CSU Tops Liberty, Storms into BSC Semis February 29, 2012
by CSU Sports Information
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The trio of Saah Nimley, Arlon Harper and Kelvin Martin combined for 55 points as Charleston Southern led wire-to-wire in an 88-74 win over Liberty in the quarterfinals of the Advance Auto Parts Big South Tournament Wednesday night at Kimmel Arena.
Jeremy Sexton turned in an all-around gem of a game off the bench, hitting for 13 points, a career-high tying 7 assists, and six rebounds as CSU secured a spot in the semifinal round for the first time since 2006.
CSU built an 18-point lead twice in the first half, but Liberty used a 14-2 run to make the score 41-35 at halftime and drew within two six different times in the second half. The Bucs came up with an answer each time, though, as the Flames were never able to gain possession of the basketball with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Three different Bucs scored during one key 8-0 spurt which gave CSU a 58-48 lead with 12:10 remaining. Martin provided the highlight of the stretch, soaring for a two-hand dunk follow off a missed jumper in transition. The Bucs forced a turnover on the Flames next trip down the floor, and Nimley threaded a pretty bounce pass through on the baseline for a Mathiang Muo layup to cap the run.
Liberty responded with eight straight of its own and was still within two after David Minaya drilled a trey at the 7:15 mark, but CSU ripped off an 18-5 run to close out the Flames. Martin hit a free throw to start the decisive juncture, and Harper swished a triple moments later to up the lead to six. Sexton scored the Bucs next six points to up the cushion to 73-61 on an old-fashioned three-point play as the junior drove the lane and banked home a runner while being fouled.
Liberty had one last surge when it crawled back to 73-66 with 5:08 left, but CSU countered with eight straight markers to take an 81-66 lead on Martin’s second jam follow of the night, effectively clinching the win.
Harper was instrumental in CSU’s ability to thwart every Liberty 2nd half charge, as the 6-1 freshman went 5-of-8 from the floor and 3-of-5 from downtown to net 16 of his 18 points after intermission.
Nimley assumed the leading role in the first half, knocking down his first five shots of the night en route to compiling 13 of his 18 prior to the break. The 5-8 Lawrenceville, Ga. native entered in a shooting slump, but snapped out of it right away as part of CSU’s torrid 5-of-5 start from the field. Nimley came up with the latter two buckets of that keynote address as he swished a jumper and then buried a straight-on three to give the Bucs a 12-2 lead 2:39 after tipoff.
Nimley cashed in his next two treys as well to move the CSU cushion to 21-8, and it eventually grew to 25-8 only 33 seconds later following a Cedrick Bowen put back dunk and a Martin layup off one of Harper’s three steals.
Martin and Sexton were steadying influences throughout, as the upperclassmen each notched their first tournament wins at CSU. Martin missed out on a fourth straight double-double by a single rebound, but moved into third place on the Big South’s all-time list with his first carom and now has 963 for his career. As usual, the senior forward also filled out the rest of the stat line, chipping in four steals, three blocks and an assist. Sexton matched a career benchmark with his seven helpers, and entered double digits in the scoring column for the fifth straight contest.
The Bucs will meet No. 1 seed UNC Asheville Thursday night at 8 p.m., with a berth in the conference championship game on the line. CSU is the only Big South team to defeat Asheville on its home court this season, as it picked up a 93-88 victory behind 28 points from Arlon Harper on Jan. 19.
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