CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern kept their perfect record at home, defeating South Carolina State, 67-62, at the Buc Dome Sunday afternoon.
"I thought it was a good team effort from everybody," said CSU head coach Fred Applin. "Our bench was loud and really helped energize us throughout the game."
The Buccaneers (4-2) held a comfortable lead over the Bulldogs (3-3) for the majority of the game, with a 51-30 advantage after three quarters. But that comfort faded fast in the fourth period when S.C. State cut CSU's lead down to three points with 12 seconds remaining. Ke'Asia Jackson connected on four late free throws to hold off the Bulldogs' comeback in the CSU win.
"We had some players get into foul trouble towards the end of the game, so that hurt us" Applin said. "We also failed to execute on a few defensive assignments, but our team regrouped and got it done in the final minutes."
The Buccaneers captured momentum early in the contest after Alyssa Mann drove the jump ball to the basket with a layup in the opening seconds of the game. The redshirt-senior stayed hot, shooting 3-3 for six points in the first two minutes. CSU capitalized on several turnovers by South Carolina State and benefitted from a foul-heavy first half, making 10 of their 16 free throw attempts.
Nayla Long came out strong for the Buccaneers, attacking the basket and drawing both offensive and defensive fouls. The senior guard recorded 11 points, three rebounds and one assist in her 24 minutes of play.
"Nayla is one of our players that can play multiple positions," Applin said. "She had a strong performance today and really helped us out when we got into foul trouble."
Junior forward Elyse Kiploks spent some time out the paint, recording a career-high of two three-pointers in the contest.
"Elyse can shoot," Applin said. "I've told her in practice to shoot the ball more and I'm glad she hit those two tonight. We definitely needed it."
South Carolina State's top scorer Blair Bryeasha entered the contest averaging 22 points per game, but was held to just eight points in the first half by an aggressive CSU defense. The Buccaneers entered the fourth period with a comfortable 51-30 lead after holding the Bulldogs to just four points in the third period.
CSU saw the momentum shift in the opening minutes of the final period with multiple fouls called against the Bucs, along with several missed baskets and turnovers that S.C. State would run away with. The Bulldogs made nine of their 13 free throw attempts and shot 61.1% from the floor for their best offensive performance of the contest. Bryeasha and Jahmia Bradley put up 14 points apiece in the final ten minutes to help the Bulldogs cut CSU's lead down to just three points on two separate occasions.
"We called a timeout because I knew we needed it," Applin said. "I told them, we're still up, but we need to get a stop and we need to rebound."
CSU's top scorer Rachel Burns would help the Bucs recapture the momentum in the final minute of the game. As the shot clock ticked down to five seconds with 45 seconds left and CSU clinging to a four-point lead, Ke'Asia Jackson found Burns at the post. Burns finished the play with a layup for CSU's final basket from the floor.
The Buccaneers would close out the game with three trips to the charity line. Alyssa Mann contributed one free throw for her 10th point of the game, while Jackson went 4-4 in her back-to-back trips in the final 10 seconds of the game.
Charleston Southern now turns their attention to a week of exams and practice before taking on Georgia Southern at home on December 12. Tipoff at the Buc Dome is set for 7:00 p.m. on the Big South Network.