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Winthrop Hands Liberty 1st Big South Setback
Keyed by the trio of Erica Williams, Aliyah Kilpatrick and Schaquilla Nunn, defending Big South champion Winthrop dealt Liberty its first conference loss of the season, 63-58, Tuesday evening at the Winthrop Coliseum.
Williams (23 points, 9 rebounds), Kilpatrick (20 points) and Nunn (11 points, 8 rebounds, 9 blocked shots) scored 29 of the Eagles' 35 second-half points, helping Winthrop come from behind to win.
The Lady Flames, who saw their six-game winning streak halted, fall to 12-6 overall and 8-1 in the Big South. They are now tied with High Point for first place in the Big South standings after shooting just 29.7 percent (22-of-74) for the game. Ashley Rininger paced Liberty with 14 points and 17 rebounds, contributing to the Lady Flames' 57-33 advantage on the glass.
Kilpatrick's successful return from an injury which had sidelined her for two games helped Winthrop snap its three-game slide. The Eagles, who shot 57.1 percent (12-of-21) from the field after halftime, improve to 9-9 on the year and 5-4 in Big South games.
Liberty held Winthrop to just one made field goal during the first eight minutes, enabling the Lady Flames to open the game with an 11-3 advantage.
The Eagles scored the contest's next seven points, pulling to within one, 11-10, on Williams' three-point play at the 10:28 mark.
Winthrop briefly took the lead at 18-17 on Williams' pull-up jumper in transition, 6:39 before halftime.
Liberty remained in front for the remainder of the stanza, taking a 31-28 halftime lead.
Both teams struggled shooting the ball from the field before halftime, as the Lady Flames connected at a 32.4 percent (12-of-37) clip and Winthrop was 38.5 percent (10-of-26).
Liberty was aided by four made triples and a 30-18 rebounding edge in the first 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, Winthrop turned Liberty's 11 turnovers into 15 points and got to the foul line 10 more times than the visitors (14-4).
Ellis paced the Lady Flames with 10 first-half points, while Simone Brown collected eight rebounds.
Williams was Winthrop's first-half leader in both points (14) and boards (6).
The Eagles took their first lead of the second half (49-48) when Williams split a pair of free throws with 8:36 remaining.
The lead changed hands four times the rest of the way, and Liberty's final advantage (55-54) came as a result of Jasmine Gardner's putback at the 4:01 mark.
Nunn converted an offensive rebound into a hoop of her own on Winthrop's next trip to the offensive end, putting the Eagles in front for good.
Gardner's hoop turned out to be the Lady Flames' final made field goal of the night, as Liberty misfired on its final nine field goal attempts.
However, the Lady Flames still had a glimmer of hope when Rininger was fouled on a three-point shot with 9.2 seconds remaining. The Buckeye State native hit all three free throws, making it a one-possession game at 61-58.
Kilpatrick countered with a pair of made free throws, essentially sealing Winthrop's second straight victory over the Lady Flames. This is the first time the Eagles have recorded back-to-back wins over Liberty since the 1995-96 season.
Liberty's field goal percentage was its second lowest of the season. The Lady Flames also connected on only 20.8 percent (5-of-24) of their attempts from beyond the three-point arc.
Conversely, Winthrop made 46.8 percent (22-of-47) from the floor.
Liberty shot better from the free throw line than its host, hitting right at its season average of 75 percent (9-of-12). The Eagles shot just 52.9 percent (18-of-34) but got to the charity stripe 22 more times than the Lady Flames.
Liberty finished with a season-high 32 offensive rebounds, converting them into 24 second-chance points.
Winthrop took advantage of a 23-4 edge in points off of turnovers.
Rininger, who tallied 12 points and 11 rebounds after halftime, notched her seventh double-double of the season and the 26th of her career. She is now in sole possession of fourth place on Liberty's career double-doubles list.
Ellis ended up with 10 points, along with team-high totals in assists (4) and steals (3).
Katelyn Adams and Brown made it three Lady Flames with double-digit rebounds. Adams matched her season high with 11 boards, while Brown equaled her career high of 10 rebounds.
Liberty's leading scorer for the season, Karly Buer was limited to five points on the night. Her next point will be No. 1,000 for her collegiate career.
All of Winthrop's points came from four players, as Taylor Calvert scored the Eagles' remaining nine tallies for a new season high. Winthrop did not make a substitution after halftime.
Nunn's nine blocked shots were the most ever by a Liberty opponent and equaled her season high.
Liberty will return home for its next two games, beginning with a Saturday matinee against Campbell (11-7, 6-3 Big South). The contest, slated for a 2 p.m. tipoff at the Vines Center, will wrap up the first half of the Lady Flames' 20-game Big South Conference schedule.