HIGH POINT, S.C. – The 2011-12 Big South season has come to a close for the Charleston Southern women’s basketball team (17-14), who suffered a 72-52 loss to the top-ranked Liberty Flames (23-8) in the Big South Conference Tournament Semifinals on Saturday afternoon at the Millis Center in High Point, N.C.
The Lady Flames advance to the tournament championship, where they will face the winner of this afternoon’s contest between Radford and High Point.
The Buccaneers could not match their first-half shooting success in the second 20 minutes, making just eight field goals in the second half. Rachelle Coward was held to 10 points and a rebound on the day, but contributed with two blocks and two steals. The Flames also limited Lakeitha Alston in the contest, holding her to seven points, four rebounds, a block and a steal.
It was Shay Jones who led the scoring, posting 12 points on the afternoon. Jones also grabbed five off the glass and had two steals. Erin Bratcher sunk a trio of 3-pointers on her way to 11 points. She also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, including five offensive. The Bucs were out-rebounded by the Lady Flames 55-29 and attempted just two free-throws to Liberty’s 18.
Kiki Rutledge sunk a shot from downtown and dished out three assists, while Shannon Sanders also nailed three 3-pointers for nine points.
Avery Worley went 7-of-14 from the field and 6-for-7 from the line for 20 points and 22 rebounds, while Tolu Omotola recorded a double-double as well with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Devon Brown (14 points, six rebounds) and Danika Dale (10 points, six rebounds) also factored in for the Lady Flames, who scored 20 points off of 18 CSU turnovers. Their rebounding margin allowed them to score 33 second chance points as well.
A tight battle from the start, the teams battled to seven ties and ten lead changes. The Buccaneers struggled to get a rebound in the first five minutes, losing the battle of the glass 7-0 to the Flames. However they easily found their shots with a hot start in the first 10 minutes, shooting almost 70 percent from the field and 71 percent from downtown.
A 3-point shot by Dale gave the Lady Flames the 12-9 edge, but the Buccaneers sunk four consecutive in return to take a 21-17 lead with just under 12 to play in the first half. Six straight points from the Lady Flames gave them a slim advantage, but CSU’s sixth trey of the day, from Sanders, put the Bucs back ahead 26-25 with under eight to play.
Neither team scored for a span of three minutes nearing the end of the half, until Warley sunk a pair at the line with 3:41 to go to tie things up again at 29-all. Warley was sent to the charity stripe again with just over two minutes to play to give the Flames the 21-29 lead at the halftime, with neither team scoring a field goal in the final six minutes of action.
Back-to-back buckets from Bucs pushed them ahead to 33-31 to start the second half, but a 16-5 scoring run by Liberty put the Flames ahead 48-41. Another 10-3 run pushed the LU advantage to 14 at 58-44 with CSU missing seven 3-pointers in that span. The LU defense stymied the CSU offense, holding the Bucs without a bucket for a five-minute span to take a 66-46 lead with just under four to play.
The Flames never looked back from there. Despite a pair of late treys from Sanders, Liberty’s lead would stay at 20 points as the Lady Flames secured the 72-52 victory.
CSU has received an invitation to the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) Tournament. Their game date and opponent will be announced next week.