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Late Run Pushes Liberty Past UNCW, 64-55
Liberty overcame a nine-point second-half deficit and used a late 12-1 burst to claim a hard-fought 64-55 victory over UNCW, Thursday afternoon at Trask Coliseum.
The score was deadlocked at 52-52 at the game's final media timeout with 3:44 remaining. Emily Frazier then found Ashley Rininger for a layup on Liberty's next possession, giving the Lady Flames the lead for good and igniting the decisive 12-1 surge. By the time the Seahawks scored again with 8.6 ticks left, Liberty had opened up an 11-point advantage and sealed their fourth straight win.
Rininger scored a dozen second-half points as part of her seventh double-double of the year (19 points, 13 rebounds). Her effort helped Liberty even its record at 5-5 in its final non-conference game of the 2013-14 campaign.
UNCW's eighth straight loss drops the Seahawks' ledger to 1-10. The home team fell despite getting a large boost from an enthusiastic Trask Coliseum record crowd of 5,421 on UNCW's "Seahawk Tomorrow" day and 15 points from Kelva Atkins.
UNCW scored on each of its first three offensive possessions, taking a 5-0 lead within the first 1:20 of the contest. Liberty then responded with seven straight points, going ahead for the first time at 7-5 when Sadalia Ellis scored on a floater with 16:58 on the clock.
The homestanding Seahawks reclaimed the advantage with a 10-0 run, capped off by back-to-back three-pointers by D'Asia Cain and Johanna McMillan. That spurt put UNCW in front, 19-12, 11:15 before halftime.
Liberty got back to within three points three different times during the remainder of the opening half. However, Bria Mobley scored the Seahawks' final four points of the stanza, including a buzzer-beating jumper which sent her team into the break with a 31-25 lead.
UNCW shot 43.3 percent (13-of-30) in the first half, as compared with 36.7 percent (11-of-30) for the Lady Flames. Liberty grabbed 21 rebounds to the Seahawks' 16 caroms before halftime.
Rininger paced the Lady Flames in both points (7) and rebounds (9) during the first 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Mobley did the same for the home team, tallying 10 points and seven boards.
Ryan Flowers scored the Seahawks' first five second-half points, bolstering UNCW's advantage to a game-high nine points (36-27) with 17:10 left.
Liberty fashioned an ensuing 12-2 run, and Rininger's second-chance hoop at 12:50 gave the blue-clad Lady Flames a 39-38 edge.
The lead then changed hands six times over the next 5:40 of play, as neither team could open up a significant advantage until Liberty's late game-sealing run. The back-and-forth contest featured eight ties and nine lead changes in total.
Liberty used its size advantage to key its second-half surge. Post players Rininger, Katelyn Adams and Catherine Kearney combined for 24 points and 15 rebounds after halftime. Liberty shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field in the second half, while enjoying sizeable advantages in rebounds (24-11) and points in the paint (28-10).
For the game, Liberty made 44.8 percent (26-of-58) of its field goals, despite shooting only 8.3 percent (1-of-12) from beyond the three-point arc. The Lady Flames held the Seahawks to 29.2 percent (7-of-24) from the floor after halftime, pulling their final percentage down to 37 percent (20-of-54).
Liberty outrebounded its eighth straight opponent, 45-27, and tallied 42 points in the paint to UNCW's 22. Additionally, the Lady Flames' 15 turnovers tied their season low.
Rininger's 13 caroms moved the redshirt sophomore onto Liberty's top 50 rebounders list, just 44 games into her career. She now ranks 47th in program history with 321 boards.
Ellis added 11 points, a game-high six assists and four rebounds for the Lady Flames. Simone Brown chipped in with a career-high eight points, four of which came during the late 12-1 run, and five rebounds.
Post players Adams (7 points, 7 rebounds) and Kearney (7 points, 8 rebounds) also played key roles in Liberty's fifth win in its last six outings.
For UNCW, Atkins' 15 points give the sophomore 11 straight games scoring in double figures to start the season. Mobley added a dozen points and a team-best nine rebounds, which equaled the freshman's career high.
Liberty will play its final 19 regular-season games against Big South opponents, beginning on Dec. 28 against Campbell at the Vines Center. The 2 p.m. tilt will tip off a doubleheader, which also includes a Liberty men's basketball home game against Southeastern at 5:30 p.m.