CHARLESTON, S.C. – Armel Potter hit two free throws with 31 seconds remaining, and Charleston Southern persevered for a 64-63 win over Liberty at the Buc Dome on Thursday. The victory was CSU's fifth straight in the series, and clinched a season sweep of the Flames for the second consecutive year.
CSU (6-11, 2-4 Big South) held Liberty (5-14, 2-4 Big South) to 25 percent shooting in the first half to build a 14-point lead. The Flames sunk nine three-pointers as part of a hot shooting second half to rally.
Caleb Homesley's fourth trey of the night gave Liberty a 63-62 advantage with 35 seconds left. Potter was fouled near midcourt just four seconds later, though, and made two pressure free throws to push CSU back in front. John Dawson and Homesley each missed threes, and Dawson misfired on another at the buzzer, as the Bucs held on to prevail and snap a three-game losing streak.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh was pleased to see his club pick up a much-needed win heading into a quick turnaround Saturday at Campbell.
"We're fortunate to win the game and we're excited about winning the game," Radebaugh said. "It gives us something to build on. Defensively, I thought we were better, particularly in the first half. I thought we played with great positioning and energy. The second half, defensively, I thought we took our foot off the gas quite a bit, and allowed them to have penetration which gave open looks from three."
"It's nice to execute late, and to hold on for a win," Radebaugh continued. "We got off to a great start and were energized by our students being back on campus and making the Buc Dome the home court advantage it can be. If we can figure out a way to play fearless consistently, we can keep improving as a basketball team."
Aaron Wheeler scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the second half to continue a run of strong play. Demetrius Pollard tallied all 13 of his points in the opening half to help the Bucs take a 32-21 lead into halftime. Homesley paced Liberty with 17 points, while Dawson added 16 points and seven rebounds.
Danny Upchurch's three gave CSU a 43-30 edge just over four minutes into the second half, before Liberty posted an 18-4 run to seize momentum. Ryan Kemrite and Lovell Cabbil started the surge with triples, and Ezra Talbert pumped in another to give the Flames their first edge since early in the game. Anthony Fields scored a layup off a feed from Dawson to polish off the spurt.
CSU countered with the next six points in its most spirited stretch of the final 20 minutes. Reuben King, who finished with ten points and six rebounds in an excellent ten minutes of action, powered to the rim for a lay-in. Wheeler drove by his defender and soared to the rim for a dunk to provide one of the highlights of the night. He then hit a cutting Javis Howard for a two-handed slam to punctuate the sequence and provide a 53-48 lead with 5:23 left.
The Flames would not go away, as Talbert and Homesley connected on threes, and Dawson nailed two, to regain the lead. Dawson sunk the latter after bobbling the ball near the top of the key to give Liberty a 60-58 lead at the 1:45 mark. Wheeler and Howard muscled inside for baskets to vault CSU back ahead before the wild final seconds.
CSU got out to a quick 9-3 lead, and held Liberty to 3-of-18 shooting at the outset to take control. King and Pollard powered a 10-0 run later in the stanza to send the Bucs' advantage to 14. Pollard knocked down a three from the right wing, and King powered to the hoop for two, to highlight the juncture.
CSU hits the road for three of the next of its next four games, starting Saturday at Campbell. Tipoff at Gore Arena in Buies Creek, N.C. is set for 12 noon. The game will be broadcast across 13 states on the American Sports Network (ASN).