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Frazee's Buzzer-Beater Sinks UC Riverside
Liberty, which has now seen both of its 2008-09 games decided in the final two seconds, evens its record at 1-1. The victory was the Lady Flames' first in three Preseason WNIT appearances. Meanwhile, UC Riverside, the preseason favorite to win the Big West Conference crown, drops to 0-2 on the year.
The Highlanders had taken a 44-43 advantage with just 3.3 seconds left, when Alyssa Morris made a tightly-contested three-pointer from the right wing. Her hoop capped a 9-0 UC Riverside surge, consisting solely of triples.
UC Riverside appeared to seal its first victory of the year, when Roney Friend intercepted Liberty's inbounds pass with 0.9 ticks remaining. However, Friend shuffled her feet, giving the Lady Flames one final opportunity, with the ball out of bounds under the basket.
Rachel Hammond bounced the inbounds pass to a cutting Frazee, who calmly sank the game-winning shot from close range, wrapping up an 18-point, nine-rebound effort.
The opening five minutes of the game provided a stark contrast to the beginning moments of Liberty's season opener versus VCU on Nov. 14. The Lady Flames had fallen behind the Rams, 21-4, to open that contest. On Friday, Liberty notched the evening's first seven points, keeping the Highlanders off the scoreboard for the first 5:29 of play.
UC Riverside then began to find its shooting touch and was able to knot the game, 13-13, on Kemie Nkele's three-pointer from the top of the key at 7:45.
The game was also deadlocked at 15 apiece, before the Highlanders suffered another extended scoring drought. Liberty kept UC Riverside scoreless for 4:19, reeling off seven consecutive points in the meantime. Amber Mays split a pair of free throws 2:25 before halftime, giving the Lady Flames a 22-15 edge.
Liberty led 22-17 at the intermission, despite shooting just 33.3 percent (7-of-21) from the field. The Lady Flames outrebounded the Highlanders by a 24-21 margin during the opening 20 minutes and limited UC Riverside to 20 percent (7-of-35) field goal shooting.
For the second straight game, Megan Frazee recorded a big first half for the Lady Flames. She paced all players with 12 points and tied teammate Avery Warley for the rebounding lead with six caroms. Nkele led the Highlanders' opening-half offensive attack with five points, despite connecting on just two of her 10 field goal tries.
It was UC Riverside which opened the second half on a roll. The Highlanders recorded the first nine points of the stanza, getting four apiece from Seyram Gbewonyo and Tainoisouti Lott. Lott's layup at the 15:53 mark increased UC Riverside's first advantage of the contest to 26-22.
After Liberty tied the score with four points in 22 seconds, UC Riverside fashioned a 6-0 burst. Four straight tallies by Roney Friend boosted the Highlanders to their largest lead to that point, 32-26, with 12:26 showing on the second-half clock.
The Highlanders owned a 35-30 edge, before Liberty went back on top with a 13-0 run between UC Riverside hoops. Nine of the Lady Flames' 13 points came from the charity stripe, and Mays sparked the surge with five markers. Her pair of free throws made the score 43-35, Liberty, with 4:10 remaining. However, those would be Liberty's final points until Frazee's decisive layup at the buzzer.
Playing in her second collegiate game, Warley pulled in a game-high 11 boards for the Lady Flames, to go along with seven points and four blocked shots.
Both Liberty point guards made notable contributions, as Mays recorded five of her six points in the final six minutes and Rachel McLeod totaled five rebounds and a team-best four assists.
Nkele contributed a team-high 16 points to the Highlanders' total, including four three-pointers. Gbewonyo added eight points, six caroms and four steals before becoming one of three players to foul out (two for UC Riverside, one for Liberty).
Liberty took advantage of a sizable discrepancy from the foul line, shooting 18-of-28 (64.3 percent), while UC Riverside went 3-of-5 (60.0 percent). Meanwhile, the Highlanders took 29 more shots from the field than Liberty (67-38), but connected on just 26.9 percent of their attempts.
Liberty will return to action Saturday evening at the Ramsey Center, for the Lady Flames' third and final game of the Preseason WNIT. They will play the host team, Western Carolina, at 7 p.m. for the consolation bracket title. The Catamounts used a strong second half to defeat Lafayette, 68-51, in Friday's late game.