LYNCHBURG, Va. - Elyse Kiploks hit the go-ahead layup with 22 seconds left on the clock off the pass down low from Brianna Lakes and the Charleston Southern defense collected a late rebound with 1.1 seconds remaining as the No. 5 Buccaneers knocked off tournament host and No. 4 Liberty in Friday afternoon's Big South Women's Basketball Championships quarterfinal round, 52-50.
Ke'Asia Jackson scored a team-high 16 points in 22 minutes' gameplay on the afternoon. The Big South All-Conference Second Team guard shook off a first half injury to score eight key second half points for the Bucs (18-12). Alyssa Mann keyed an 11-0 CSU run late in the second quarter to give the Bucs a halftime lead and spark the CSU crowd in attendance in the Vines Center.
The Flames (13-17) battled back in the third quarter behind a double-double from Big South Freshman of the Year Keyen Green (13 points, 12 rebounds), to tie the game up at 42-42 with 10 minutes remaining. Liberty held the 48-44 advantage with 6:18 to play following a jumper from Kierra Johnson-Graham, but the Buccaneers battled back with Breannah Bretches and Jackson sparking the comeback to even the score at 48-48 with 2:31 to play.
Lakes took over from there for the Bucs with a key rebound and put-back with 1:00 remaining to even the score at 50-50. Following a Liberty over-and-back turnover, the Bucs took the lead for good as Kiploks slipped off a screen down low and Lakes found her fellow senior with the bounce pass in the lane for the game-winning basket.
Liberty took a pair of timeouts to advance the ball to half-court and a CSU foul gave the Flames the ball under the basket with eight seconds remaining. However, Nene Johnson's shot bounced off the rim and was deflected out of bounds by the Flames with 1.1 seconds remaining to secure the CSU win.
Mann scored 12 points for the Bucs with all 12 coming in the second quarter as the Bucs utilized a 20-8 run to take the 36-30 lead into the half. The graduate student went 5-of-7 from the floor and 2-of-4 from the three-point line with both three-pointers coming late in the quarter to give CSU the six-point halftime advantage.
Bretches added 12 points off the bench for the Bucs including four on back-to-back layups to keep CSU within striking distance in the fourth quarter.
Liberty held the 40-23 rebounding advantage in the contest, but the Buccaneers' defense proved to be the difference in the contest. CSU forced 24 Liberty turnovers and converted them into 22 points including 10 off the fast break as the Bucs recorded their first win over the Flames in the Applin coaching era.
Liberty held the 22-16 edge after the first period thanks to a pair of three-pointers by Johnson, including a buzzer-beater from the left wing. Jackson sparked CSU early with eight points and a pair of assists in the quarter as the Bucs narrowed the gap to within one at 17-16 before the Flames' late baskets.
Mann took over for CSU in the second quarter as the Bucs steadily cut into the Liberty lead. With CSU trailing 29-22 following a pair of Johnson free throws, Mann rattled off 10 of the final 13 points in the quarter including a pair of three-pointers to give CSU the 36-30 halftime lead.
Liberty fought back in the third quarter as the Flames tied the contest up on three separate occasions. Johnson scored the final basket of the quarter with 30 seconds remaining with a layup to send the teams into the final period tied 42-42.
The Flames held a two-possession lead through the first four minutes of the period with Johnson-Graham and Green combining for six points to put Liberty up 48-44 with 6:18 to play. Bretches and Jackson followed with layups to tie the contest up before Lakes and Kiploks sealed the win for CSU.
- Charleston Southern's quarterfinal win over Liberty was the Buccaneers' first win over the Flames in the Fred Applin coaching era with the Bucs. Previously, CSU had been 0-11 against the Flames including a loss in last season's Big South Quarterfinal round held at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, N.C.
- The Bucs' win over the Flames also ends another streak as CSU picked up the first postseason win over the Liberty in program history. CSU had previously been 0-7 against the Flames in conference tournament play.
- CSU's win marks the second straight season the Buccaneers won their first contest in the postseason. Last season as the No. 7 seed, the Buccaneers topped Longwood, 72-50, to advance to the quarterfinal round.
- Saturday's semifinal game will mark only the 10th time CSU has advanced to the semifinals in program history and first since the 2012 season. The Bucs are still searching for their first semifinal win.
"We came together the whole year and we wanted to continue it in the tournament too. Each player did something different out there that helped the team today and that's what you want a team to do. It was a battle tonight and we knew it would be. Liberty is a good team; they've won the conference many times over the last few years. This is a great win for us here," – CSU head coach Fred Applin on the Bucs' quarterfinal win over Liberty.
They Said It
"Well, at first I knew we were down by two. I knew when I grabbed the rebound that I had to go back up to try to tie the game. I may have missed the free throw, but my teammates had my back and told me there was still time on the clock for us. It worked as I found the open person and Elyse made the basket for us to win the game," senior forward Brianna Lakes on the Bucs' final two possessions of the contest.
No. 5 Charleston Southern advances to take on top-seed Radford in Saturday's Big South semifinal round that will be held in the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University. Tipoff on ESPN3 is set for 2 p.m.