Lady Chanticleers’ upset bid comes up short at Liberty

The Coastal Carolina women’s basketball team played even with the 12-time and defending Big South regular season champion Liberty Flames for 30 minutes; but ultimately ran out of steam in the Chanticleers’ upset bid as the Lady Flames came away with a hard-fought 66-54 victory on Monday.

The narrow defeat sends Coastal to 12-10 (5-8 Big South) on the season as the win improves Liberty to 17-7 (12-1 Big South).

Senior guard Olivia Irick recorded her 12th double-figure scoring effort of the season as she poured in 13 points, including six from long range, to lead Coastal. The Columbia, S.C. native also pulled down a team-high six boards in her 35 minutes of action. Kira Carter joined Irick in double-digits with 10 points of her own. Liberty’s Devon Brown, the Big South Preseason Player of the Year, led all scorers with 27 points, 14 of which came at the free-throw line.

“I am really proud of the way our team played tonight,” said head coach Alan LeForce. “We were down a few players; but we played tough, hard-nosed basketball and tested this very good Liberty team. We had several young players perform very well and if we can get that type of effort from our team on a nightly basis, we can be a very good team in the coming weeks.”

The Chanticleers shot 21-of-55 (38.2 percent) for the game and outscored Liberty 17-11 in bench points. The Lady Flames finished shooting 19-of-56 (33.9 percent) from the floor and held a commanding 16-2 advantage in second chance points.

After exchanging empty possessions over the opening two minutes of the second half, seniors Taylor Epley and Courtney Grambley, playing in their final game at the Flames’ Vines Center, scored on back-to-back possessions to give Coastal its second lead of the game, 34-33, with 15:53 to play.

Following the under 16 media timeout, Liberty used a 9-5 run to take 45-40 lead that was capped by a Brown jumper with 12:03 left on the clock.  Coastal’s five points came by way of a Katelyn Connor put-back and Shanika Maddox’s first career 3-pointer.

Liberty then reeled off a 10-1 run, six of which came at the free-throw line, to push its lead to 11 at 55-44.  Carter broke the Chants’ shooting drought with a layup at the 3:51 mark to keep Coastal’s hopes of an upset alive.  Brown followed with four points over the next 29 seconds to edge the Liberty lead to 59-46.  Grambley then answered with a trey from the wing to keep Coastal within striking distance.  However, a 6-0 Liberty run over the ensuing minute pushed the game out of reach from the Chanticleers.

Coastal held the explosive Liberty offensive in check through the first media timeout as three of the Lady Flames’ first five points came at charity stripe.  Liberty then scored eight points over the following four minutes to take a 17-7 advantage.  However, Coastal rallied with five straight by Irick followed by five straight by Carter to pull the Chanticleers within a two at 19-17.  After Brown missed a jumper, Angelica Henry pushed the ball up the floor and connected on an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Chants their first lead of the game at 20-19.

Brown then answered with a three-point play of her own to pull the Lady Flames back in front.  Danika Dale got into the scoring action with four consecutive points to widen the Liberty margin to six with 4:40 to play before the intermission.  The black and teal clad Chanticleers then roared back with 7-2 run to trim their deficit back to one.  After a triple by Brown and two freebies by Tolu Omotola, freshman Jena Hamrick sank her second 3-pointer of the game to send the Chants to the locker room trailing by three at 33-30.

Coastal shot 48.0 percent from the floor in the half, including 5-of-12 (41.7 percent) from beyond the arc as Liberty struggled to a 34.5 percentage after shooting a 78.3 clip in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 14 in Conway.

The Chanticleers were without Big South Freshman of the Year candidate Shatia Cole who missed the game with an injury.

Coastal Carolina returns home to Kimbel Arena to take on Campbell on Saturday, Feb. 18, in the second game of a doubleheader with the men’s team. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

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