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Liberty Takes Over 1st Place with OT Victory

January 16, 2014
|  Rock Hill, S.C.
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Freshman Mickayla Sanders scored a career-high 17 points during Liberty's 77-70 overtime win at Winthrop on Thursday.

Host Winthrop gave Liberty its best shot during Thursday evening's battle between the Big South Conference co-leaders, jumping out to a 15-point lead and later extending the game to overtime with Schaquilla Nunn's buzzer beater. However, Liberty was able to pull out a gutty 77-70 overtime victory at the Winthrop Coliseum.

Nunn's hoop off of a lob inbounds pass from the sideline swished through the net as the buzzer sounded in regulation, capping off the Eagles' comeback from a four-point deficit in the final 14.1 seconds and tying the score at 62-all.

Playing its first overtime game since Feb. 11, 2012 against Charleston Southern, Liberty then opened the extra session with a 6-0 burst. Winthrop got no closer than four the rest of the way as the Lady Flames claimed sole possession of first place in the Big South with their fifth straight win.

Liberty, which is now 11-6 overall and 7-1 in the Big South, had numerous noteworthy performances during the game. Ashley Rininger posted her fifth straight double-double (20 points, 14 rebounds), Reagan Miller scored all 17 of her points after halftime and Mickayla Sanders finished with a career-high 17 points. The trio combined for 12 of the Lady Flames' 15 points in overtime.

Winthrop falls to 12-5 overall and 6-2 in conference play after suffering its first home loss of the season and seeing its three-game winning streak halted.

Winthrop fashioned an early 15-0 run, highlighted by two Samiya Wright three-pointers. Erica Williams' layup at 13:25 gave the Eagles a 23-8 advantage.

Winthrop still led by 15 at 27-12 before Rininger helped the blue-clad visitors battle back, scoring seven straight Liberty points during a span of 2:30. The burst kick-started a 19-7 surge by the Lady Flames. Jaymee Fisher-Davis hit two triples during the stretch, including one at 1:31 which cut the gap to 34-31.

Nunn then tallied the half's final four points, pushing the Winthrop edge to seven points (38-31) at the intermission.

Winthrop shot 40.6 percent (13-of-32) from the field in the first half, compared with 34.4 percent (11-of-32) for the Lady Flames. The Eagles also got to the foul line nearly twice as often as Liberty (15-8), making 10 of their attempts for 66.7 percent.

Liberty won the first-half rebounding battle, 24-19, aided by 10 offensive boards. Meanwhile, the Eagles converted the Lady Flames' nine turnovers into a dozen points.

Rininger led Liberty in both points (12) and rebounds (8) in the first half, going over the 500-point mark for her career in the process. Fisher-Davis scored six points off of the bench.

Nunn's 12 points paced the Eagles before halftime, while McClanahan tallied nine points and six assists.

Liberty raced out of the locker room with a 13-2 run, aided by three triples. Sanders' trifecta swished through the net at the 15:46 mark, giving the Lady Flames a 44-40 lead.

Liberty's advantage got as large as seven points on two occasions, including at 53-46 on Sanders' second-chance hoop with 11:03 to play.

Winthrop then held the Lady Flames without a made field goal for the next 10:33, enabling the Eagles to go back on top, 58-57, when Nunn made a contested bank shot at 1:39.

Miller ended the Liberty drought with a fall-away bank shot from the right side with 30.6 ticks left, while being fouled on the play. She misfired on the free throw but Rininger grabbed the offensive board and sank the two ensuing foul shots, turning a one-point deficit into a three-point lead (61-58) during the single possession.

However, Liberty uncharacteristically missed three of its four attempts from the charity stripe during the final 14.1 seconds of regulation, opening the door for Winthrop to tie the game on a McClanahan layup and Nunn's clutch hoop.

After a lengthy review of Nunn's basket by the officials, the Lady Flames quickly took control of overtime. Liberty scored on its first three trips to the offensive end, including a Sanders three-pointer, a Rininger bank shot and an Emily Frazier free throw which made it 68-62.

Trailing by six points and with four players who earned 40 or more minutes of playing time, Winthrop was unable to recover. Liberty's lead grew as large as nine before it closed out a hard-fought 77-70 triumph.

The Lady Flames, who made four of their six field goal tries during overtime, finished the game at 36.9 percent (24-of-65). They made eight triples, including three apiece by Miller and Sanders.

After a fast start, Winthrop ended the night at 34.8 percent (24-of-69) from the floor and just 18.8 percent (3-of-16) from three-point range.

Both teams struggled from the free throw line, with Liberty shooting 63.6 percent (21-of-33) to Winthrop's 57.6 percent (19-of-33).

The Lady Flames' 23 offensive boards led to 21 second-chance points and sparked a 57-42 rebounding edge. However, Winthrop ended Liberty's 13-game streak of outscoring opponents inside the paint, doing so by a 32-26 margin.

Liberty's depth played a major factor in the Lady Flames' 18th win in 25 visits to Winthrop, as the Lady Flames' reserves scored 17 points to Winthrop's three.

Rininger, whose 14 rebounds led all players, is the first Lady Flame since Avery Warley (Jan. 31-Feb. 19, 2011) to record five double-doubles in a row. The Buckeye State native now has 12 double-doubles in 17 games this season and five 20-point outings.

Sanders' 17 points eclipsed her previous career high of 16, while Miller's 17 tallies were one shy of her season-high of 18 points.

Frazier played an outstanding 35 minutes at the point guard spot for the Lady Flames, totaling six points, a career-high nine rebounds, six assists and just one turnover. Katelyn Adams also pulled down nine rebounds for Liberty.

For Winthrop, Nunn and McClanahan scored 20 points apiece. Nunn added 13 rebounds and blocked a season-high five shots. McClanahan dished out seven assists.

The Eagles' Williams (13 points) and Wright (12 points) also reached double digits, while Taylor Calvert grabbed 11 rebounds.

The Lady Flames will complete their road swing Saturday at 2 p.m. with a game at UNC Asheville (7-10, 4-4 Big South). Liberty has recorded 16 consecutive road wins over the Bulldogs.