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Liberty Holds Off VCU for 1st Win of 2014-15

November 18, 2014
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Sadalia Ellis filled the stat sheet with nine points, six assists, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals during Liberty's 69-53 win over VCU.
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Liberty broke open a close game with a late 14-2 run, sealing a 69-53 victory over VCU, Tuesday afternoon at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames' first win of the 2014-15 season took place in front of a youthful crowd of 1,083 on Liberty's third annual "Best Field Trip Ever Day."

Ashley Rininger notched her second straight double-double to start the season, pacing all players in points (18) and rebounds (11). Her efforts helped Liberty even its record at 1-1 and halt a streak of four straight Lady Flames-Rams matchups which had been won by the visiting team.

VCU suffered its first loss of the young season, falling to 2-1 despite 17 points by Camille Calhoun. The Rams, who shot just 25.8 percent (17-of-66) from the field, 6.3 percent (1-of-16) from three-point range and 54.5 percent (18-of-33) from the foul line, are now just 2-6 in their last eight meetings with Liberty.

VCU got off to a fast start, winning the opening tipoff and scoring on a Calhoun layup just 10 seconds into the game. However, that was the black-clad Rams' only lead of the game.

An old-fashioned three-point play by Sadalia Ellis capped off an early 6-0 run by the Lady Flames, giving the home team a 10-4 advantage with 16:37 left in the opening half.

The Rams pulled to within two at 16-14, 10:10 before halftime, when a free throw by Adaeze Alaeze closed out a 6-0 VCU spurt.

Simone Brown nailed a triple on Liberty's next trip to the offensive end, halting the visitors' momentum. The Lady Flames' lead got as large as 10 points (33-23) before they took a 35-26 advantage into halftime.

Liberty built its lead by holding the Rams to 26.5 percent (9-of-34) field goal shooting during the first 20 minutes. The Lady Flames also grabbed 27 first-half rebounds to VCU's 19.

Individually, Rininger (8 points, 5 rebounds) led the way for Liberty in the first half, while Calhoun tallied 13 points before the break for VCU.

Liberty was able to bolster its advantage to 45-33 on a Catherine Kearney layup with 14:30 remaining. Two baskets apiece by Isis Thorpe and Curteeona Brelove enabled the Rams to respond with an ensuing 8-2 surge, trimming their deficit to 47-41 at the 10:50 mark.

Karly Buer's layup at the 7:48 mark lifted Liberty's cushion back to 11 points, 55-44.

VCU's Camille Calhoun recorded a three-point play with 6:35 remaining, cutting Liberty's lead to 55-48. The Lady Flames then held the Rams to just one made field goal the rest of the way and scored 14 of the next 16 points. By the time freshman Candice Leatherwood sank a pair of free throws at the 1:05 mark, Liberty's advantage had grown to 69-50.

The Lady Flames' final margin of victory was 16 points (69-53) in the 35th all-time meeting between the long-time Commonwealth rivals.

Liberty finished the game at 43.3 percent (26-of-60) from the field despite making only 11.8 percent (2-of-17) of its three-point attempts. The Lady Flames grabbed 51 rebounds to VCU's 43 and won the points in the paint category, 38-26.

VCU converted 20 Liberty turnovers into 18 points and grabbed 20 offensive boards. However, the Rams' comeback efforts were harmed by their 47.8 percent (11-of-23) second-half free throw percentage.

Rininger's double-double was the 21st of the redshirt junior's career and her third in a row dating back to last season. Buer scored 10 points for the second straight game to open her Liberty career, while Ellis and Brown chipped in nine tallies apiece.

The Lady Flames' starting backcourt of Ellis and Emily Frazier did a bit of everything on the afternoon. Ellis complemented her nine points with a game-high six assists, a career-high-equaling five rebounds, a career-high two blocked shots and a game-high two steals.

Frazier added seven points, six boards and four assists, while fellow senior Jasmine Gardner corralled nine rebounds.

Calhoun was VCU's only player in double figures in the scoring column. Alaeze was next with nine points and tied Keira Robinson for the team lead with eight rebounds.

Liberty will wrap up its season-opening three-game homestand Saturday at 2 p.m. when Saint Joseph's visits the Vines Center. Coming off of a 2013-14 season which saw them win 23 games and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Hawks were picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10 Conference.