MEC Quarterfinal UC vs FSU  SDO 20170303 (copy)

University of Charleston guard Keir Anderson (1) leads the Golden Eagles into Saturday’s regular-season-ending showdown with West Virginia State.

University of Charleston coach Dwaine Osborne has been challenging Keir Anderson to rise to the occasion since the start of the season.

On a Golden Eagles team that entered the 2017-18 season full of newcomers, Anderson was one of just a handful of players on the roster returning from last season’s group. He was expected to carry the burden of being the team’s likely go-to option.

“I’ve challenged Keir a lot and I’m proud of him because I’m on him pretty good a lot because he’s such a talented kid with a ton of potential,” Osborne said. “I get on him more than probably anyone on this team, and he’s taken it and has responded well.”

That challenge is as strong as ever now, as UC prepares to end the regular season and head into the Mountain East Conference tournament. Just a game away from entering the point where it’s win or go home, Anderson knows his days in the college ranks are numbered, and he wants to keep his time at Charleston going. Anderson believes the Golden Eagles, winners of two of their last three, are trending in the right direction.

“It’s been a challenge because I’ve never really been in a big leadership role before now and we had so many new players on this team,” Anderson said. “I’m a transfer myself, and I think guys like Jordan Smith, who is our only four-year guy, have been great in kind of teaching me about leading. I feel like we’ve been able to get it together and are doing good things.”

The native of Buffalo, New York, continued to be an efficient backcourt presence for Charleston in Wednesday’s win over UVa-Wise. Anderson made 6 of 10 shots from the field to finish the night with 15 points along with a team-high nine rebounds.

In his last three games, Anderson has made 53 percent of his attempts from the field. He’s also at 53-percent shooting for the season, which is better than any guard in the Mountain East Conference.

What makes the biggest difference in Anderson’s mind is that he doesn’t have to do it alone. Sure, he knows UC can count on him when he’s needed, but he has players alongside him like Lamont McManus, Austin Howard, Shaq Speights and several others who have been able to step up in big moments.

“Scoring the ball has always been natural for me, so I feel confident when I have the ball in my hands, especially late in a game,” Anderson said. “But it’s really nice that we have a good group of guys on this team who can all step up and get buckets when they get the chance. [Against UVa-Wise] Lamont McManus had a big game. Austin Howard can score it a lot, so can a bunch of others who can get hot. We’ve got a good balance.”

Saturday’s game against West Virginia State likely will determine which team will get a first-round bye in next week’s MEC tournament. For a team like Charleston that believes it still has plenty to prove and a lot left to accomplish, it’s another chance to prove the Golden Eagles are able to take care of business.

“We’ve had some rough patches throughout the year, but all of that has been to prepare us for right now and get us ready for the tournament,” Anderson said. “We’re trending upward right now so we’re feeling really good about where we’re at. This is when you want to be moving in the right direction the most.”

Contact Michael Carvelli at 304-348-4810 or michael.carvelli@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @carvelli3.