The Liberty men's basketball team hosted Charleston Southern Saturday night in the Vines Center looking to stop a nine-game skid. Despite keeping the contest close, the Buccaneers were guided by Big South leading scorer Saah Nimley (20.1 ppg), who finished with 18 points en route to the 74-62 final.
With the defeat, Liberty (6-17, 0-10 Big South) falls to 0-10 for the first time in conference play since the 1998-99 season. Charleston Southern (13-8, 7-3 Big South) is now on a three-game win streak against the Flames.
Andrew Smith paced Liberty with 14 points, followed by David Andoh, who had 12 tallies. Jordan Dembley received his first career start, finishing with nine points and four assists.
Along with Nimley, Arlon Harper (14), Will Saunders (13) and Cedrick Bowen (12) rounded out the Buccaneers' double-digit scorers.
Liberty shot 48.8 percent (21-of-43) from the field including 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from three-point land. Charleston Southern concluded the night on 42.6 percent shooting (23-of-54). While the Buccaneers drained 17 three-pointers against the Flames on Jan. 14 at the Buc Dome, Liberty held Charleston Southern to 22.2 percent (6-of-27) shooting from long distance.
The Buccaneers capitalized at the foul line, going 22-of-24 from the charity stripe. Charleston Southern also outscored the Flames in the paint, 33-22, and took advantage of points off turnovers, 21-7.
With the contest tied in the early minutes, Charleston Southern went on a 10-0 run capped by a Danny Upchurch three-pointer, giving the Buccaneers a 17-7 lead at the 12:10 mark.
Liberty cut the gap to four nearly two and a half minutes later, but an 8-0 spurt by the visitors put them up by 12 with 8:18 to play in the stanza. The Flames closed the half with five unanswered points, including two A.C. Reid free throws to dwindle the deficit and make it a four-point game at halftime, 35-31.
Smith led all scorers with 10 points at the half on 4-of-4 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 at the foul line. Will Saunders paced the Buccaneers off the bench with seven points.
Liberty shot 50 percent (8-of-16) from the field in the opening half, compared to 43.3 percent (13-of-30) for Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers outscored Liberty in the paint, 16-8, and off turnovers, 11-3.
Freshman Jordan Dembley quickly cut the Buccaneers' lead to two with a layup in the opening 17 seconds of the second period. After a trio of free throws by Nimley on the other end, Dembley nailed a trey to cancel out the shots and make it a two-point game again, 38-36, at 18:56.
With the Flames still trailing by two at 14:26, Charleston Southern widened the gap to seven with five straight tallies. The Buccaneers led by nine with under 11 minutes remaining, until Reid knocked down a three-pointer. Charleston Southern went back up by nine with eight minutes to play, but another Reid trey cut it to six again, 62-56, with 7:36 to play.
Liberty was unable to climb any closer down the stretch, as the Buccaneers led by as much as 12 in the remaining minutes to clinch the 74-62 final.
Liberty heads to Rock Hill, S.C., Wednesday, squaring off with Winthrop at 7 p.m. The contest will broadcast live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network, ESPN3, MASN HD and the Big South Network.