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3-Point Play Pushes NC State Past Liberty, 67-64
|Sadalia Ellis set season highs for points (16) and assists (8) during Wednesday's 67-64 setback at NC State.|
NC State junior post player Carlee Schuhmacher scored a game-high 17 points, including the game-winning three-point play with 5.1 seconds remaining, leading the Wolfpack over Liberty, 67-64, Wednesday afternoon at Reynolds Coliseum.
Liberty sophomore Mickayla Sanders, who grew up 20 miles away from NC State's campus in Clayton, N.C., nearly made a storybook return to the court in her first game action of the 2014-15 season. She scored the Lady Flames' final five points of the contest, highlighted by a triple which tied the score at 64-all with 28.9 seconds to play.
On NC State's ensuing possession, Schuhmacher hit a turnaround jumper from the left elbow as she was fouled. After her free throw made it a three-point game, Liberty raced down the court but could not get off a game-tying shot attempt.
Liberty falls to 6-3 after seeing its season-best four-game winning streak halted. The Lady Flames were paced by the duo of Simone Brown (16 points, seven rebounds) and Sadalia Ellis (season-high 16 points, season-high eight assists).
NC State's third straight victory pushes the Wolfpack's overall record to 8-3. NC State improves to 22-0 all-time against Big South opponents, including 2-0 versus the Lady Flames.
The early moments of Wednesday's matinee saw four ties and two lead changes before NC State went on a 7-0 run. Dominique Wilson came off the bench to score the first five points of the burst, before Chelsea Nelson gave the Wolfpack an 18-11 advantage with a layup at the 9:56 mark.
Liberty responded with a 9-2 surge, tying the game at 20-20 on Brown's triple 6:57 before halftime. The Lady Flames also evened things up at 25-25 and 27-27 but could never reclaim the advantage during the opening 20 minutes.
NC State held a 30-27 halftime lead thanks to Ashley Williams' three-pointer which swished through the hoop 13 seconds before the buzzer.
Both teams struggled shooting the basketball during the first half, as Liberty made 33.3 percent (9-of-27) of its attempts and NC State hit just 37.5 percent (9-of-24).
Jasmine Gardner, making her first start since March 10, 2013, grabbed eight first-half rebounds, helping Liberty double up the Wolfpack on the glass, 24-12.
Brown finished with 10 points in the opening half to pace the Lady Flames, while Schuhmacher tallied a matching number of points for NC State.
NC State guard Krystal Barrett scored the first five points of the second half, bolstering the home team's lead to 35-27 just 58 seconds into the period.
Brown and Ellis scored six points apiece during Liberty's ensuing 14-3 run. A driving layup by Ellis with 13:05 to play put the red-clad Lady Flames on top, 41-38.
The Wolfpack bounced back with an 11-0 run, taking a 49-41 lead on Ashley Eli's hoop at the 8:54 mark.
Shortly thereafter, NC State rattled off seven straight points, taking a 60-52 lead on a Wilson three-point play at the 4:11 mark.
Liberty responded with a 12-4 run capped off by Sanders' aforementioned game-tying trifecta. However, the Lady Flames fell just shy of their first victory over an ACC opponent since Dec. 30, 2008 at Virginia Tech.
The Lady Flames shot well in the second half as they attempted to come back, making 61.5 percent (16-of-26) of their field goals, 60 percent (3-of-5) of their three-pointers and both of their free throw attempts. For the game, Liberty finished at a season-best 47.2 percent (25-of-53) clip from the floor, including six triples. The Lady Flames also made 80 percent (8-of-10) of their foul shots.
NC State got to the foul line 16 more times (26-10) than Liberty, and the nation's No. 1-ranked free throw shooting team made 69.2 percent (18-of-26) on Wednesday. The Wolfpack shot 45.1 percent (23-of-51) from the field but hit only three triples, one game after nailing a program-record 16 trifectas against Mount St. Mary's.
Liberty utilized its size advantage, grabbing 37 rebounds to NC State's 25.
Ellis was at her best during the final 20 minutes, scoring 12 of her 16 points and distributing five of her eight assists after the intermission.
Brown's 16 points marked the sophomore's fifth straight game scoring in double figures. She also tied a season high with her seven boards and nailed two three-pointers. Brown has now made more triples through nine games this season (14) than she did during her entire freshman campaign (12).
Sanders chipped in nine points in her season debut, after missing the first eight games with a back injury.
Also playing in her home state, Fisher-Davis tallied a season-high eight points and a pair of three-pointers, all of which came during the final 7:21 of the game.
Gardner paced all players with a season-best 10 rebounds.
Schuhmacher topped NC State's lineup in both points (17) and rebounds (7). She was joined in double figures by Wilson (13 points), Barrett (11) and Miah Spencer (11).
Liberty will now head to Minneapolis, Minn., for a pair of games at the Subway Classic, Saturday and Sunday at Williams Arena. The Lady Flames will face the host Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-1) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on the opening day of the tournament. Liberty will be seeking its second victory over a Big Ten opponent this season, after defeating Penn State 80-68 on Nov. 28.