the 2018 Big South Championship during a pair of first-round games Tuesday night.
We didn’t have to wait long to enjoy all that tournament season brings us.
Longwood knocks off High Point, 68-55
The Longwood Lancers went on the road and, as the announcers stated, played with “house money,” on their way to a dominant victory over the High Point Panthers. From the opening tip, the Lancers seized the moment, playing with furious energy, jumping out to an early lead, 25-7. Defensively, they swarmed with tremendous activity, putting the Panthers on their heels all night long. Their defensive pressure forced High Point into an uncharacteristic 12 first-half turnovers, nine of which were steals from aggressive hands in the passing lanes. The Panthers never got into a groove offensively, finishing the night shooting just under 40 percent from the field.
Longwood’s trio of guards ignited the team on the offensive end, lighting it up from three, pushing in transition, and attacking the paint. Isaiah Walton and Charles Glover led the way with 14 points apiece, with B.K. Ashe chipping in 12. The three combined to shoot 5-13 from three, which allowed for the Lancers’ athletic perimeter to get into space off the bounce and for Damarion Geter and Spencer Franklin to provide some punch in the paint.
High Point got as close as seven in the second half when Jahaad Proctor knocked down a three, but just as the Lancers had all night, they responded defensively, forcing yet another turnover. The win for Longwood advances them to a matchup in the quarterfinals with the 2 seed Radford Highlanders Thursday at 1 p.m.
Charleston Southern runs past Presbyterian, 68-51
If I were to pick the team I thought would have the first upset of the tournament, Charleston Southern would have certainly been the favorite considering the high level of basketball it’s playing. The Bucs are arguably the hottest team in the league, peaking at the right time, and continued to excel at home in a convincing win over the Presbyterian Blue Hose.
Continuing with the opening night theme of the Big South Championship, Charleston Southern put the defensive clamps on the Blue Hose and didn’t loosen the grip. The Bucs led the entire evening, held Presbyterian to just 16 first-half points, and scored 16 points themselves off of turnovers for the game.
With leading scorer Christian Keeling in foul trouble for most the contest, Charleston Southern relied on a plethora of players for a balanced offensive attack. Cortez Mitchell provided the initial spark, scoring or assisting on the first seven points of the game, creating havoc with three steals and an offensive rebound, all in the first three minutes of the game. He finished the game with 13 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists.
The Bucs had two others in double figures, in Ty Jones, who scored 17, and Jordan Jones, who added 12 points, while Keeling and freshman Phlandrous Fleming Jr. both scored nine points. The full-court pressure to get the Blue Hose out of the tempo they like to play was key to Charleston Southern’s success. The Bucs now head to Asheville to play UNC Asheville in the quarterfinals, Thursday at 7 p.m.