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UNC Asheville Upsets Liberty in Overtime, 83-80
For the first time in more than 30 years, the Liberty women's basketball team went to overtime for the second consecutive game, Saturday afternoon at UNC Asheville. And for the first time in 17 seasons, the Bulldogs pulled out a home win over the Lady Flames, recording an 83-80 overtime triumph at Kimmel Arena.
Asheville overcame a five-point deficit in the final 54 seconds of regulation, tying the score at 72-72 on Ja'Da Brayboy's pair of free throws with 7.1 ticks left. Brayboy then came up with a steal and hit two more foul shots to seal the victory in overtime.
Liberty, now 11-7 overall and 7-2 in the Big South, drops into a share of the conference lead with Winthrop. The Lady Flames saw numerous winning streaks halted, as Liberty entered Saturday's matinee having won three straight road games, five consecutive games overall, 13 straight meetings with UNC Asheville and 16 consecutive road games against the Bulldogs.
This marks the Lady Flames' first back-to-back overtime contests since Dec. 9 and 10, 1983 against Navy and College of Notre Dame.
UNC Asheville posted its first home victory over Liberty since Feb. 8, 1997 by putting six players in double figures in the scoring column and making 88.5 percent (23-of-26) of its free throw attempts. The Bulldogs improve to 8-10 overall and 5-4 in the Big South, one year after going 0-18 in conference play.
Post players Ashley Rininger and Katelyn Adams combined for eight of Liberty's first 10 points, helping the Lady Flames jump out to a 10-4 lead.
Asheville responded with a 7-0 burst, taking an 11-10 advantage on Tianna Knuckles' triple at the 13:42 mark of the opening half.
Rininger outscored the Bulldogs by herself during the next five minutes, 7-6, giving Liberty a 22-17 lead on a bank shot at 8:43.
Liberty's lead reached eight (29-21) 5:10 before halftime, when Reagan Miller nailed a three-pointer.
The Bulldogs responded with an 11-3 run, highlighted by three Shonese Jones three-pointers. The third triple found the bottom of the net with 55 seconds remaining, tying the score at 32-32.
Simone Brown then closed the first-half scoring with two free throws, sending Liberty to halftime with a 34-32 edge.
Helped by 16 points in the paint, Liberty shot 44.4 percent (12-of-27) from the floor during the first 20 minutes, while Asheville connected at a 34.5 percent (10-of-29) rate.
The Lady Flames outrebounded the Bulldogs, 21-15, in the first half, but Asheville turned its four offensive boards into eight second-chance points.
Liberty's first-half statistical leaders included Rininger (12 points), Brown (6 rebounds) and Emily Frazier (5 assists).
Jones' 11 points topped Asheville's scoring chart before the break.
Liberty scored seven unanswered points during the first 1:35 of the second half, pushing its lead to 41-32 on Miller's second triple of the day.
The Lady Flames still led by nine (45-36) before Asheville pulled to within two (48-46) with a 10-3 surge. Consecutive pull-up jumpers by Brayboy closed out the run, with the second connecting at 11:51.
The margin was still two at 51-49 before Liberty extended its lead with free throw shooting. The Lady Flames tallied 12 of their next 16 points at the charity stripe, including two foul shots by Catherine Kearney at the 4:32 mark which gave the Lady Flames a 65-57 cushion.
Liberty was still on top by five (72-67) after Rininger's fast break layup with 54.2 seconds to play.
However, a Knuckles three-pointer from the corner and Brayboy's clutch foul shots necessitated overtime. Sadalia Ellis had a chance to win the game at the buzzer for the Lady Flames, but her floater fell short.
Overtime saw three ties and a lead change during a tightly contested five-minute session. Knuckles and Gwyn broke the final deadlock, as each split a pair of free throws.
Adams trimmed Liberty's deficit to 81-80 with a foul shot at the 24.4-second mark but misfired on her second try. Kearney was there for the offensive rebound, but shortly thereafter, Brayboy came up with what proved to be the game-clinching theft for the Bulldogs.
After Brayboy's two free throws made it a three-point game, Gwyn picked off a Liberty pass as time expired.
Liberty finished with a higher field goal percentage than the host Bulldogs, making 43.3 percent (26-of-60) of their field goal tries to 41.9 percent (26-of-62) for Asheville. The Lady Flames also recorded a 49-31 rebounding advantage, converting 20 offensive boards into 19 second-chance points.
However, Asheville made eight three-pointers, missed just three free throws all afternoon and turned the ball over only seven times in 45 minutes.
Liberty ended the game at 67.6 percent (25-of-37) from the foul line.
Rininger's streak of five straight double-doubles came to an end, but she did lead all players with 21 points before fouling out in overtime.
Adams, Frazier and Kearney chipped in 11 points apiece. Adams grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season. Frazier dished out a season-high nine assists, while Kearney tallied seven of her eight boards at the offensive end.
Brown played a career-high 32 minutes for the Lady Flames, tying her career high with eight points and collecting a matching number of rebounds.
Jones, who hit four triples, paced Asheville with 17 points. Brayboy added 14 of her 16 points after halftime.
Also scoring in double figures for the Bulldogs were Paige Love (14 points), Knuckles (12), Gwyn (10) and KJ Weaver (10).
Liberty will play its next two games at the Vines Center, beginning on Thursday with a rematch of the 2013 Big South Women's Basketball Championship title game against Longwood (6-12, 3-6 Big South). Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. for the 32nd all-time meeting between the Route 460 foes.