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Franklin's FT Lifts Virginia Past Liberty

November 19, 2013
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Mickayla Sanders hit four three-pointers and scored a game-high 16 points during Tuesday's 61-60 loss to Virginia.
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Virginia visited the Vines Center for the first time in 11 years on Tuesday and nearly saw a reprise of that memorable overtime contest. However, Ataira Franklin nailed a free throw with 11.8 seconds left, enabling the Cavaliers to hold off Liberty, 61-60.

The Lady Flames had fought back from a nine-point deficit during the final five minutes to knot the game at 60-60 on a Catherine Kearney foul shot with 38.2 ticks remaining. Liberty was unable to get off a shot attempt on its final possession of the game, though, and drops to 0-3 to start the season for the first time since 1993-94.

Franklin, a preseason All-ACC selection, scored all 12 of her points during the second half to help Virginia win its third straight contest and improve to 3-1.

Sadalia Ellis capped off an early 7-0 run by the Lady Flames with a steal and ensuing layup at the 15:30 mark. The sophomore's hoop put Liberty in front, 9-5.

Virginia did not reclaim the lead until Faith Randolph's perimeter jumper swished through the cylinder, 8:41 before halftime. The basket came during a 15-3 surge by the Cavaliers. Sydney Umeri scored the last four points of the run, including two free throws that lifted Virginia's lead to 26-17.

The Lady Flames scored the final five points of the half, trimming their deficit to 32-29 at the intermission.

Virginia made just 36.1 percent (13-of-36) of its field goal attempts before halftime but turned 16 Liberty turnovers into 18 points. Meanwhile, Liberty hit only 34.5 percent (10-of-29) of its field goals during the first 20 minutes. The Lady Flames stayed close thanks in large part to a 25-18 rebounding edge.

Cavalier freshman Umeri scored 10 points to lead all players in the first half. Katelyn Adams had seven first-half points and fellow post Ashley Rininger grabbed six boards before the break for Liberty.

Virginia tallied seven of the second half's first nine points, opening up a 39-31 advantage on Kelsey Wolfe's old-fashioned three-point play with 16:56 on the clock.

Another three-point play, this one by Sarah Imovbioh at 13:20, gave the Cavaliers their first double-digit lead of the night at 43-33.

Liberty battled back, outscoring Virginia 14-5 over the next five minutes. Mickayla Sanders hit two three-pointers during the run, including one at the 8:21 mark which brought the Lady Flames to within a single point, 48-47.

Virginia quickly reclaimed the momentum, turning up its defensive pressure during a 7-0 run. Franklin scored the last five points of the burst, which ended with the Cavaliers possessing a 55-47 cushion.

Virginia's advantage reached nine (58-49) with 5:10 left before a furious comeback by the Lady Flames, keyed by offensive rebounding.

Liberty grabbed five of its 18 offensive boards in the game during the last 3:09, including three by Kearney. The redshirt sophomore tracked down a missed three-pointer by Reagan Miller with 38.2 seconds left and was fouled. Kearney split the pair of free throws to even the score at 60-all and set the stage for Franklin's decisive point.

Franklin drew a foul on a drive down the left side of the lane at the 11.8-second mark and hit the second of two foul shots to provide the winning margin.

The Lady Flames made six triples but shot only 37.5 percent (21-of-56) overall. Liberty finished with a 52-35 rebounding advantage, including 18 offensive caroms which led to 15 second-chance points.

Virginia shot just 31.8 percent (21-of-66) from the field, including 14.3 percent (3-of-21) from three-point range. However, the opportunistic Cavaliers converted Liberty's 30 turnovers into 35 points on the night.

Sanders led three Lady Flames in double figures with a career-high 16 points, highlighted by four triples. Rininger finished with her second double-double in a row, consisting of 10 points and 12 rebounds. Fellow sophomore Ellis made it three straight games in double digits, tallying 11 points.

For Virginia, Franklin was joined in double figures by post players Umeri (career-high 12 points) and Imovbioh (10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds).

Liberty will now take to the road for a four-game, eight-day road trip, beginning at Saint Joseph's, Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is slated at 2 p.m. inside a Hagan Arena for a matchup between the defending champions of the Big South and Atlantic 10 Conferences.