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Lady Flames Run #BeatCoastal Streak to 44
A team effort and impressive free throw shooting enabled Liberty to stave off Coastal Carolina's furious comeback, Saturday evening at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames' 78-64 victory was their 44th straight triumph in the head-to-head series with the Chanticleers.
Liberty raced out to an early 33-10 advantage before the Chanticleers trimmed the deficit to eight points. However, the Lady Flames' depth (42-22 advantage in bench points) and free throw shooting (83.9 percent on 26-of-31) were too much for Coastal Carolina to overcome.
Ashley Rininger (16 points) and Mickayla Sanders (14 points) led a balanced scoring attack for Liberty, which improves to 18-6 overall and 14-1 in Big South play. The Lady Flames, who clinched a first-round bye for the 2015 Big South Women's Basketball Championship on Saturday, have now won six straight games overall and 10 consecutive contests at the Vines Center.
Coastal Carolina scored more points (64) than any other Big South team has against Liberty in 2014-15, including 21 by the conference's leading scorer, AJ Jordan. However, the Chanticleers fall to 10-13 overall and 4-10 in conference play with their fifth loss in a row.
The score was tied at eight early on before Liberty broke the game open with an extended 25-2 run. By the time Jaymee Fisher-Davis' three-pointer tickled the twine at the 7:32 mark, the Lady Flames had opened up a 33-10 lead.
Ced Gibson banked in a three-pointer, capping off Coastal Carolina's ensuing 9-0 surge, trimming the visitors' deficit to 14 points (33-19) 5:11 before halftime.
The Chanticleers continued chipping away, connecting on each of their last four field goal attempts to close out the half. Stephanie Isaacs' long-range triple connected five seconds before the halftime buzzer sounded, cutting Liberty's lead to 41-31 at the intermission.
The Lady Flames shot 50 percent (14-of-28) from the field during their highest-scoring first half of the season. Liberty scored 20 bench points during the first 20 minutes and converted Coastal Carolina's 11 turnovers into 19 points.
The Chanticleers shot 43.5 percent (10-of-23) from the field during the opening period and hit 81.8 percent (9-of-11) of their free throws.
Rininger paced the Lady Flames with 11 points and six rebounds before halftime, contributing to Liberty's 17-12 edge on the glass. For Coastal Carolina, AJ Jordan's 14 points paced all players.
Isaacs hit back-to-back three-pointers for the Chanticleers during the early stages of the second half, but Sanders and Fisher-Davis answered right back with triples of their own for the Lady Flames. The back-and-forth flurry of trifectas left Liberty on top, 57-43, with 13:07 to play.
The Chanticleers were within 11 points (62-51) at the 8:58 mark, when Jordan picked up her fifth foul.
Liberty held Coastal Carolina at bay the rest of the way by sinking 14-of-16 free throws over the final 8:58. As a result, the Lady Flames were able to continue the second-longest active winning streak against a conference opponent in NCAA Division I women's basketball.
Aided by 26 points in the paint, Liberty shot 44.2 percent (23-of-52) from the field. The Lady Flames' 26 free throws made and 31 free throws attempted both equaled season highs.
Coastal Carolina finished the night at 39.6 percent (21-of-53) from the floor and 73.9 percent (17-of-23) from the foul line.
Liberty outrebounded its 13th straight opponent (37-30) and converted 13 offensive boards into 22 second-chance points.
Rininger, who is now 31 points away from becoming the Lady Flames' 15th 1,000-point scorer, collected a game-high seven rebounds. That makes her the eighth Liberty player with 700 career boards. Rininger also blocked two shots and came up with a career-high four steals.
Sanders hit three of Liberty's six triples on her way to a 14-point evening.
Lady Flames posts Katelyn Adams and Catherine Kearney tallied matching stat lines of nine points and five rebounds. Kearney did not miss a shot, making all three of her field goals and each of her three free throw attempts.
After missing the previous two games due to injury, Karly Buer returned with nine points and three assists off the bench.
Buer and Fisher-Davis combined to make all five of their foul shots, putting both in close proximity to the school record of 22 consecutive made free throws (Jennifer Fairfax in 1991). Fisher-Davis has now hit 20 straight free throws dating back to her freshman year, while Buer has connected on 18 consecutive charity tosses.
Isaacs (13 points) and Anna Vogt (13 points) made it three double-digit scorers for Coastal Carolina.
Liberty will not play again until next Saturday (Feb. 14), when the Lady Flames travel to Presbyterian (12-12, 7-8 Big South) for a battle between the Big South's top two defensive teams. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m. at the Templeton Center, where the Blue Hose have lost just once this season.
Liberty came away with a 59-42 home victory over the Blue Hose on Jan. 5, but suffered a 46-43 setback during its last visit to PC (Feb. 13, 2014).