CHARLESTON, S.C. - No. 5 Charleston Southern opens the 2017 Big South Conference Women's Basketball Championships this weekend with a rematch of last season's quarterfinals as the Buccaneers take on tournament host and No. 4 seed Liberty on Friday afternoon. Tipoff on ESPN3 is set for 2 p.m.
The Buccaneers enter the tournament on a high note after winning their final three games of the regular season with wins over Longwood, Gardner-Webb, and Winthrop. The Bucs' No. 5 seed is CSU's highest draw since the 2011-12 season. CSU advanced to the semifinals that season and received a bid to the WBI that same season.
The Bucs have struggled in tournament play against the Flames with CSU sporting a 0-7 record all-time against Liberty in the postseason. CSU fell in last season's quarterfinal matchup to the Flames in Kimmel Arena in Asheville, N.C., 68-53.
Liberty enters the Friday afternoon contest with a 13-16 overall record and finished Big South Conference regular season play with a 12-6 record in earning the No. 4 overall seed in the tournament. The Flames won four of their final five games of the regular season including victories over Charleston Southern, Longwood, Winthrop, and Campbell. Liberty's lone blemish over the final three weeks of the season came at home against UNC Asheville on February 27, 57-53.
Keyen Green leads the Liberty offense with 12.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Nene Johnson (7.6) and Iva Ilic (7.3) are also among the Flames' leading scorers in the 2016-17 season. Johnson leads the Flames with 82 assists and 35 steals on the season, while Ilic is Liberty's primary deep threat with 40 made three-pointers on the season. The Flames are well-known for their rebounding proficiency with Liberty posting a 43.2-34.4 advantage on the glass during the regular season. Green is the primary post defensive presence with a team-high 30 blocked shots on the season.
This Season Against Liberty
Charleston Southern fell in both regular season contests against the Flames in the 2016-17 season with a loss at home on January 3 to open the conference regular season. The Bucs fell on February 17 at the Vines Center in the rematch between the two teams.
Liberty 81, Charleston Southern 72 (January 3, 2017)
Charleston Southern's fourth quarter comeback effort fell short as the Buccaneers were topped by Liberty in their conference opener, 81-72. Rachel Burns scored a career-high 22 points, hitting nine field goals from the floor, including three from beyond the arc. Ke'Asia Jackson was the only other Buccaneer to go double-digits with 14 points The Irmo, S.C., native earned her seventh perfect performance from the stripe, going a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.
Liberty 67, Charleston Southern 56 (February 17, 2017)
Charleston Southern was unable to overcome a long-held Liberty lead in falling to the Flames in the Vines Center, 67-56. The Buccaneers were paced by Rachel Burns' 19 points, a 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.
Bucs against Liberty under Applin
CSU is 0-11 against Liberty in the Fred Applin era at CSU. The Bucs fell in both matchups against Liberty this season and fell in the Big South Championships quarterfinal round last season in Asheville, N.C.
Bucs against Liberty All-Time
Charleston Southern is 6-56 against Liberty dating back to when the teams first met in the 1989-90 season. The Bucs have dropped 13 in a row against the Flames since CSU's last win in the 2010-11 season on February 28, 2011. Kelsey Wasmer paced the Bucs' offense with 16 points and nine rebounds in the win, while Helen Terry had 11 points and four steals off the bench in the CSU win.
Charleston Southern equaled the second-most wins in program history with their 17th victory in the 2016-17 season. The Bucs have previously reached the mark in the 2009-10 and 2011-12 seasons. CSU is one win away from equaling the most overall wins in program history when CSU went 18-10 in the 1998-99 season. CSU's 11 Big South Conference wins were the most in program history dating back to the 2000 season. The 2016-17 season was the Bucs' first double-digit wins mark in conference play with CSU previously achieving nine wins on three separate occasions in the 2000-01, 2009-10, and 2011-12 seasons.