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PC Edges Liberty in Defensive Struggle, 46-43
Presbyterian College senior guard Karlee Taylor scored her team's final eight points of Thursday evening's matchup with Liberty, including four crucial free throws which sealed a 46-43 Blue Hose victory inside the Templeton Center.
Liberty led for most of the defensive struggle, but Taylor gave PC a 44-43 advantage by making both ends of a one-and-one with 21.5 seconds remaining. After the Lady Flames missed two potential go-ahead shots, Taylor knocked down two more charity tosses with just 4.2 ticks remaining.
The Lady Flames had one more opportunity, but Mickayla Sanders' three-point try fell off the mark as the final buzzer sounded and PC celebrated its first-ever home win over the Lady Flames.
Liberty falls to 14-10 overall and 10-5 in Big South play after suffering its third straight road setback. The nation's No. 4-ranked scoring defense, Presbyterian College limited the Lady Flames to season-lows for points (43), field goal percentage (30 percent, 15-of-50) and three-point field goal percentage (5.9 percent, 1-of-17).
Thanks to its fourth win in its last five games, PC is now 8-17 overall and 6-10 in the conference. The Blue Hose were spurred on by Sherece Smith (18 points) and Taylor (14 points), who combined to score 28 second-half points. PC improves to 2-10 all-time against the Lady Flames.
Liberty held PC scoreless for the first 10:07 of the contest, opening up an 8-0 advantage to start the game.
Kaycie Reffner finally broke the ice for the Blue Hose, swishing a three-pointer from the right wing at the 9:53 mark.
The Lady Flames went 11:30 between made field goals, during which time PC tied the score at 10-10. A pair of Smith free throws at the 46.5-second mark knotted things up.
Reagan Miller then nailed a triple from the right corner 22 seconds later, sending Liberty into halftime with a 13-10 advantage despite its lowest-scoring period since tallying 13 points in the first half at Virginia on Dec. 7, 2011.
Liberty shot just 20.8 percent (5-of-24) from the field before halftime, including 10 percent (1-of-10) from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Blue Hose made only three of their 19 first-half field goal attempts for 15.8 percent.
Presbyterian College dominated the rebound column before halftime, 24-13, but neither team had a single second-chance point.
Liberty forced 12 PC turnovers in the first 20 minutes but converted them into only seven points.
Reffner led all scorers during the opening half with six points off of PC's bench on a pair of three-pointers.
Shortly after the intermission, the Blue Hose tied the score at 15 and 17 before Liberty opened up a little breathing room with a 6-0 spurt. Simone Brown's driving layup at the 13:25 mark finished off the run with the Lady Flames on top by a 23-17 count, necessitating a PC timeout.
The Blue Hose battled back, outscoring blue-clad Liberty, 12-5, over the next 4:13. Noelle Carter's 17-foot jumper briefly gave the home team a 29-28 edge.
Sanders scored off of a nice inbounds play on the Lady Flames' next possession, kick-starting an 8-2 surge by the visitors. A perimeter jumper by Sanders with 5:46 on the clock put Liberty in front, 36-31.
Smith scored seven consecutive Blue Hose points, helping PC tie the score at 38-38 with 3:06 remaining.
The teams traded the lead five times during the final 1:42. Liberty went on top for the final time, 43-42, when Sadalia Ellis put back her own miss at the 45.2-second mark.
Taylor then scored the game's final four points from the free throw line, wrapping up a rare loss in South Carolina for the Lady Flames. Liberty is now 50-5 in the Palmetto State under head coach Carey Green.
Presbyterian College was able to complete its comeback win by shooting 59.1 percent (13-of-22) from the floor after halftime and making seven of its eight second-half free throw tries. The Blue Hose finished the game at 39 percent (16-of-41) from the field and 90 percent (9-of-10) from the line.
PC ended Liberty's 21-game streak of winning the rebounding battle, pulling down 34 boards to the Lady Flames' 32.
Ellis was the lone Lady Flame to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points and a team-high three assists off of the bench. Sanders chipped in eight points and a career-high three steals, while Katelyn Adams collected a team-high nine rebounds.
Smith was PC's leader on the glass, nabbing nine boards to go along with her game-high point total.
Liberty will now travel to Boiling Springs, N.C., for a Saturday afternoon tilt at Gardner-Webb (14-10, 9-6 Big South). Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. inside Paul Porter Arena as the Lady Flames attempt to complete a season sweep of the Runnin' Bulldogs. Liberty notched a 72-40 win over Gardner-Webb at the Vines Center on Jan. 9.