LYNCHBURG, Va. – Charleston Southern was unable to overcome a long-held Liberty lead in falling to the Flames on Friday night in the Vines Center, 67-56.
The Buccaneers (14-11, 8-6) were paced by Rachel Burns' 19 points and game-high trio of three-pointers and four steals.
It was a foul-heavy game and both teams recorded 23 fouls apiece and scored 18 of their points from the stripe. The Buccaneers competed closely with Liberty (10-15, 9-5) in most offensive categories, but were outrebounded 48-26 by the Flames and the Flames' held the lead for nearly 38 of the 40 minutes.
CSU could not get its shots to fall in the first quarter, shooting just 10 percent from the floor in the first 10 minutes. Seven fouls from Liberty kept the Bucs in the game and CSU closed out the quarter with 10 of its 12 points from the free throw line as the Flames held the 13-12 lead going into the second quarter.
The Buccaneers had a much stronger performance from the floor and shot 50 percent (7-14) in the quarter before the half. Alyssa Mann got things going for the Bucs with a corner jumper to give CSU its first and only lead of the contest. The Bucs' advantage was short-lived as Keyen Green and Audrey Rettstatt responded with back-to-back layups to return the lead to Liberty. Rettstatt finished the game with a career-high 19 points in the Flames' eighth consecutive home win. The senior guard also recorded a career-high eight free throws, shooting 89 percent from the stripe and career-high 10 rebounds for the double-double.
After trailing Liberty 35-28 at the half, the Buccaneers had their strongest offensive performance in the third quarter, outscoring the Flames 15-12 with two separate scoring runs. For the second consecutive quarter, CSU shot 50 percent from the floor (4-8) with three of those shots coming from beyond the arc as Mann contributed a three for her 10th point of the night and Burns added two more threes for a 5-0 Buccaneer run. Ke'Asia Jackson tied the game up at 43-43 with a jumper at the top of the key and finished the night with 16 points.
Liberty closed out the quarter with a layup from NeNe Johnson and a pair of free-throws from Ola Makurat to swing the lead back to the Flames with a score of 47-43 with 10 minutes to play. Tierra Steede opened the fourth quarter with a drive to the basket for the layup to narrow the score to within two. The Buccaneers attempted a comeback effort, but an aggressive Liberty offense drove the ball into the paint for most of the quarter and took eight trips to the free-throw line in the final five and a half minutes of the game.
Burns scored CSU's last two baskets with back-to-back three pointers and cut Liberty's lead down to five with less than a minute remaining, but Rettstatt and Johnson added six points from the free throw line to keep the Flames' winning streak at home alive.
The Buccaneers now turn their attention to next week as they host High Point on Tuesday night in their second to last home game of the regular season. Tipoff between the Bucs and the Panthers is set for 7:00 p.m. on the Big South Network.