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Elon Stays Unbeaten with 73-62 Win Over Liberty
Elon led Liberty from start to finish Tuesday evening at Alumni Gym, improving to 4-0 on the season with a 73-62 victory over its former Big South Conference rival.
The Lady Flames' first road game of the 2014-15 season saw them shoot a season-low 27.9 percent (19-of-68) from the field and just 14.3 percent (2-of-14) from three-point range. Liberty falls to 2-2 despite Karly Buer's second consecutive 15-point outing and Ashley Rininger's third double-double of the young season (12 points, 11 rebounds).
Elon hit six three-pointers after halftime, foiling the Lady Flames' attempts at a comeback and giving the Phoenix their first 4-0 start to a season since 1997-98. Zora Stephenson scored nine of her team-high 14 points after halftime for the victors.
Elon converted the opening tipoff into a layup by Stephenson, igniting a game-opening 9-0 run by the Phoenix.
That forced Liberty to play catchup for the remainder of the opening half. The Lady Flames got as close as 15-13 when Simone Brown hit a pair of free throws at the 9:47 mark, but Elon retained the advantage for the rest of the period.
Shay Burnett turned the Phoenix's 11th offensive rebound of the first half into a layup just before the halftime buzzer sounded, giving Elon a 31-26 cushion at the intermission.
Liberty shot just 20 percent (6-of-30) from the field during the first 20 minutes and misfired on all six of its three-point tries. The Lady Flames stayed in touch by making 88.9 percent (16-of-18) from the foul line.
Elon made 33.3 percent (12-of-36) of its first-half field goals, including a pair of triples, and won the rebounding battle by a 25-23 count.
Buer led all players with 10 points in the first half, making all six of her free throws. Rininger added eight points and eight boards.
Sam Coffer was the home team's leading first-half scorer with seven points.
Elon also started off well in the second half, scoring the first five points of the stanza. A runner by Stephenson at 18:25 provided the Phoenix their first double-digit lead of the evening, 38-28.
Liberty scored seven of the game's next eight points, pulling to within 39-35 on its first made triple of the night, courtesy of Brown at the 16:54 mark.
The Phoenix countered with a 13-4 surge, keyed by a trio of three-pointers. Burnett's trifecta swished through the net with 10:21 to play, lifting Elon to a 52-39 advantage.
Sadalia Ellis then connected on three straight hoops in the paint, slicing the Lady Flames' deficit to 52-45 with 8:05 showing on the second-half clock.
Elon then sealed its victory with an ensuing 11-4 run that gave the Phoenix their largest lead (63-49) with just 3:30 remaining.
Elon closed out a 73-62 triumph in the teams' first matchup since Feb. 22, 2003 by draining eight straight free throws during the last 46.6 seconds.
Despite its cold shooting from the field, Liberty kept the game within reach most of the way by hitting 73.3 percent of its foul shots and setting season highs for free throws made (22) and attempted (30).
Elon finished at 37.5 percent (24-of-64) from the floor, 34.8 percent (8-of-23) from beyond the three-point arc and 81 percent (17-of-21) from the charity stripe.
Aided by a season-best 26 offensive rebounds, Liberty won the rebounding battle, 54-41. The Lady Flames also scored 30 points in the paint to 20 for the Phoenix and racked up 24 second-chance points.
Elon converted Liberty's 20 turnovers into 23 points.
Rininger's double-double was the 22nd of her career, and the redshirt junior also tied her career high by recording three of Liberty's 12 steals.
Ellis made it three Lady Flames in double figures with 11 points, while Jasmine Gardner contributed nine points and eight boards (seven offensive).
Burnett came off of Elon's bench for 11 points, while Essence Baucom totaled seven points, a game-high eight assists, six rebounds and three steals.
Liberty will now prepare for the GSU Thanksgiving Tournament, hosted by Georgia State in Atlanta. The Lady Flames will face Penn State (1-3) in the tournament's opening game, Friday at 2 p.m. It will be the first meeting between Liberty and Penn State since the Lady Flames defeated the Lady Lions, 78-70, in the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament on March 20, 2005.