The 2-0 NC State Wolfpack take on the 2-1 Charleston Southern Buccaneers tonight at 7:00 p.m. inside PNC Arena.
As NC State ramps up for their third of four straight home games, the Pack will look to improve their record to 3-0. With the Buccaneers facing some adversity, look for State to go up big and stay up the whole game. The two faced off in the 2020-2021 season opener when NC State outlasted Charleston Southern by a score of 95-61 in Raleigh. This matchup is the last before the schedule starts to take shape, as a game against Vanderbilt is on the horizon.
Bucs Continue to Rebuild
Charleston Southern has been scratching and clawing their way into relevancy for some time now. The last winning season for the Bucs came in the 2018-2019 season when they finished 17-15 overall. Since then, Charleston Southern has posted a combined 33-82 record over the last four seasons not including the current season. Losing All-Conference Second-Team Claudell Harris Jr. to Boston College was a big blow to this roster. With that being said, head coach Barclay Radebaugh was able to return and grab some nice pieces to help jumpstart their season.
While they look to be off to a hot start, maybe we should pump the breaks on the Bucs for now. Picked to finish eighth in the Big South, the Bucs have shown signs of life, but against what quality opponent? The defense ranked a putrid 357th in the NCAA in adjusted efficiency last season. The Bucs are only giving up 67.0 points per game(T-138th in NCAA) and the offense is electric scoring at will with 88.7 points per game(T-39th in NCAA). Unfortunately, this looks to be fool's gold. Let's dissect the two wins on the Bucs season so far. A 94-59 win over D-II Toccoa Falls and a 102-61 win over D-III Johnson & Wales. While the competition isn't up to par, there are some extremely nice pieces highlighted on the roster.
Key Players to Watch
Sophomore guard RJ Johnson returns and is making his presence known in major fashion. Currently averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game (75th in NCAA) on 66.7 percent from the field (tied for 46th in NCAA), while dishing it out for 4.0 assists per game, Johnson is ready to carry the team on his back. We're only three games into the season, but Johnson is showing signs of being a special player for this squad. Already bumping his scoring total from a season ago by more than double(7.4 points per game last season). Johnson is a lethal scorer who can put the ball in the hoop from all areas on the floor. Lighting it up from deep, Johnson has connected on seven of his ten three-point attempts on the season. Johnsons is a go-to option on offense for the Bucs and will demand the ball when his team needs points.
Junior guard DJ Patrick started his collegiate career at South Florida where he was not featured much in two years, so he decided to transfer to Charleston Southern. So far, Patrick has made himself a nice addition on offense putting up 17.0 points per game on 52.6 field goal percentage, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. Patrick can fill the stat sheet and make an impact on the game.
Rounding out the three-headed dragon for the Buccaneers, Junior guard Taje' Kelly is the one you want to watch for. Voted to be selected for the Preseason All-Conference Second Team, Kelly is a solid piece for a team that wants to compete. Kelly has seen his scoring total and rebounds increase each of the last three seasons. Averaging 16.0 points per game on a 64.3 field goal percentage(71st in NCAA), Kelly gets most of his work done down low. An athletic guard who isn't afraid to do work in the paint, Kelly is averaging a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game(T-70th in NCAA). Kelly has already secured two double-doubles on the season. These three are the ones you want to keep your eye on. The Bucs will only go as far as they take them.
While no game should be taken lightly, NC State should be able to handle business with ease and look down the road as the schedule heats up.