CONWAY, S.C. - Arlon Harper recorded career-highs in both points (33) and rebounds (9), leading No. 1 South Charleston Southern to a 71-65 victory over No. 2 North VMI in Saturday's first VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Men's Basketball Championship semifinal presented by AT&T, inside The HTC Center.
Rodney Glasgow, who tallied a career-high 31 points for VMI, fueled a last-ditch comeback effort. The junior guard scored five points during the final 44 seconds, including a three-point play at the 25-second mark which culled the once 10-point CSU advantage to just two (67-65).
Harper then put the finishing touches on Charleston Southern's victory, going 4-of-4 at the foul line and grabbing two rebounds in the last 22 seconds.
The tournament's No. 1 overall seed, CSU (19-11) advances to the Big South Men's Basketball Championship game for the first time since 2005. The Buccaneers will face either No. 2 South Gardner-Webb or No. 5 North Liberty Sunday at 12:00 p.m., live on ESPN2. The game will also be carried by Dial Global Sports nationally on Sirius 93/XM 192.
VMI's season ends at 14-17 after the Keydets shot just 36.8 percent (25-of-68) from the floor and 17.9 percent (5-of-28) from three-point range.
Charleston Southern struggled with its field goal shooting for the second straight game, finishing at 33.8 percent (25-of-74). However, the Buccaneers enjoyed sizeable advantages in points off turnovers (18-1) and bench points (24-6).
CSU was led by its All-Conference backcourt duo of Harper and Saah Nimley, who had uncharacteristically combined to shoot 3-of-21 from the field during Thursday's 54-47 quarterfinal win over Winthrop.
Harper made all eight of his free throws and tied a career high with five triples. Meanwhile, the diminutive (5-8) Nimley grabbed a team-high and career-best 12 rebounds to go along with 14 points and four assists.
For the Keydets, Glasgow was joined in double figures by D.J. Covington (16 points) and Big South Player of the Year Stan Okoye (12 points). Covington added nine rebounds and five blocked shots, moving into the top 10 in Conference history with 166 career rejections. Okoye finishes his brilliant career ranked fourth in Big South history for both points (2,146) and rebounds (962), after he collected a game-high 14 caroms on Saturday.
Spurred on by 13 points and three triples from Glasgow, VMI opened up a 20-11 advantage during the first 9:06 of Saturday's matinee.
Charleston Southern held the Keydets to three made field goals over the next 9:50, trimming its deficit to 27-25 on Harper's three-pointer from the right wing, 1:33 before halftime.
Glasgow countered with his fourth three-pointer of the opening half 29 seconds later, giving VMI a 30-25 halftime edge.
Glasgow racked up 20 first-half points, but the high-scoring Keydets shot just 35.3 percent (12-of-34) from the field and 25 percent (4-of-16) from beyond the arc during the period.
Charleston Southern also struggled at the offensive end in the first half, connecting on 24.4 percent (10-of-41) of its field goals and 20 percent (2-of-10) of its triples. Harper accounted for both of the Buccaneers' first-half three-pointers as part of a 12-point stanza.
CSU's first lead of the game came with 16:32 left in the second half, when two Harper free throws made it 33-32. That was part of an 11-0 run by the Buccaneers, which culminated with Nimley's driving layup which extended the lead to 39-32 at 15:05.
VMI battled back to within 45-44 on Covington's putback with 12:50 on the clock. But the Buccaneers quickly regained control and rebuilt a double-digit lead (57-47) when Harper drilled another triple at the 8:55 mark.
Glasgow scored five points during the Keydets' ensuing 7-0 surge, making it a 57-54 game with a three-point play at 5:54.
Nimley and Harper then made three-pointers on Charleston Southern's next two offensive possessions, pushing the lead back out to nine (63-54) with 4:52 to play and setting the stage for VMI's final effort at a comeback.
VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
"We did a good job guarding for the game. To hold them to 71 is a pretty good day's work. But, we were horrible offensively.
"I thought we were in pretty good shape (at half). It is (was) a game of runs. We had done such a good job of making them grind. I was pleased at the way our guys fought. At the end we fouled the right guys. They had some role players that played really well. (Matt) Kennedy's five points were huge."
Charleston Southern Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh
"We were the tale of two halves today. I told them at the half that we were going to win this game because we couldn't play any worse. We had a chance to drop way down, but we kept our poise and didn't take any bad long shots. I am proud of our effort. They were champions on the court today.
"This has been a growth process for our program to get back to the finals. There is one reason that we are back in the finals. We have better players. This is a natural progression for us. It's an honor for us to represent Charleston Southern and the Big South Conference in the championship game."