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Liberty's Game Effort Falls Short vs. Auburn
Liberty, now 1-6 on the season after its fifth consecutive defeat, led by as many as 10 points while aiming for its first win over a Top 25 team since the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Auburn improves to 10-0, led by a 20-point outing from Sherell Hobbs and a 17-point contest by SEC Preseason Player of the Year DeWanna Bonner.
Lady Flame junior Amber Mays was active defensively during the contest's opening minutes. She came up with four steals during the first five minutes. Two of her thefts came during a 10-0 Liberty surge, which turned a 7-5 deficit into a 15-7 advantage, at 14:08. Mays and Moriah Frazee provided four points apiece during the run.
Liberty's edge eventually reached 10 points, 23-13, after Kittery Maine put back her own missed shot, 10:54 before the intermission. The visiting Tigers had not trailed by double digits all season, prior to Maine's hoop.
Auburn countered with its first prolonged string of success of the afternoon. The Tigers' defense kept Liberty off the scoreboard for nearly seven minutes, while Auburn reeled off a 15-0 run. Alli Smalley, who hit a pair of three-pointers during the surge, capped the burst with a made jumper at 5:05. Her connection lifted Auburn to a 28-23 edge.
The Lady Flames bounced right back, fashioning a 10-2 spurt. Moriah Frazee notched five of the run's points, and the senior's old-fashioned three-point play with 55 seconds remaining put Liberty up, 33-30.
Liberty, which scored 26 points in the paint and 19 points off Auburn turnovers during the opening 20 minutes, took a 33-32 lead into the break. It was the first time the Tigers have trailed at halftime this season.
Frazee paced all players with 12 first-half points, while Mays contributed nine points, four steals and a pair of assists for the Lady Flames. Freshman Kylee Beecher, making her first career start, hauled in seven boards, helping Liberty own a 21-15 rebounding edge during the stanza.
For Auburn, Bonner tossed in nine points before halftime, while point guard Whitney Boddie dished out nine assists.
Rachel Hammond's layup with 17:28 showing on the second-half clock increased the Liberty advantage to 37-33.
The Lady Flames were still in front, 41-39, after another Hammond basket, coming at the 14:11 mark. However, those were Liberty's last points for 9:23.
In the meantime, Auburn crafted its previously mentioned 11-0 surge. Hobbs tallied five points during the run, which increased the Tigers' lead to 50-41.
Danika Dale canned a three-pointer on Liberty's next possession, ending the drought and trimming the Lady Flames' deficit to six, 50-44.
It was close as Liberty would get for the remainder of the contest, though, as Auburn put the Lady Flames away by hitting nine-of-12 free throws during the last 1:32, closing out a 64-53 win.
Auburn turned up its defensive pressure during the second half, forcing 12 Liberty turnovers and limiting the Lady Flames to 32.1 percent (9-of-28) field goal shooting. Offensively, Hobbs provided the spark the Tigers needed, contributing 15 points after halftime.
For the game, Liberty placed three players in double figures, led by Moriah Frazee's 14 points and seven caroms. Mays scored in double digits for the third game in a row, totaling 13 points and a career-high four steals.
Hammond ended up with 10 points and seven boards for the Lady Flames, while Beecher led all players with nine rebounds. Her efforts helped Liberty outrebound Auburn, 44-29.
With injuries limiting the Lady Flames to seven healthy players, Mays (40 minutes), Frazee (39 minutes) and Beecher (32 minutes) all set career highs for minutes played, while Hammond played 39 minutes for the second game in a row.
For visiting Auburn, Smalley posted 11 points and five assists, while backcourt mate Boddie filled the stat sheet. Boddie, who had a triple-double in her last outing, ended the game with nine points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals for coach Nell Fortner's squad.
Liberty will complete a quick, two-game homestand Saturday, when St. Paul's visits the Vines Center. The first meeting between the Lady Flames and Tigers since 1988 will tip off at 2 p.m.