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No. 1 Liberty Comes Back To Defeat No. 8 UNC Asheville, 59-51
After trailing No. 8 seed UNC Asheville by 11 points during the first half of Thursday afternoon's 2015 VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Women's Basketball Championship quarterfinal matchup, No. 1 seed Liberty roared back to claim a hard-fought 59-51 victory.
The Bulldogs led 28-17 4:46 before halftime before Liberty's duo of Emily Frazier and first team All-Big South post player Ashley Rininger helped the Lady Flames battle back. Frazier scored eight of her 11 points during the final 4:29 of the first half. Rininger then tallied 10 of her team-high 14 points and grabbed five of her 11 boards after halftime.
Liberty improves to 24-6 despite shooting just 32.3 percent (21-of-65) from the field and making a season-low one three-pointer. The Lady Flames have now won 12 straight games overall and improve to 7-0 all-time against the Bulldogs during the Big South Championship, after equaling their largest comeback win this season.
With the victory, Liberty advances to the semifinal round for the 19th consecutive year. The Lady Flames will meet either No. 4 seed Winthrop or No. 5 seed Campbell Saturday at 6 p.m.
Asheville's season ends at 9-22 despite the fine efforts of Shonese Jones (game-high 22 points) and KJ Weaver (10 points, game-high 13 rebounds). The Bulldogs shot just 27.6 percent (8-of-29) after the intermission while suffering their third loss to the Lady Flames this season.
Asheville made seven of its first nine field goal attempts to start the game, taking a 16-8 lead on Chatori Major's three-pointer from the right wing at 13:03. Conversely, Liberty made just 5 of its first 25 field goals.
The Bulldogs took their aforementioned 11-point advantage (28-17) after the second of back-to-back layups by Jones dropped through the hoop, 4:46 before halftime.
Frazier helped the Lady Flames get back into the game by scoring eight points during Liberty's half-closing 10-2 surge. As a result, the deficit had closed to three (30-27) by the intermission.
Jones scored 11 first-half points for Asheville, which shot 48 percent (12-of-25) from the field and 50 percent (3-of-6) from three-point range.
Frazier's eight points paced Liberty during the first half. The Lady Flames hit only 28.6 percent (10-of-35) of their field goals but made 85.7 percent (6-of-7) of their free throws.
After being limited to four first-half points, Rininger scored six straight tallies during an 8-0 Liberty run early in the second period. Her layup at the 16:53 mark gave the Lady Flames their first lead of the day at 33-32.
The lead changed hands two times before Liberty went on top for good on a spinning three-point play by Frazier at 9:37.
Liberty made 10 of its 14 free throw attempts during the second half, helping the Lady Flames improve to 8-3 in games decided by 10 points or fewer this season.
The Lady Flames utilized their size advantage to the tune of a 49-38 rebounding advantage and edges in points in the paint (34-24) and second-chance points (18-6). Liberty has now outrebounded 19 straight opponents.
Liberty also did a good job taking care of the basketball, committing a season-low six turnovers on the afternoon.
Rininger's double-double was the redshirt junior's 11th of the season and the 30th of her career.
Frazier complemented her 11 points with a team-high six assists and only one turnover. Backcourt mate Karly Buer chipped in 11 points of her own.
Sadalia Ellis contributed seven points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals to the Lady Flames' victory.
Jaymee Fisher-Davis closed out the game's scoring by sinking two free throws with 0.8 seconds remaining. In the process, she tied the program record for consecutive foul shots made with 22. Fisher-Davis has not missed a free throw since the championship game of the 2013 Big South Women's Basketball Championship at The HTC Center.
Fisher-Davis helped Liberty outscore its 10th consecutive opponent in bench points, 12-8.
Jones' 22-point effort marked the second time she has eclipsed the 20-point mark in a Big South Championship matchup with Liberty. She also tallied 20 points in a 2012 quarterfinal setback to the Lady Flames as a freshman.
Other standout performers for Asheville included Brittany Gwyn (team-high six assists) and Tiffany Wilson (seven rebounds).
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green
"First of all, I am very thankful for the perseverance of my team. They stood toe to toe in a really hard-fought ball game. Asheville was well prepared, and we expected that. They had three games in six days here on this court. We had to stay focused and fight the entire game. Obviously, when you get into tournament time, [each team's record] is 0-0. You have to earn everything from here on out."
UNC Asheville Head Coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick
"First of all, I want to recognize my five seniors. It's unusual in a coaching career to have a group of people as special on-and-off the court as they are. I love those kids, and I want to recognize them first for all the hard work they've done in laying the foundation for what we are trying to do at UNC Asheville with our women's basketball program. Secondly, hats off to Liberty. They are a great program. We knew we would have our hands full, in particular, on the glass and in [Liberty's] expectation to win. I think that's something most programs in the Big South admire, and I certainly do believe our program is close to being there in terms of our expectation [to win]."