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Lady Flames Steal Win from Winthrop, 76-51

February 2, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Courtney Watkins spearheaded the staunch Liberty defense on Saturday, coming up with a career-best five steals against Winthrop.

Courtney Watkins spearheaded the staunch Liberty defense on Saturday, coming up with a career-best five steals against Winthrop.

Although Winthrop ranks third nationally in field goal percentage defense, it was the Liberty defense which made the difference, Saturday evening at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames came up with 13 steals, leading to 31 points off turnovers, sparking them to a 76-51 Big South triumph.

Liberty, which shot 51 percent (26-of-51) from the floor, has now matched last season's win total, with eight regular-season games remaining. The Lady Flames, who have won all nine home contests this season, are 19-2 overall and 4-0 in the Big South.

Winthrop, tied for second in the conference entering the night, dropped its second-straight Big South tilt. The Eagles dropped to 14-8 overall and 2-2 in conference action, as reigning Big South Player of the Week Ashley Fann was held to eight points.

The Lady Flames tallied the evening's first four points, but struggled to solve Winthrop's defensive scheme during the early minutes. Liberty sank just four of its first 14 shots from the floor.

A pair of Shelly Hankins charity shots at 14:15 pulled the visiting Eagles to within a single point, 7-6. Liberty then built a bit of a cushion with a 6-0 burst. Moriah Frazee tallied the last four points of the run, and made it 13-6 with two foul shots at the 11:57 mark, just after the second media timeout.

Winthrop twice trimmed its deficit to four points. The Eagles trailed 16-12 after Shanice Cole banked in a mid-range jumper, 7:58 before the half.

Liberty was able to take its first double-digit lead, 23-12, by tallying seven-consecutive markers. The last five points of the surge came off a pair of Courtney Watkins steals. Her second theft led to a fast break layup by backcourt mate Allyson Fasnacht, at 5:51.

The teams traded points for the next couple minutes, until Winthrop fashioned a 7-0 surge. Ashley Fann's tip-in narrowed the gap to 27-23, with 2:25 showing on the first-half clock.

Fasnacht closed out an ensuing 7-1 run for the Lady Flames with a three-pointer at 1:04. Her triple rebuilt a double-digit lead, boosting Liberty's margin to 34-24.

Winthrop recorded the half's final points, when Yvonne van Daalen drained a long three-pointer as the shot clock expired. Her connection sent the Eagles into the intermission trailing by a 34-27 count.

Winthrop actually outshot the Lady Flames from the field during the opening half, 43.5 percent to 41.7 percent. However, Liberty was able to control several important statistical categories inside the paint.

Liberty owned an 18-12 edge in points in the paint during the first 20 minutes and outrebounded the visitors by the same margin. The Lady Flames also got to the line twice as often as Winthrop, 16 times to eight. Liberty connected on 13-of-16 charity tosses during the opening stanza, an 81.3-percent clip.

Moriah Frazee was a perfect 4-of-4 from the stripe, contributing to her half-high 10 markers. Fasnacht added nine tallies of her own for the homestanding Lady Flames.

Liberty wasted no time getting started after emerging from the locker room. Watkins drilled a three-pointer from the corner, just 15 seconds into the half, initiating a half-opening 11-3 Liberty surge. Moriah Frazee's layup at 16:15 increased her team's edge to 45-30.

After Jennifer Walker briefly slowed down the Lady Flames with a tip-in for Winthrop, Liberty began to force turnovers in rapid succession. Head coach Carey Green's squad came up with five steals during an 11-0 run, capped by Rachel McLeod's fast break layup with 11:11 left. Liberty was in front by a 56-32 margin after her two points went through the cylinder.

Cole canned a layup for Winthrop, breaking her team's six-minute offensive drought and trimmed the Liberty advantage to 22. The visitors could get no closer the rest of the way, however, as the Lady Flames utilized steals and three-pointers to gradually increase their advantage. During the second half, Liberty totaled six steals and scored 20 points off Winthrop miscues. They also made five of their nine three-pointers, part of a 59.3 percent (16-of-27) effort from the field during the final 20 minutes.

Rebecca Lightfoot's trey with 3:06 remaining wrapped up an 8-2 surge for the Lady Flames, pushing the lead to a game-high 29 points, 71-42.

Liberty went on to claim a 76-51 decision, recording its 25th-consecutive victory in the all-time head-to-head series against the Eagles and their eighth-straight win overall. The eight-game winning skein is the 10th-longest streak in program history.

Moriah Frazee led all players in both points (16) and rebounds (8). The junior did not miss a shot attempt during the contest, ending up 5-for-5 on field goals and 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Her eight boards helped Liberty record a 37-28 rebounding edge for the contest.

Megan Frazee and Watkins contributed 13 points each. Watkins complemented her offensive output with seven caroms, a career-high five steals and three assists.

Fasnacht added nine points, five assists and three steals, while her backup, freshman McLeod, was effective as well. The Texas native made all three of her shots for seven points and tallied three of the Lady Flames' 19 assists.

Cole was the only Winthrop player to reach double figures, finishing with 10 points. The Eagles were limited to 37.7 percent (20-of-53) shooting, becoming the 40th-consecutive foe Liberty has held under 50 percent.

The Lady Flames also forced Winthrop to commit 20 turnovers. Liberty has now forced 20 or more turnovers in each of its first four conference games, and the Lady Flames have won their conference contests by an average of 25 points per game.

Liberty will travel to Radford Wednesday for the first of two scheduled match-ups with its in-state conference rival. The Highlanders were the preseason favorite to win the Big South title and enter the 7 p.m. contest in second place, at 3-1 in conference play.

Winthrop will also play a road contest Wednesday evening, heading to UNC Asheville for a 7 p.m. tip-off at the Justice Center.