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Down By 21, Liberty Rallies for Victory
Savannah State owned a 21-point lead over Liberty, 4:27 before halftime of Saturday afternoon's Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic consolation game. However, the Lady Flames were able to come back and post an 89-79 victory inside Walsh Gymnasium.
Ashley Rininger spearheaded Liberty's comeback by scoring 17 of her career-high 29 points after halftime, earning a spot on the all-tournament team in the process. The Lady Flames' win in their first-ever meeting with the Lady Tigers gives Liberty a third-place tournament finish and a 2-5 record on the season.
Savannah State fell to 3-5 with its fourth straight loss, despite an impressive 28-point outing by Ezinne Kalu, who was playing near her hometown of Newark.
Savannah State broke open a back-and-forth game with a 19-2 run, capped off by Jasmine Norman's old-fashioned three-point play 7:10 before halftime. Her free throw lifted the Lady Tigers' lead to 21 points, 39-18.
Liberty chipped away at the deficit and got to within 45-29 on Catherine Kearney's layup at the 3:12 mark.
The Lady Tigers' halftime lead stood at 17 points (52-35) after Savannah State scored more points during the opening 20 minutes than the 42 markers it managed during Friday evening's loss to host Seton Hall.
Savannah State's 52 first-half points were the most Liberty has allowed in a half since Baylor tallied 53 points before halftime on Nov. 23, 2012.
Led by Kalu's 16 points, Savannah State was effective from the field (17-of-30, 56.7 percent), three-point range (5-of-7, 71.4 percent) and foul line (13-of-19, 68.4 percent) during the first 20 minutes.
Liberty shot 41.4 percent (12-of-29) from the floor and made all nine of its free throw attempts before halftime, while owning an 18-14 rebounding edge.
Ashley Rininger paced the Lady Flames with 12 first-half points, while Emily Frazier chipped in nine points and four rebounds.
Liberty outscored Savannah State by a 14-4 count over the first 3:25 of the second half, with Rininger and Mickalya Sanders accounting for all 14 points. Rininger's fast break layup cut the Lady Flames' deficit to 56-49 with 16:35 to play.
Shortly thereafter, Liberty went on a 7-0 run. Frazier's driving right-handed layup with 14:12 left pulled the Lady Flames to within 58-56.
Savannah State reclaimed the momentum with an ensuing 7-0 surge of its own. Jerryshia Williams gave the Lady Tigers a 65-56 edge with 11:53 showing on the second-half clock.
Savannah State was still in front, 69-65, before a decisive 19-2 run by the Lady Flames. Rininger's layup off a nice feed from Sadalia Ellis put Liberty in front for good at 71-69 with 6:19 left.
Simone Brown punctuated the run with a three-pointer from right in front of the Liberty bench. The freshman's trifecta bolstered the Lady Flames' cushion to 13 points (84-71) at the 2:04 mark.
Savannah State got no closer than the final margin of 10 points the rest of the way as Liberty wrapped up a most improbable win, 89-79.
Liberty doubled up the Lady Tigers in the second half, 54-27, thanks to a near-perfect half of basketball. The Lady Flames shot 62.2 percent (23-of-37) from the field, 75 percent (3-of-4) from three-point range and 71.4 percent (5-of-7) from the line after halftime. Liberty also owned a 24-10 second-half rebounding advantage and committed just three turnovers after the intermission.
For the game, Liberty set season highs for field goal percentage (53 percent, 35-of-66), three-point field goal percentage (45.5 percent, 5-of-11) and free throw percentage (87.5 percent, 14-of-16). The Lady Flames outrebounded the Lady Tigers, 42-24, scored 54 points in the paint and finished with a season-low 15 turnovers.
Savannah State lost despite shooting 49.1 percent (28-of-57) from the floor and making half of its 16 three-point tries.
Rininger completed her fifth double-double of the season with a game-high 11 rebounds, blocked a season-high three shots and even made her first career three-pointer.
Frazier tied her career high with 16 points and pulled down a career-best seven rebounds. Katelyn Adams made it three Lady Flames in double figures with 12 points and seven boards.
Sanders, who celebrated her 19th birthday with a win on Saturday, scored all nine of her points during the second half. Ellis distributed a career-high eight of Liberty's 21 assists on the day.
In addition to Kalu, Lady Tigers Williams (14 points), Norman (11 points) and Tiyonda Davis (10 points) also reached double figures in the scoring column.
Liberty will return to Lynchburg to host Commonwealth foe Richmond Tuesday evening. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. inside the Vines Center for the 24th all-time meeting between the Lady Flames and Spiders.