Cullowhee, N.C. – Charleston Southern was unable to keep the momentum going in overtime as the Buccaneers fell at Western Carolina, 58-53, in CSU's final game of the 2016 calendar year.
Ke'Asia Jackson scored a career-high 29 points, with 11 coming in the fourth quarter to keep the Buccaneers in the ball game against the Catamounts. She sent the game into overtime after sinking a jumper with just 10 seconds remaining.
"Keke came up big for us today," said CSU Head Coach Fred Applin. "She put the team first and just played CSU basketball. It was a tough road loss. We didn't shoot the ball well in the first half. I was proud that we were able to go into halftime only down by two points."
The Buccaneers (6-5) got off to a rough start, recording just five points in the first ten minutes of the game and sending the Catamounts (5-10) to the charity line twice.
WCU opened the second quarter with a five-point lead that quickly turned to nine after a 4-0 scoring run. Alyssa Mann ended the Catamount's streak with a layup, but WCU answered back with a bucket. In the play that followed, Jontay Mitchem took possession away from the Bucs and converted her fourth steal of the game into a basket to give WCU their first and only double-digit lead in the contest.
Trailing 18-7 at the 7:31 mark, CSU was able to find momentum with a pair of jumpers from Nayla Long, a bucket from beyond the arc from Breannah Bretches and three baskets from Jackson to cut the Catamounts' lead down to 22-20 at the end of the half.
CSU struggled from the stripe during the first half, shooting 1-6 (16.7%) against WCU's 5-6 (83.3%). While the Buccaneers had less first-half turnovers than the Catamounts (11-16), they were only able to find nine of 25 bucket attempts in the first half, shooting 36.0% from the floor and just 14.3% from beyond the arc.
Jackson tied up the game at 22-22 with the first basket of the third quarter. After WCU responded with a layup, the sophomore standout evened the score at 24 with a pair of free throws. Jackson shot 87.5% (7-8) from the stripe, finding six of those seven baskets from the charity stripe in the third quarter.
WCU high-scorer Raziyah Farrington was hot from beyond the arc in the third quarter, draining three baskets for nine of her 17 total points for the Catamounts. Kyia Hough (11) and Sherae Bonner (10) also recorded double-digits in the 58-53 victory.
After scoring the tying point twice in the third quarter, Jackson was able to give CSU its first lead (34-33) heading into the final ten minutes. Brianna Lakes opened the fourth quarter at the charity line and split a pair of free throws to give the Buccaneers a two-point lead.
WCU's Nikki Johnson took the momentum back with a three-pointer, followed by a steal that she would finish with a layup for a 38-35 point advantage. Jackson would tie the contest up once again with 6:10 on the clock. CSU went on to find their biggest lead of the game, pulling ahead 45-42 with a layup from Rachel Burns and another Jackson jumper. As the clock ticked down to 15 seconds, Bonner returned the lead to the Catamounts with a layup to put the score at 50-48.
With just 10 seconds left, Jackson sealed her sensational performance with yet another game-tying basket and drew a foul from Farrington. Jackson saw an end to a perfect 7-7 from the charity line, missing her only free throw of the game and sending the contest into overtime at 50-50.
"I am very proud of Ke'Asia," Applin said. "This team never wanted to quit and Jackson performed for her team. She has grown up a lot this year and is helping her teammates both on and off the court."
The Buccaneers struggled in extra minutes, missing several layups and shooting just 10.0% (1-10) from the floor. Burns scored the Bucs' only points in overtime with a basket and one free throw to tie the game up at 53 all with 2:23 minutes on the clock. The Catamounts went on a 5-0 scoring run, clawing their way to victory with a Bonner layup and two more trips to the stripe for the 58-53 win.
Charleston Southern now turns its attention to 2017 as they open up conference-play in the New Year at home with a matchup against the Liberty Flames on Tuesday. Tipoff at the Buc Dome is set for 7:00 p.m. on the Big South Network.