RADFORD, Va. – A tension thick enough to inflate the roof of the Dedmon Center hung over its court.
Eighth-seeded Charleston Southern led, 45-44, and Phlandrous Fleming – coming off a triple-double in CSU’s first-round victory – had scored nine points in a row. Just 9:31 stood between top-seed Radford and a quarterfinal exit on its home floor.
Then, Carlik Jones reminded everyone why he was voted Big South Player of the Year.
Jones tallied 11 of the Highlanders’ points in an 18-0 burst that put away the short-handed Bucs, 62-48, in quarterfinal action of the 2020 Hercules Tires Big South Championship.
“He’s a competitive dude,” said Radford coach Mike Jones of his star. “When Carlik has got his mind to it, he’s as good a defensive player as he is an offensive player. He just chooses, sometimes, to be that guy, and I’m glad he chose to do that tonight.”
Radford (21-10) opened up a 12-4 lead to start the game, getting four early points from Chyree Walker. Charleston Southern (14-18) rallied back on a 12-0 burst of its own, seizing the lead at 15-12 on a Phlandrous Fleming triple. That advantage would grow as high as five points, with the Bucs never surrendering the lead on the way to a 29-27 interval score.
The Bucs held the lead until a Devonnte Holland bucket just inside the 14-minute mark gave the Highlanders a one-point advantage. The sides battled until the bucket just before that 45-44 score, when Fleming scored and drew a foul. Fleming’s excitement drew the ire of Jones, who went into another gear on both ends of the floor.
“He got hot, and I took it upon myself to say, ‘no more’. He kind of got under my skin when he got the and-one, and kind of screamed in my face,” Jones said. “I felt it was disrespectful. I took it as, ‘no more.’ He gets nothing else easy. Everything he shoots or takes is gonna have to be hard, or he’s gonna have to work for it.”
Fleming would not score again. In fact, Charleston Southern scored just once over the last 9:31, a three-pointer by Deontaye Buskey with 2:19 to play. The Bucs – who played with just six players due to injuries and a departure from the team – finally felt the effects of a tough first-round game, a battle with the homestanding Highlanders, and the thin roster.
“(It was a) very difficult last eight minutes for us. It’s really, really hard to compete against that type of pressure with six guys,” said Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh. “I couldn’t be prouder of this group. I hope I can convey that in the words I say about them. They’ve played 19, 20 conference games now, and 14 have been with seven players, and two have been with six.
“They have never backed up. They’ve won, they’ve competed, they’ve been in most games, and the things they’ve learned from this adversity will last a lifetime.”
“This year has hardened us more than anything,” Fleming said. “It was just hard that we lost. We can’t do (anything) about losing our players, our guys, our pieces. Whatever we had to do, whatever it took to win, I know we wanted to do that.”
Jones poured in 21 for the Highlanders, knocking down 7-of-14 shots and grabbing six boards. Hicks added 14 on 5-for-8 shooting, including 4-for-5 from three. Radford shot 42.6 percent for the game, and 48.1 percent (13-for-27) in the closing 20.
Fleming followed up his first-round triple-double with a double-double, scoring 23 points and securing 12 caroms in 40 minutes of play. Ty Jones added 15, while Buskey tallied 10.
Radford advances to Friday night’s second semifinal and will take on the winner of the nightcap between No. 5 Hampton and No. 4 Longwood. Tip time in the Dedmon Center is set for approximately 8:30.