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Buer Leads Liberty Past Saint Joseph's in OT, 76-75
Redshirt senior guard Karly Buer scored Liberty's final eight points, including a game-winning free throw with 2.9 seconds remaining, lifting the Lady Flames to a hard-fought, 76-75 overtime win over Saint Joseph's, Saturday afternoon at the Vines Center.
With the score tied at 75, Buer drove to the hoop and drew a foul with 2.9 seconds left. She sank the second of two attempts to break the deadlock. The Hawks' Ciara Andrews then drew iron on a half-court attempt as the buzzer sounded, but the shot bounced out and Liberty came away victorious.
Buer finished with a team-high 15 points, contributing to the Lady Flames' total of 44 bench points. Liberty improves to 2-1 by snapping a nine-game losing streak in games decided by five points or fewer. The Lady Flames' last win in a close game prior to Saturday was a 67-65 triumph at Radford on Dec. 1, 2012.
Playing its second consecutive overtime contest, Saint Joseph's drops to 1-2 on the year. The Hawks lost to a Big South opponent for the first time in program history despite 52 points by the backcourt duo of Natasha Cloud (29 points) and Andrews (23).
Saint Joseph's, which reached the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, got off to a fast start on Saturday. Nine early points from Andrews lifted the Hawks to a 19-10 lead at the 12:14 mark of the opening half.
Liberty responded with a 14-2 run, culminating with Jaymee Fisher-Davis' three-pointer at 6:15 which made the score 24-21, Lady Flames.
Liberty's lead got as large as eight points, before the home team took a 37-31 advantage into halftime.
Led by Catherine Kearney's nine first-half points, the Lady Flames' bench tallied 20 points before halftime. Liberty also outrebounded its guests by a 27-12 mark during the opening half.
The Lady Flames stayed on top in the second half until Cloud's triple rolled in with 9:29 left, giving the Hawks a 49-48 edge.
The lead changed hands five times, before Sadalia Ellis' driving layup put Liberty in front, 65-63, with 1:39 on the clock. Andrews countered with a game-tying layup just 17 seconds later to knot it up at 65-65.
Those would be the final points scored in regulation, but Cloud had a chance to win it for the Hawks. Her running 15-foot jumper clanged off the front of the rim, sending the game into overtime.
During the back-and-forth extra session, Cloud and Buer traded basket for basket, scoring eight points each for their respective teams. Overtime saw two lead changes and three ties.
Cloud's pull-up jumper in the paint with 18.0 seconds to play produced the game's 11th and final tie at 75-75, setting the stage for Buer's heroics on Liberty's ensuing possession. Her deciding free throw lifted Liberty to its second win over an Atlantic 10 opponent in five days, after Tuesday's 69-53 triumph over VCU.
Saint Joseph's shot 43.8 percent (28-of-64) from the field for the game, as compared with 37.9 percent (25-of-66) for the Lady Flames. However, Liberty made six triples to the Hawks' four and got to the foul line more often.
Liberty finished 20-of-27 from the charity stripe for 74.1 percent, while Saint Joseph's went 15-of-20 for 75 percent.
The Lady Flames enjoyed a 52-32 cushion on the boards and converted 20 offensive caroms into 23 second-chance points. Liberty's reserves racked up 44 points, while the Hawks' bench players totaled only seven.
With her season-best 15 points, Buer reached double figures for the third straight game to open her Liberty career. The last Lady Flame to post three consecutive double-digit games to start her career was Devon Brown in 2009-10.
Ellis chipped in a season-high 14 points, to go along with five rebounds and four assists in a team-high 37 minutes played.
Kearney and Jasmine Gardner came off the bench with matching stat lines of 13 points and five rebounds apiece. The performance was extra special for Kearney, whose parents (Steve Kearney and Kate (McPeak) Kearney) both played basketball at Saint Joseph's.
For Saint Joseph's, Cloud scored 22 of her career-high 29 points after halftime. Andrews' 23 points also established a career high, and the junior also tallied four assists.
The Hawks' Sarah Fairbanks was limited to 10 points and one rebound, far below her season averages of 19.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg.
Liberty will now play eight of its next nine games away from Lynchburg, beginning with a Tuesday evening contest at Elon (3-0). Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Alumni Gym for the first meeting between the Lady Flames and Phoenix since the 2002-03 season. At 3-0, Elon is off to its best start since 1997-98.