Poor shooting and turnovers were too much for Liberty to overcome on the road against the Charlotte 49ers
A night of offensive woes and turnovers was too much for the Lady Flames (0-1) to overcome as they fell in their season opener to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) 49ers (1-0) 66-56 Friday, Nov. 8.
“The early-season games quickly expose weaknesses and strengths of your team,” Liberty Head Coach Carey Green said. “This information gives a clear direction to the areas that should be addressed as you progress into team development. … A loss is always a disappointment. However, it is the greatest teaching tool to success.”
In the first half, the Lady Flames were paced early on by five points from redshirt sophomore forward Ashley Rininger. Her layup, jumper and free throw put the Lady Flames up 5-4 less than three minutes into the game. Approximately three minutes later, Katelyn Adams, another redshirt sophomore forward hit a layup to give the Lady Flames a 7-6 lead.
But the Lady Flames were unable to hold on and conceded the lead for good 51 seconds later when they allowed the 49ers to score an easy bucket in the paint. Following the lead change, the Lady Flames only put 10 more points on the scoreboard while allowing the 49ers to score an additional 21 points. The 49ers capped off the half with a 12-2 scoring run.
The Lady Flames went into the locker room with a 12-point deficit, 29-17. In the first half, Liberty only made 33.3 percent of its shots and gave up 15 points off 17 turnovers.
“Last night’s game exposed a need for us to address offensive execution as we move forward,” Green said. “Our poor offensive execution was evident in our number of turnovers.”
In the second half, the Lady Flames began to mount a comeback with two threes from freshman Mickayla Sanders and redshirt junior guard Emily Frazier. With Frazier’s triple, Liberty pulled to within seven points of UNCC, 37-30.
The 49ers then responded with a scoring surge to go up 49-35. The Lady Flames did not go away quietly though, answering with a run of their own led by sophomore guard Sadalia Ellis. Ellis scored seven points in the 10-2 offensive burst to trim the 49ers lead to six.
“We never gave up,” Ellis said. “We kept pushing until the clock hit zero.”
However, the Lady Flames were never able to pull any closer to the 49ers in the away contest.
Although they shot 56.6 percent and went 5-7 from three for 71.4 percent in the second half, the Lady Flames gave the ball up another 13 times for 13 points by the 49ers.
“Our inconsistent execution on offense and defense hindered any comeback that our team staged,” Green said. “Several times opportunities were thwarted by our turnovers.”
Despite the loss, the Lady Flames did come away with several bright spots.
On the defensive side of the ball, Liberty held a 31-27 advantage in rebounds. The Lady Flames pulled down 12 offensive rebounds and capitalized with 19 second-chance points.
Liberty also received a spark off the bench with Sanders, freshman Simone Brown and redshirt sophomore Catherine Kearney combining for 17 points.
“Our bench made significant contributions and definitely was a bright spot during the game,” Green said. “We intend to utilize the strength of our bench’s contributions to develop consistency.”
Frazier contributed to the offense as well with four assists and three points during her first game back from a knee injury that ended her 2012-2013 season early.
Ellis finished the night with a career-high 13 points and had three assists. Rininger also had 13 points.
As they continue their pursuit of a 16th Big South Conference Championship, the Lady Flames will work on limiting mistakes and executing in their offensive sets.
“(We will) definitely get in the gym and work on reading and reacting to the defense, which will lead to limiting our turnovers,” Ellis said. “(We will) also (be) working on the timing of our plays that will help people become more open, again leading to us limiting turnovers.”
The Lady Flames will host the James Madison University Dukes for their home opener Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.