CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern was narrowly defeated in their clash with local rival College of Charleston as the Buccaneers fell to the Cougars in the Buc Dome on Thursday afternoon, 79-76.
"It was a great game," said CSU Head Coach Fred Applin. "As I told our team, I'm proud of them and how they played and the progress we've made overall this year."
After the stomach flu kept her out of Monday night's game, Alyssa Mann fought back hard for the Buccaneers (6-4) and scored a game-high 21 points. Ke'Asia Jackson (18), Rachel Burns (14) and Brianna Lakes (10) also went double-digits in the contest, and Elyse Kiploks had a game-high 13 boards. All five CSU starters set the tempo early and found at least one basket within the first six minutes of the game.
"It was good to have all the starters back because we all have great chemistry," Mann said. "I think when everybody got a bucket early we gained confidence that we could all contribute to a win."
A confident Buccaneer offense never trailed in the first period and was able to close out the first half with a 35-31 point advantage over the Cougars (3-8).
CofC's Brianna Boyd opened the third period with a jumper to put the game within one basket. Darien Huff connected on a team-high three three-pointers for the Cougars to cut CSU's lead down to just one point with three minutes left in the third period. The Buccaneers buckled down with back-to-back threes from Jackson and Mann, followed by a layup from Burns on a Kiploks' assist. Mann closed out the third period with a three at the buzzer to give CSU their biggest lead of the night, 60-50.
College of Charleston opened the fourth period with a 9-0 scoring run over the Buccaneers. CSU would lose their lead for the first time in the second half with five minutes remaining as Dajah Logan drove to the basket for a layup. The Cougars capitalized on four Buccaneer turnovers, sinking four of five baskets over the next two minutes to take a 70-65 lead.
"Every team is going to make runs and have turnovers," Applin said. "They scored on our turnovers late, while we scored on their turnovers early. The important thing is our team never gave up, they had the heart, and they played until the very end."
A missed layup by Boyd and a defensive rebound from Lakes set up a comeback opportunity for the Bucs' as they trailed the Cougars by five points with 2:25 to play. A late foul sent Jackson to the charity line and put CSU within one basket of tying the game up. Burns would answer the call with her fourth bucket from beyond the arc to put the score at 72-all with 1:26 remaining.
"There are ups and downs in basketball and it's all about how you react to those things," Mann said. "After we had that small spurt of turnovers and missed shots in the fourth period, we came back tough and played great defense to turn it around in those final minutes."
In a game of back-and-fourth, the Cougars pushed ahead with a pair of free throws just before the final minute ticked down. Jackson responded with a basket and an and-one to give the Bucs the 75-74 lead with 48 seconds on the clock.
Boyd answered with a layup to return the lead to College of Charleston, but Mann tied it back up from the free the line with 16 seconds remaining.
Tanisha Brown picked up a loose ball offensive rebound and put it in with seven seconds left to swing the lead back to the Cougars. After a Charleston Southern timeout, Jackson drove the ball into the paint and squared up to get off the potential-tying jumper, but was called for traveling. On the ensuing inbound play, Jackson was called for an defensive foul that sent Nola Henry to the stripe, giving the Cougars a 79-76 lead with 1.3 seconds on the clock. Mann's desperation half-court attempt sailed left of the basket at the buzzer to end the contest.
"You hate losing games like that, but there was no backing down on our side. It was a huge team effort from all of us," Applin said.
Boyd led five CofC players in double-digits with 20 points and eight rebounds in the game. Bolden added 19 points and nine rebounds as the Cougars held the 35-33 rebounding edge over the Bucs. Logan (14), Huff (12) and Brown (10) were also in double-digits for the Cougars.
After five consecutive home games in December, the Buccaneers will return to the road as they head to Western Carolina to face the Catamounts next Friday. Tipoff at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center is set for 2:00 p.m.