Cortez Mitchell and Travis McConico combined for 47 points to fuel Charleston Southern’s most explosive offensive performance of the season and pave the way for an 87-75 win over Liberty Wednesday at the Buc Dome.
Mitchell (24 points) and McConico (23) established new career highs to pick up the slack for Christian Keeling, who was limited to just 18 minutes due to foul trouble. CSU (10-14, 5-8 Big South) buried a season-high 13 three-pointers while shooting 61 percent overall to snap Liberty’s (15-11, 6-7 Big South) three-game winning streak and avenge a 17-point loss in Lynchburg last month.
The Bucs built a lead as large as 15 in the first half and responded after the Flames rallied to move in front, 61-59, at the 7:45 mark of the second half. CSU reeled off the next seven points as part of an 18-5 run to seize control as Liberty came no closer than eight the rest of the way.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh continues to be encouraged by the maturation of a young squad that has now won four of its last six games.
“The last six games, we’ve just been a different team,” Radebaugh said. “That’s a good team so we knew they were gonna have a run but our guys have learned to calmly react to that. We hit a lot of big shots and I thought we shared the ball as well as we have all year. I’ve been saying all along that this is going to be one our most talented offensive teams and we’re starting to round into that here of late.”
How It Happened
Liberty trailed 33-18 with 5:13 left in the first half but closed the gap to six at halftime and eventually took a 61-59 lead on two Caleb Homesley free throws with 7:45 left. Keeling was whistled for his fourth personal foul to seemingly compound matters for CSU but the Bucs instead answered with a decisive 18-5 run.
Sean Price started the spurt with a jumper in the lane and Phlandrous Fleming Jr. knocked down two free throws to put CSU ahead for good. McConico added three free throws to cap a run of seven straight points and bump the Bucs’ lead up to five.
Mitchell nailed two triples over a 1:28 span to send CSU’s advantage to nine at the 3:13 mark. He capped off the 18-5 run with a pull-up jumper to give the Bucs a 77-66 edge with 2:02 remaining. CSU then went 10-for-12 at the free-throw line over the final 90 seconds to salt away the victory.
In the first half, CSU staged a 13-0 run to forge a 33-18 lead. McConico drained two of his career-high six treys, Price swished one of his own and Mitchell threw down a two-handed dunk to highlight the surge.
Liberty pecked away at its deficit from there to make the score 37-31 at intermission. Elijah Cuffee, Keegan McDowell and Lovell Cabbil all connected on threes during the Flames’ 13-4 flurry to end the opening stanza.
Inside the Numbers
CSU finished 13-for-21 from downtown, which was the identical mark Liberty posted in its 70-53 win over the Bucs on Jan. 2. The Bucs’ 13 threes were a season high, eclipsing the 11 they made against Johnson & Wales and Longwood.
The Bucs shot 65 percent in the first half and 61 percent overall, marking their highest totals of the season against Division I competition.
Liberty placed four players in double figures while shooting 53 percent overall and 13-for-25 from beyond the arc. Cabbil paced the Flames with 15, Scottie James scored 14 and Ryan Kemrite chipped in 12 while becoming the program’s all-time leader in made threes.
CSU’s 1-3-1 pressure gave Liberty issues, as the Flames committed 17 turnovers. The Bucs forced 22 turnovers in the first meeting between the two teams. CSU entered play 25th nationally in turnovers forced per game.
Keeling managed to reach double figures for the 32nd consecutive game despite playing only 18 minutes because of foul trouble. He tallied seven of his ten points over the final 3:47.
CSU heads up I-26 Saturday to meet Presbyterian. Tipoff at the Templeton Center in Clinton, S.C, is slated for 4 p.m.