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Liberty Stymies Gardner-Webb with Defense
|Ashley Rininger's 10th double-double of the season included a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds.|
Liberty put the clamps on Big South co-leader Gardner-Webb Thursday evening at the Vines Center, limiting the Runnin' Bulldogs to a season-low scoring output in a 72-40 victory.
Double-doubles by Ashley Rininger (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Katelyn Adams (15 points, 13 rebounds) helped the Lady Flames win their third straight game and post their eighth victory in the last nine outings. Liberty is now 9-6 overall and shares the Big South lead with Winthrop at 5-1.
Gardner-Webb, now 9-6 overall and 4-2 in conference play, struggled shooting from the field (11-of-52 for 21.2 percent), three-point range (1-of-14 for 7.1 percent) and the foul line (17-of-34 for 50 percent).
The early stages of the game saw three lead changes and a pair of ties, with the second tie producing a 10-10 deadlock.
Liberty then held Gardner-Webb without a made field goal for a stretch of 14:36, as the Runnin' Bulldogs misfired on 16 straight attempts from the floor. During that span, the Lady Flames went on an 18-2 run, taking a 28-12 lead on Rininger's pair of free throws 1:34 before halftime.
The Runnin' Bulldogs then scored five of the period's final seven points, trimming their halftime deficit to 30-17.
Both teams struggled from the floor during the first half, as the Lady Flames shot 32.1 percent (9-of-28) and Gardner-Webb connected at a 20.8 percent (5-of-24) clip.
Liberty made 10 of its 12 first-half free throw attempts for 83.3 percent, while Gardner-Webb hit only six of 14 for 42.9 percent.
Gardner-Webb held a slim 23-21 rebounding edge during the first 20 minutes, while Liberty converted the Runnin' Bulldogs' 11 turnovers into 11 points.
Rininger paced the Lady Flames in both points (8) and rebounds (6) in the first half, while Kiera Currie's four points led Gardner-Webb's output.
The Runnin' Bulldogs got off to a fast start in the second half, pulling to within 32-23 at the 18:27 mark after Lana Doran's layup capped a 6-0 burst.
Liberty outscored Gardner-Webb by an 18-4 count over the next 8:45, pushing its advantage to 50-27 on Adams' old-fashioned three-point play at 9:42.
The visitors got no closer than 18 points down the rest of the way and made only one field goal in the final 8:31. As a result, the Lady Flames were able to extend their advantage to the final margin of 32 points (72-40).
Liberty finished the game at 39.7 percent (23-of-58) from the field and shot well from the charity stripe once again, connecting at a 77.8 percent (21-of-27) clip.
In a battle between the Big South's top two rebounding teams, Liberty came away with a slim 45-44 edge on the boards to outrebound its 13th straight opponent. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames racked up 36 points in the paint to Gardner-Webb's 16.
Rininger scored 14 points during the second half as part of her 10th double-double of the season and the 13th of her career. She also matched a season high with three blocked shots and is now the ninth different Lady Flame ever to record 10 or more double-doubles in a season.
Adams' double-double was her second of the season. The Minnesota native led all players with a career-high 13 rebounds and tied her career high with three assists.
Not to be completely overshadowed by her fellow post players, Catherine Kearney contributed nine points and six caroms to the Lady Flames' win.
Emily Frazier's nine points were her most in a game since Dec. 3, and the redshirt junior also tallied a game-high four assists.
Reigning Big South Player of the Week Catrina Green topped Gardner-Webb in both points (8) and rebounds (9), while blocking two Liberty shot attempts.
Liberty will remain at home on Saturday, playing host to Presbyterian College (3-12, 1-5 Big South) at 7 p.m. The Blue Hose were victorious in their only meeting with the Lady Flames last season, posting a 51-49 win inside the Vines Center on Jan. 3, 2013.