LYNCHBURG, Va. — Stetson's Christiaan Jones led three Hatters in double figures with 15 points, but Stetson was unable to hang on to a halftime lead as top-seeded Liberty escaped the ASUN Conference Tournament semifinals with a 66-62 win, Thursday at Vines Center.
The fourth-seeded Hatters (16-17) held a 25-22 lead at halftime after an outstanding defensive display by both teams in the first half. Things opened up a bit in the second half, however.
Liberty (29-4) became more aggressive offensively as the Flames eventually regained the lead when Elijah Cuffee's layup made it a 29-28 game with 16:19 to go.
The Flames eventually pushed the lead to 10 points at 40-30 as Cuffee capped a 13-2 run with a jumper in the paint at the 11:17 mark.
It was at that point Stetson began to fight back behind Jones. After a pair of Kenny Aninye free throws cut the Liberty lead to 40-32, Jones scored nine straight points for the Hatters, twice connecting for three-point plays. The last one put the Hatters within 45-41 with 8:10 to go.
Liberty had trouble shaking the Hatters, but Stetson couldn't get over the hump, either. Every time the Flames made a basket, it seemed Stetson answered back.
After more than five minutes of exchanging baskets and free throws, the Hatters made a move. Jones made two more free throws to get Stetson within 56-51 and after a stop on the other end, Rob Perry converted a layup to make it 56-53 with 1:55 left.
A Perry three-pointer pulled the Hatters within 58-56 at the 1:12 mark, but that was as close as the Hatters would get, as Liberty went 8 for 8 from the free throw line in the final 44 seconds to seal the win.
Jones scored his 15 points on just six shots. The junior guard was 4 of 6 from the field with a three-pointer and was perfect on all six of his free throws, adding a team-high 7 rebounds to his stat line. Senior Jahlil Rawley scored 14 points, while freshman Mahamdou Diawara finished with 11.
Caleb Homesley led Liberty with 26 points.