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Fast Start Pushes Liberty Past Ball State
Liberty drilled five three-pointers during a 24-2 run early in the first half, taking control of Thursday's opening game of the Lady Rebel Christmas Classic early on. The Lady Flames went on to defeat Ball State, 68-56, at the Cox Pavilion, advancing to Friday's championship game.
Four Lady Flames, including all three Frazee triplets, scored in double figures, helping Liberty post its eighth-straight victory and improve to 10-1 on the season.
Meanwhile, Ball State dropped its sixth-consecutive contest after shooting just 33.3 percent from the field. The Cardinals are now 3-8 after losing in their first-ever match-up against the Lady Flames. They also saw a 12-game winning streak during in-season tournaments halted. Ball State had not lost an in-season tournament contest since the 2003-04 campaign.
After the Lady Flames won the tip, Rebecca Lightfoot got her team off to a fast start with a three-pointer from the top of the key, just eight seconds in. The triple marked the 82nd-consecutive game Liberty has made a shot from behind the arc to equal a school record. It was also a sign of things to come during the next few minutes on Liberty's offensive end.
The Cardinals came back to knot the score at five apiece on Porchia Green's three-pointer at 17:58. Ball State then scored only a single field goal over the next 8:45.
In the meantime, Liberty scorched the nets, especially from three-point range. The Lady Flames fashioned an extended 24-2 run, which included five triples. Rachel Hammond scored 11 points during the surge and drained three of Liberty's three-pointers. The last of her long-distance connections came at 9:44, putting the Lady Flames on top by a 29-7 margin.
Ball State answered by tallying six of the game's next eight points. Kiley Jarrett connected on a pair of charity tosses, 7:53 before halftime, narrowing the Cardinals' deficit to 31-13.
Liberty rebuilt its lead to 21 (34-13) on Megan Frazee's layup at the 6:20 mark, but Ball State began to climb back into the contest via the three-point shot.
All of the Cardinals' points during their ensuing 9-2 run came from three-pointers. Audrey McDonald connected from long range with 1:58 on the clock to pull her team within 11 at 36-25.
Molly Frazee recorded four of the first half's final six markers, including a layup with 16 seconds left, lifting Liberty to a 40-27 advantage at the intermission.
The Lady Flames shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field and 66.7 percent (6-of-9) from three-point range during the opening 20 minutes, enabling them to build a double-digit lead. They made six of their first seven triples to open the game.
Meanwhile, Liberty's defense limited Ball State to 30.8 percent (8-of-26) shooting. However, the Cardinals stayed within striking distance due to four three-pointers and nine offensive boards. Ball State's work on the offensive glass helped them even the first-half rebounding tally at 18-18.
Individually, Hammond led all players with 11 points before the break, draining all four of her field goals, three of which were three pointers. Moriah Frazee chipped in with nine points and was also perfect (3-of-3) from the field.
Liberty's three starting guards, Allyson Fasnacht, Courtney Watkins and Megan Frazee, hauled in three rebounds each to pace the team during the first 20 minutes. Watkins added a team-best three assists.
The Cardinals' Emily Maggert led all players with seven opening-half boards. Jarrett sparked Ball State's offense with seven points.
The teams' leading scorers entering the contest were each held in check during the first half, scoring five points apiece. Megan Frazee battled foul trouble and played only nine minutes, while, the Cardinals' Julie DeMuth missed all five of her field goals before the break.
After Moriah Frazee opened the second-half scoring with a hoop 1:30 into the stanza, Ball State scored the next four points, cutting the Liberty edge to 42-31 on Green's two free throws at 16:52.
The Cardinals were still within 11 points, before Megan and Moriah Frazee combined for all of Liberty's offense during an 8-2 burst. Moriah Frazee's putback at the 12:00 mark capped the run, increasing the Lady Flames' lead to 52-35.
As they had done during the closing minutes of the first half, the Cardinals used the outside shot to quickly shave points off their deficit. Consecutive triples initiated a 9-2 surge, enabling Ball State to pull to within 10 points, 54-44, with 7:50 remaining in the second half.
Back-to-back Megan Frazee baskets helped Liberty reclaim the momentum. Hammond then banked in a jump shot from the wing at the 5:12 mark, the first Lady Flame points by someone other than the Frazee triplets since Watkins' free throw, 7:38 before the intermission. The Frazees scored 26-consecutive Liberty points in the interim. Hammond's two-point goal gave Liberty a 60-46 edge.
Neither team scored again for nearly four minutes, until Jarrett swished a three-pointer from the corner with 1:27 left, cutting the deficit to 11 points once again. Green tossed in seven points during the final 1:01, but the Cardinals could not get closer than 11.
Liberty made six out of eight foul shots to wrap up their second-straight 12-point victory, 68-56. Included in the game-closing stretch was a pair of Megan Frazee charity tosses. She has now made 17-consecutive free throws and is shooting 91.4 percent from the stripe on the year.
Frazee scored 12 points after halftime, finishing with a game-high 17 points and nine boards. Her work on the glass helped Liberty outrebound its opponent for the eighth-straight game, 44-36. Frazee also pulled to within 22 points of becoming Liberty's 11th 1,000-point scorer.
Sister Moriah Frazee was next on the Lady Flames' scoring list, finishing with 15 points and seven caroms. Molly Frazee also reached double digits, recording 11 points and collecting eight rebounds.
Hammond equaled a career high with 14 points after making half of her team's six three-pointers. All of Liberty's triples came before the intermission, as the Lady Flames shot just 30 percent (9-of-30) from the floor after the break. However, Liberty was able to hold on to its lead due in part to 76.9 percent shooting (10-of-13) from the foul line.
Green's late offensive surge enabled her to lead Ball State with 14 points. DeMuth added 11 points, and Jarrett finished with 10 markers. The Cardinals' Maggert hauled in a game-high 10 boards.
Liberty will play host UNLV (4-6) for the inaugural Lady Rebel Christmas Classic title trophy tomorrow at 10:30 p.m. Eastern, after the Lady Rebels defeated Austin Peay by a 56-38 count.
The Lady Flames will meet the Lady Rebels for the second time in program history and the first since Dec. 20, 1999. Liberty won that matchup, 75-71.