CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern was unable to overcome Liberty's hot-hand from the free throw line as the Buccaneers fell to the visiting Flames on Monday night inside the Buc Dome, 59-49.
The Bucs (10-11, 5-7) saw their winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Flames as Liberty (13-8, 10-2) connected on 23-of-31 attempts from the free throw line, 10-of-12 in the pivotal third quarter to pick up the win.
Charleston Southern shot 46.2% (12-of-26) from the floor in the first half in taking a four-point lead into the locker room over the Flames. The Bucs defense forced 13 Flames turnovers over the first 20 minutes that led to an 8-0 advantage on points off of turnovers in the first half.
"I think our team played very well tonight and I was really happy with our effort," said CSU head coach Fred Applin. "I told them [in the locker room] that they competed against a very good team tonight. We need to keep building upon that. We came away with a loss tonight, but we did a lot of really good things. We can build on this performance tonight."
Alecia Hardy led the Bucs with 14 points, 10 coming in the first half in pacing CSU to the early lead. She added six rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes off the bench. Ke'Asia Jackson was also in double-digits for the Bucs with 13 points. The freshman guard connected on back-to-back three-pointers that tied the game up at 44-44 early in the fourth quarter.
"Both Jackson and Hardy really stepped up tonight," Applin said. "I've been challenging Alecia to shoot the ball. She is a good shooter, but she has shown more for us defensively this season than on offense. Jackson really brought us back in it. She has really blossomed and gotten better with each game."
CSU will have five days between games before hosting Longwood on Saturday afternoon as a part of a doubleheader in the Buc Dome. The women tipoff against the Lancers at 2 p.m. on the Big South Network, while the men also host Longwood with tip set for 5:30 p.m.
"We need some rest and we are going to take off a little to heal up," commented Applin. "We are going to concentrate and look at some film to see where we can improve. We can build on this performance tonight. I'm proud of the way they played tonight and we'll be ready for Longwood on Saturday."
Liberty held the lead midway through the first quarter as Catherine Kearney completed the three-point play at the 5:12 mark to give the Flames the 6-2 advantage. Back-to-back baskets by Jackson and Brianna Lakes tied the game up at 6-6. The teams traded the lead six times over the first 10 minutes with Jackson giving CSU the 14-13 lead with a pair of free throws late in the first quarter.
Brooke Alexander swung the lead back to the Flames at the start of the second quarter with a three-pointer from the left wing and Ashley Rininger followed with a jumper in the paint to give Liberty the 18-14 lead. CSU responded with a 10-0 run sparked by six points from Hardy and capped by an Alyssa Mann three-pointer to take the 24-18 lead with 4:42 left in the half. The Bucs lead remained six late in the half on another Hard layup inside the final minute, but a Katelyn Adams layup pulled the Flames back within four at 30-26 at the break.
Back-to-back Nayla Long baskets to start the third quarter gave CSU their largest lead of the game at 34-26 at the 7:05 mark before Liberty started to take control of the game from the free throw line. Sadalia Ellis went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the third quarter as the Flames turned an eight point deficit to a six point advantage at 42-36 heading into the final quarter.
CSU battled back early in the fourth quarter behind back-to-back Jackson three-pointers to tie the game up at 44-44 with 8:31 left. Mickayla Sanders answered with a three-pointer on the ensuing possession and Adams followed with back-to-back layups to spot the Flames to a seven-point lead on their way to holding on for the Big South win.