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Lady Flames Hold Off UNC Asheville in Battle of First-Place Teams
Four players reached double figures for Liberty, which won for the seventh time in its last eight contests. The Lady Flames are now 13-8 overall and 5-1 in Big South action after defeating the Bulldogs for the 24th-straight time.
UNC Asheville, which had been victorious in eight of its last nine games, falls to 13-8 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
The Lady Flames scored the only points during the first 4:15 of action, a Megan Frazee shot from the paint at 17:39. Liberty struggled offensively early on, though, making just one of its first 12 shots and committed six turnovers in the first seven minutes.
The Lady Bulldogs took their initial lead by tallying eight-consecutive points. Included in the surge was a pair of three-pointers. Ana Baker banked in a NBA three-pointer 12:42 before the half to give UNC Asheville an 8-2 advantage.
Liberty responded with four-straight points, cutting its deficit to 8-6 on another jumper by Frazee at the 11:07 mark.
The home team remained hot from behind the arc, hitting two more triples to reestablish a six-point lead, 14-8. Ashton Barton became the fourth UNC Asheville player to connect on a three-pointer, capping the run with 9:45 showing on the first-half clock.
Michelle Parker split a pair of free throws at 5:56, finishing a 12-0 Liberty run which included five points by Rebecca Lightfoot. The Lady Flames held the Bulldogs scoreless for nearly five minutes and emerged from the surge with a 20-14 lead.
The two teams traded points for the remainder of the half. The Lady Flames took a 30-23 lead into halftime after Allyson Fasnacht made one-of-two free throws 35.6 seconds before the intermission.
Lightfoot, coming off a career-high 13-point effort against Radford last Saturday, paced the Lady Flames with nine first-half tallies. The sophomore connected on all four of her field goal attempts during the first 20 minutes, including a three-pointer.
Megan Frazee added seven points and six rebounds for Liberty during the first stanza. Roli-Ann Nikagbatse recorded a pair of steals, headlining an opportunistic Lady Flame defense which forced 15 Bulldog first-half miscues.
After the Lady Flames' slow start on the offensive end, they were able to make 11 of their final 16 first-half field goal attempts.
Baker led the homestanding Bulldogs with seven first-half points. UNC Asheville shot just 33.3 percent from the floor (9-of-27) before the intermission, but drained half (5-of-10) of their three-point tries.
Amanda Elder hauled in a quartet of rebounds during the opening half, helping her team achieve a slim, 18-17 edge under the glass. The Bulldogs did not attempt a foul shot before the half.
Liberty's lead reached double digits for the first time, 35-25, when Nikagbatse finished a 5-0 burst with a perimeter jumper from the wing, at 16:18 of the second half.
After a Baker jumper for UNC Asheville, the Lady Flames reeled off an 8-1 run, increasing their edge to 43-28 on a Karolina Piotrkiewicz lay-up with 13:29 remaining. Piotrkiewicz, who did not see any first-half playing time, came off the bench to score six of the Lady Flames' markers during the burst.
The Bulldogs came right back with seven-straight points. Liberty's lead had shrunk to 43-35 at 12:31, after Brittany Hendley finished the run with a three-pointer from the left wing.
Four-consecutive Lady Flame points pushed the visitors' advantage back to 11 points, 50-39, with 10:18 to play. Jamie Feagin's only basket of the game, a putback, capped the run.
UNC Asheville stayed close due to nearly perfect foul shooting. The Bulldogs made 15 of their first 16 charity tosses to open the second half. Every point of a 6-2 surge for the home team came from the line. Liberty's edge stood at 52-45 after Rachel Williams hit a pair of free throws at 8:12.
Piotrkiewicz scored three-straight markers for the Lady Flames, boosting her team's lead back to double digits, 55-45. Liberty had five separate 10-point advantages, and the Bulldogs would get no closer than eight until they fashioned a late run.
UNC Asheville scored seven-consecutive points, including five by Kyla Jones, to cut the Liberty advantage to three, 63-60, with 1:35 to play. Jones, the reigning Big South Freshman of the Week, capped the burst, with a driving lay-up.
Parker pushed the Liberty edge back to 64-60, splitting a pair of foul shots at 1:10. Neither team scored again until Elder canned a lay-up with 19.7 seconds left, shaving her team's deficit to two.
Parker then sealed the victory with a pair of free throws at the 18.6-second mark, making it a two-possession game once again, 64-60.
Feagin rebounded a missed shot attempt for the Bulldogs and Liberty was able to dribble out the remaining seconds, hanging on for its fifth conference win.
Megan Frazee led all players with 16 points and shared the Liberty lead with seven boards. Feagin pulled down seven caroms of her own, but the home team ended the contest with a 36-34 rebounding edge.
The Lady Flames put a total of four players in double figures. In addition to Frazee, Lightfoot and Piotrkiewicz tossed in 11 points apiece, while Parker added 10 tallies, three assists and a trio of steals. All of Piotrkiewicz's points came during the second half.
Hendley returned from an injury which had sidelined her for three games to post 13 points, tops for UNC Asheville. Williams and Jones both came off the bench to spark the Bulldog offensive effort. Williams totaled 13 markers and Jones contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.
Elder was limited to six total points, but posted eight boards and blocked a quartet of shots. UNC Asheville drilled 20 of its 24 foul shots during the second half.
UNC Asheville will now prepare for a stretch of five road games in its next six outings. The difficult stretch of the Bulldogs' conference schedule starts Wednesday at Radford with a 7 p.m. tip-off.
The Lady Flames will return to the Vines Center for a pair of contests this coming week. Birmingham-Southern will visit Liberty for the final time as a member of the Big South Conference, Monday evening at 7 p.m.