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Liberty Wins, Rininger Reaches 1,000 on Senior Day
Snowy weather outside the Vines Center could not dampen a festive, emotional Saturday afternoon for the Liberty women's basketball team. Ashley Rininger scored her 1,000th career point and recorded a double-double, leading the Lady Flames to a come-from-behind 64-53 Senior Day victory over Charleston Southern.
For the second straight game, Liberty had to rally from a halftime deficit as CSU hit six first-half three-pointers on its way to a 31-29 halftime advantage. The Lady Flames then opened the second half with a 21-4 run and never looked back on their way to their ninth consecutive win.
Rininger paced all players with 16 points and 10 rebounds, notching her ninth double-double of the season while becoming the 15th Lady Flame ever to score 1,000 career points. She helped Liberty improve to 21-6 overall and 17-1 in Big South play.
The Lady Flames become the first Big South women's basketball team ever to win 17 conference games in a single season. The previous record of 16 Big South wins was co-held by High Point (2013-14) and the Lady Flames (2011-12 and 2012-13). Liberty also recorded its 11th straight home win and their 21st consecutive home triumph over the Buccaneers.
Charleston Southern (5-22, 1-17 Big South) fell for the 22nd straight time when playing away from the Buc Dome despite shooting 52.6 percent (10-of-19) from three-point range.
Rininger scored the first four points of Liberty's 15-5 run to open the game. A three-pointer by Jaymee Fisher-Davis gave the Lady Flames a double-digit lead at the 12:33 mark.
Charleston Southern used the three-point shot to quickly trim its deficit. Three triples by the Buccaneers made it a 15-14 game 8:32 before halftime.
After Rininger pushed the Liberty lead back to five (23-18) with a pair of free throws at 4:00, CSU outscored the Lady Flames by a 13-6 count to close out the half. Alise Karlsone scored nine of those points, including two triples. Alecia Hardy's layup just before the halftime buzzer put the Buccaneers on top at the break, 31-29.
Three-point shooting was the biggest reason for CSU's halftime advantage, as the Buccaneers hit 60 percent (6-of-10) from beyond the arc during the first 20 minutes. Karlsone hit three of those triples as part of a 12-point opening half.
Liberty, which shot just 29.4 percent (10-of-34) from the floor in the first half, was paced by Rininger's 12 points and seven rebounds.
Redshirt junior post players Rininger, Katelyn Adams and Catherine Kearney scored 16 of the Lady Flames' points during their aforementioned 21-4 surge to start the second half. Kearney closed out the surge with eight straight points by herself, putting Liberty on top by a 50-35 score with 12:27 to play.
Alyssa Mann and Hardy hit three-pointers on CSU's next two trips to the offensive end, slicing the deficit to 50-41 at the 10:03 mark.
However, the blue-clad Buccaneers would get no closer as Liberty tightened up its defense and got more efficient at the offensive end. CSU shot only 32 percent (8-of-25) from the floor after halftime. Conversely, Liberty made 60.9 percent (14-of-23) of its second-half field goal attempts and committed only three turnovers during the final 20 minutes.
Liberty ended up at 42.1 percent (24-of-57) from the field, while holding CSU to 35.7 percent (20-56). The Lady Flames also owned a considerable advantage from the foul line, making 14-of-20 tries for 70 percent while CSU was just 3-of-6 for 50 percent.
The Lady Flames outrebounded their 15th straight opponent (46-30), while also defeating Charleston Southern in points in the paint (40-14) and second-chance points (20-0).
Liberty's total of nine turnovers marked the third time in six games that the Lady Flames have committed 10 or fewer turnovers.
Rininger, who scored points No. 1,000 and 1,001 on a layup with 6:26 remaining in the first half, becomes the first Lady Flame to reach the 1,000-point mark since Devon Brown on Dec. 7, 2011.
Karly Buer, the other current Lady Flame with 1,000 collegiate points, joined Rininger in double figures with 10 points.
Kearney scored eight of her nine points and grabbed four of her six rebounds after halftime.
Adams, who tallied all six of her points during the final 20 minutes, is now tied for 49th place on Liberty's career scoring list with 547 points.
Emily Frazier contributed six points and tied a season high with six rebounds on Senior Day. She is now ranked 50th in program history with 322 boards despite standing just 5-7.
Karlsone (14 points), Mann (11 points) and Hardy (10 points) all scored in double digits for CSU, while combining for eight three-pointers between them. Mann led all players with five assists.
At the conclusion of Liberty's victory, the Lady Flames honored seniors Buer, Frazier, Jasmine Gardner and Ellee Rollins. Buer also received a ball commemorating her 1,000th point, which the Kansas native scored on Jan. 24 against Campbell.
Saturday's game was played six hours earlier than originally scheduled due to a mixture of wintry precipitation falling throughout the day. However, 780 fans braved the elements for Senior Day and the kickoff to Liberty's #WinLikeAnLUGirl campaign.
Liberty will close out its 2014-15 regular-season home schedule Tuesday at 7 p.m. when Winthrop (16-11, 12-6 Big South) visits the Vines Center. The Lady Flames will attempt to avenge their lone Big South setback (63-58 on Jan. 20) in a contest slated to air on ESPN3.