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Defense Keys Saint Joseph's Victory Over Liberty
Saint Joseph's broke open a close game by holding Liberty without a field goal for an 8:34 stretch of the second half, Saturday afternoon. The Hawks outscored the Lady Flames, 25-7, during that span, propelling them to a 77-65 victory at Hagan Arena.
Hometown favorite Catherine Kearney hit a layup at 12:31 of the second half, pulling the Lady Flames to within four at 48-44. However, that would be Liberty's last field goal until Ashley Rininger drilled a layup with 3:57 remaining. In the meantime, the Hawks made five triples during the game-clinching 25-7 surge, which expanded their lead to 73-51 with four minutes left.
Sarah Fairbanks scored a game-high 20 points and Erin Shields added 19 for defending Atlantic 10 champion Saint Joseph's, which improves to 4-1 on the year with its sixth straight home win.
Liberty drops to 0-4 despite a +28 rebounding margin, Ashley Rininger's third double-double in a row (15 points, 14 rebounds) and career scoring highs by Katelyn Adams (16 points) and Tesh Hanson (8 points).
Saint Joseph's scored the game's first four points and led for the first 7:40 of the contest. However, the Hawks went scoreless for more than five minutes, during which time Liberty went on a 7-0 run. Hanson gave the Lady Flames their initial advantage of the matinee, as the freshman's perimeter jumper from the corner made it 10-8 at the 12:19 mark.
Saint Joseph's quickly went back on top, countering with a 6-1 surge during the next two minutes. The Lady Flames were within a single point (20-19) before a 9-2 Hawks run gave the home team its largest lead of the opening half at 29-21 on Fairbanks' free throw at 4:12.
Rininger, who fashioned a double-double during the first half (11 points, 12 rebounds) scored Liberty's final six points of the period. Her putback hoop during the closing seconds cut the Lady Flames' halftime deficit to 35-32.
The Hawks did a lot of their work at the free throw line during the opening 20 minutes, shooting 15-of-17 for 88.2 percent. Fairbanks made seven of those charity tosses as part of a 15-point first half.
Rininger helped Liberty dominate the paint in the opening period, as the Lady Flames enjoyed sizeable advantages in rebounds (30-11) and second-chance points (15-1). Fellow post player Adams chipped in nine points and five boards before the intermission.
The two teams traded hoops during the first seven and a half minutes of the second half before the Lady Flames' field goal drought.
Liberty closed the game with a 14-4 surge, but it was too little, too late for the blue-clad visitors.
Liberty grabbed 28 offensive rebounds, helping the Lady Flames enjoy a 52-24 rebounding cushion. Going along with that, the Lady Flames outscored their opponent in points in the paint (30-24) and second-chance points (26-8).
Liberty also shot a stellar 82.1 percent (23-of-28) from the foul line, but could not overcome a season-low 31.7 percent (20-of-63) effort on field goals or a 10.5 percent (2-of-19) three-point shooting performance.
Conversely, the Hawks shot 55.6 percent (15-of-27) from the field and 66.7 percent (6-of-9) from three-point range in the second half. For the game, Saint Joseph's shot well from the field (45.5 percent, 25-of-55), three-point range (37.5 percent, 6-of-16) and the free throw line (80.8 percent, 21-of-26). The Hawks also turned Liberty's 24 turnovers into 24 points and posted a 10-0 edge in fast break points.
Adams scored a dozen of her career-high 16 points from the charity stripe, connecting on all but four of her 16 attempts. The redshirt sophomore also pulled down a season-high nine rebounds off of the bench.
Rininger grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds, including seven of the offensive variety, during her sixth career double-double. Emily Frazier scored in double digits for the first time this season with 10 points, while adding three steals.
Hanson, who had scored only two points during her first three collegiate games, tallied eight on Saturday. Kearney added eight points of her own, playing against the alma mater of both of her parents.
For Saint Joseph's, Shields scored 13 of her 19 points and made all three of her triples after halftime. Kathleen Fitzpatrick added a spark with the first 14 points of her collegiate career. Natasha Cloud contributed seven points, a game-high eight assists and seven rebounds for the victorious Hawks.
Liberty will continue its four-game road swing Monday at 7 p.m., with its first-ever game against Kutztown.