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Liberty Clinches No. 1 Seed with Comeback Win
For the 15th time in 18 seasons, Liberty clinched at least a share of the Big South regular-season title and the No. 1 seed for the 2015 VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Women's Basketball Championship, thanks to a 65-60 win at Longwood. But the Lady Flames' 20th victory of the season was anything but easy, as Liberty had to rally from an 11-point second-half deficit, Tuesday evening at Willett Hall.
Brenna Robbins' three-pointer dropped through the net with 17:28 remaining in the second half, giving the homestanding Lancers a 36-25 advantage. Facing its largest deficit since its Dec. 21 matchup with No. 1/1 South Carolina and a boisterous Longwood crowd, Liberty employed an uncharacteristically small lineup for most of the remaining minutes.
Playing center at times down the stretch, Simone Brown scored 10 of her 12 points after halftime and grabbed four second-half boards. Meanwhile, Emily Frazier tallied nine of her season-high 13 points after the break. Jaymee Fisher-Davis hit a pair of second-half triples, including one which banked in at the 4:50 mark, putting Liberty ahead for good at 55-54.
Liberty, which improved to 20-6 overall and 16-1 in Big South play, made six of seven free throws the rest of the way to close out a hard-fought victory. The Lady Flames have now won eight straight games overall, 10 consecutive contests against in-state opponents and 13 straight matchups with Longwood. Liberty has recorded eight straight 20-win seasons and has tied the Big South record with 16 conference victories this season.
Kyndal Skersick scored 21 points off of Longwood's bench and hit four of her team's eight triples. However, the Lancers fall to 3-24 overall and 3-15 in Big South play. Longwood, which dressed only eight players due to multiple injuries, lost its eighth game in a row.
Deborah Headen scored five early points, helping Longwood jump out to a 7-2 lead to start the contest.
After Liberty came back to tie things up a 9-9 on two Brown free throws at 11:51, the Lancers went on a 17-6 run. Skersick came off the bench for 10 of those points, and Micaela Ellis' perimeter jumper at the 4:21 mark gave Longwood its largest advantage of the opening half, 26-15.
The Lancers took a 31-23 lead into halftime after shooting 41.7 percent (5-of-12) from three-point range and 100 percent (6-of-6) from the foul line during the opening 20 minutes.
Liberty shot just 33.3 percent (8-of-24) from the field and 14.3 percent (1-of-7) from beyond the three-point arc before the break.
Skersick scored 13 first-half points for the Lancers, while no Lady Flame had more than four points before halftime.
Longwood scored five of the second half's first seven points, taking the aforementioned 11-point lead (36-25) on Robbins' long triple with 17:28 remaining.
Liberty responded with a 7-0 burst, capped off by Karly Buer's acrobatic three-point play at the 15:53 mark. Her free throw conversion cut the Lady Flames' deficit to 36-32.
After battling back and forth, the Lady Flames finally seized control of the game with a 7-0 run started off by Fisher-Davis' banked-in triple. Two free throws by Frazier and a Katelyn Adams putback gave Liberty a 59-54 edge at 3:27.
However, Liberty's victory was not sealed until Frazier hit two more charity tosses at the 13.5-second mark, extending the lead to the final margin of five points.
The Lady Flames shot just 38.2 percent (21-of-55) from the field and 28.6 percent (4-of-14) from three-point range for the game. However, they were aided greatly by an 86.4 percent (19-of-22) effort from the foul line, including 92.9 percent (13-of-14) after halftime.
Longwood finished at 39.2 percent (20-of-51) from the floor and 42.1 percent (8-of-19) from beyond the arc. The Lancers also shot well from the foul line, making 92.3 percent (12-of-13).
Liberty finished with a 41-26 rebounding edge, including 25-10 after halftime with its smaller lineup on the floor. The Lady Flames also took advantage of sizeable advantages in points in the paint (28-10) and second-chance points (20-2).
Frazier's season-high 13 points included an 8-of-8 effort from the free throw line. Brown scored half of her 12 points at the charity stripe, where the sophomore shot 6-of-6. Brown also pulled down six big rebounds.
Sadalia Ellis, Jasmine Gardner and Ashley Rininger chipped in eight points apiece for the Lady Flames. Rininger, who added a game-high eight rebounds, is now only seven points shy of 1,000 for her career.
Buer made her first free throw attempt of the game, tying Jennifer Fairfax's program record of 22 consecutive made foul shots, originally set in 1991. However, the redshirt senior's streak then came to an end on her next attempt.
For Longwood, Skersick's 21 points were just two shy of her career high. Raven Williams added 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Tuesday's game tipped off two hours earlier than originally scheduled due to the approximately six inches of snow which blanketed Farmville on Monday.
Liberty will return to similarly snowy Lynchburg for its final two home games of the regular season. First up is a Saturday evening matchup with Charleston Southern. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at the Vines Center for the Lady Flames' Senior Night contest. Seniors Buer, Frazier, Gardner and Ellee Rollins will be recognized prior to the game.
Liberty recorded an 86-51 victory at Charleston Southern on Jan. 17 and has won 20 straight home games against the Buccaneers. If the Lady Flames are victorious on Saturday, they will set a new Big South record for most conference victories in a season with 17.