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Balanced Effort Puts LU Back in Win Column
Liberty, now 2-6 on the season, owned a slim, 36-32 edge at the intermission before exploding for 56 second-half markers. Freshman Kylee Beecher scored 10 of her career-high and team-leading 18 points during the final 20 minutes for the Lady Flames.
Despite a game-high 23 points by forward Gabrielle Johnson, Saint Paul's drops to 3-4 on the year. The Lady Tigers and Lady Flames had not met for 20 years on the hardwood, prior to Saturday.
The two teams went back and forth several times in the early going, before Liberty built its first double-digit lead of the afternoon with a 10-2 surge. Kittery Maine provided six of the Lady Flames' points during the run, including a layup at 8:56, which pushed the home team's edge to 21-10.
Shortly thereafter, Saint Paul's responded with a 12-2 run, trimming its deficit to a single point. Johnson went six-for-six from the free-throw line during the span, and her pair of free throws made the score 26-25, Liberty, 4:04 before halftime.
The Lady Flames' advantage climbed back to eight points, before Liberty claimed a 36-32 halftime lead.
Moriah Frazee tossed in nine opening-half points, helping the Lady Flames shoot 46.4 percent (13-of-28) from the field. Fellow post players Beecher and Maine added eight points each, as Liberty scored 29 of its 36 first-half markers either in the paint or from the charity stripe.
Tatiana Ellis, who entered the game with a 25.8-point per game scoring average, hit a trio of three-pointers before halftime, as part of a 13-point effort for Saint Paul's. Teammate Allukesha Guy paced all players with five boards before the break.
The Lady Tigers had trimmed Liberty's lead to 38-37 on Johnson's layup at the 18:13 mark of the second half, before suffering an offensive drought.
Saint Paul's did not make another field goal for 4:50, enabling Liberty to reel off its aforementioned 22-1 burst. Amber Mays contributed seven points to the Liberty run, and Beecher's second old-fashioned three-point play of the surge bolstered the Lady Flame advantage to 60-38 with 13:30 left.
The visiting Lady Tigers would get no closer than 19 points down for the remainder of the afternoon. Meanwhile, Liberty's edge reached 30 on three occasions, as the Lady Flames finished with a season-high point total in their 92-68 triumph.
Liberty took advantage of 17 Saint Paul's turnovers during the second half, translating the Lady Tigers' miscues into 27 points. Head coach Carey Green's squad was also efficient at the offensive end, sinking 63.6 percent (21-of-33) of its field goal attempts after the intermission.
For the contest, Liberty shot 55.7 percent (34-of-61) from the floor, outrebounded Saint Paul's, 46-34, and recorded season highs for both assists (25) and steals (17).
Beecher was just one of four Lady Flames to set career highs in the scoring column on Saturday. Avery Warley recorded a career-best 13 points, to go along with seven rebounds, three steals and a pair of rejections. Maine and freshman Danika Dale also established new career highs, tallying 12 points apiece. Maine added seven boards, while Dale came up with four steals.
Liberty technically had a fifth player post a career-high point total as well, as the team's newest addition, Jessica Nelson, summed five points, three assists and two rebounds in her first appearance. Nelson played outside hitter for the Liberty volleyball team, which captured its second consecutive Big South title and played No. 4 Nebraska in the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship, just eight days ago.
The Lady Flames' final double-digit scorers were Frazee, who became the 12th-leading scorer in program history with her 16 markers, and Mays, who recorded 10 points, eight assists, six rebounds and five steals in an all-around effort from the point guard spot.
Ellis finished with 19 points for Saint Paul's, although the Liberty defense limited her to six markers during the contest's final 20 minutes. Juantale Cook chipped in with 13 points, while Guy paced all players with nine rebounds.
Liberty will return to the road for the remainder of the calendar year 2008, playing its next four games away from the Vines Center. The Lady Flames will travel to Winston-Salem State next Saturday, for their first-ever matchup with the 0-8 Rams. Tip-off at the Gaines Center is scheduled for 2 p.m.