Lady Flames keep on winning
Liberty earns its seventh straight win and sixth straight 20-win season with a 69-60 victory over Radford
Dominant post play and solid contributions from the bench propelled the Liberty University women’s basketball team to a 69-60 win over in-state rival Radford University, Saturday, Feb. 16.
Liberty, which is now 20-6 overall and 12-2 in the Big South, extended its winning streak to seven straight games with the victory while securing its sixth consecutive 20-win season. Liberty also clinched a first-round bye in the upcoming Big South Championship tournament.
In the first half, the Flames went on an early 6-0 run capped off by a short hook shot from redshirt freshman Ashley Rininger to gain a 12-8 advantage over the Highlanders.
Rininger came off the bench and scored eight of her 14 points during the first half.
The Highlanders answered with five straight points of their own, giving them a 13-12 lead.
Liberty answered, scoring two points on an offensive rebound to reclaim the lead, 14-13. The Lady Flames kept their lead for much of the first half, but both teams headed into the locker room at halftime with 29 points each.
The bulk of Liberty’s first half scoring came low, with 20 of 29 points in the paint. Post players Jasmine Gardner and Tolu Omotola contributed six points apiece for the Lady Flames.
“I just knew that we had to be really physical the whole time, and no matter what, just make sure we focused on the important things, like finishing inside,” Omotola said.
The Lady Flames shot only 33.3 percent (11-for-33) from the field in the first half and came up short on all eight of their three-point attempts. The Highlanders put up similar numbers in the scoring column, hitting 37.5 percent (12-for-32) of their field goals.
Although the Lady Flames shot poorly in the first half, Liberty proved its dominance in the second half of play.
“It really came down to the players wanting it and executing a little bit better in the second half, both defensively and offensively,” Head Coach Carey Green said.
Liberty came out of the locker room and gained momentum by drawing an offensive foul on the first possession of the half.
The ensuing possession, Liberty scored an easy layup to gain the lead, 31-29. The Lady Flames did not trail the Highlanders for the rest of the game.
Radford tied the score for the last time at 34 on a second-chance jumper just before the first media timeout of the half. Liberty then went on a 13-2 scoring spurt to break the game open. Sophomore point guard Emily Frazier capped the run with an end-to-end layup to bring Liberty ahead, 47-36.
Radford continued to eat away at the lead, coming within eight points before Liberty guard LaKendra Washington hit back-to-back threes to put the game nearly out of reach for Radford, 60-46.
The Highlanders cut the lead to six in their last attempt to come back at the end of the game, but were unable to overcome their deficit. Liberty put the game away by making free throws and improved to 11-3 at home for the season.
In the second half, the Lady Flames shooting accuracy improved to 52 percent from the field, including three of six from beyond the arc. Liberty finished the game shooting 41 percent.
Despite losing the rebounding battle, Liberty used a 24-8 advantage in bench points to secure the 69-60 win. Liberty also capitalized on Radford’s miscues, posting 18 points on 20 forced turnovers.
In addition to Rininger’s 14-point performance, three other Lady Flames scored in double figures. Omotola and Gardner as well as senior guard Devon Brown scored 13 points apiece.
Brown’s ability to break down defenders to get into the lane was key to the Lady Flames offensive assault.
“I love to attack the basket,” Brown said. “I felt like it would help our team a lot to get our post open more, so that was my goal for tonight.”
Brown’s 13 points bumped her up to 1,869 career points and into the sixth position on the all-time Big South scoring list.
Green said that he was pleased with his team’s effort and win in the tough conference game.
“When Liberty and Radford play each other, then you can throw out the records,” Green said. “You better come to play.”
Saturday’s game was Liberty’s annual Play 4Kay event. The Lady Flames wore pink warmup shirts, socks, shoelaces and headbands as a part of the initiative, which raises support and awareness for breast cancer research. The event is associated with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Liberty will travel to the University of North Carolina Asheville Thursday, Feb. 21 before returning home to play its last two regular season games.