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Liberty Defeats WSSU with Second-Half Surge
Liberty, now 3-6 on the season, shot 61.1 percent (11-of-18) from the field during the final 20 minutes. Avery Warley played a key role in the Lady Flames' victory in their first-ever meeting with the Lady Rams. She tallied a career-high 17 points to lead all scorers, and also collected a game-high nine boards.
Winston-Salem State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) is now 0-9 to start the season, after shooting only 32 percent (16-of-50) from the floor for the contest.
The teams traded the lead three times before the first media timeout, scoring their points in very different ways. Homestanding Winston-Salem State made its first two three-pointers of the contest, while Liberty utilized its size advantage. The Lady Flames owned a 9-6 lead at the 14:59 mark, scoring all nine of their points inside the paint and free-throw line.
The Lady Rams briefly reclaimed the advantage, 13-12, after a MaLisa Bumpus three-pointer from well beyond the arc, 9:32 before halftime. Her long-distance connection capped a quick 5-0 burst by the home team.
Liberty then clamped down on defense, limiting Winston-Salem State to a single field goal over the next five minutes. In the meantime, the Lady Flames reeled off an 8-2 surge, featuring a pair of Amber Mays layups. Rachel McLeod, returning from an injury which had sidelined her for the previous three games, nailed both ends of a one-and-one at 5:01. Her second charity toss gave Liberty its largest lead of the opening half, 20-15.
The Lady Rams closed out the stanza by tallying 10 of the final 14 markers. A Bumpus jumper with 1:20 left sent her team into the locker room in front by a single point, 25-24.
Warley notched 10 points and five rebounds during the opening stanza, but Liberty connected on only 34.6 percent (9-of-26) of its field goals prior to the intermission.
Winston-Salem State shot just 40 percent (10-of-25) itself in the first half, but the Lady Rams sank five of their eight triples. Bumpus, making her first appearance for Winston-Salem State after transferring from James Madison, hit three of the Lady Rams' first-half three-pointers, as part of a 13-point opening half.
Hammond drained a three-pointer on Liberty's opening possession of the second half, giving the Lady Flames a lead they would not relinquish, 27-25, and proving to be a sign of things to come. Her hoop was part of a half-opening 7-0 run by the Lady Flames.
Rene Rector then nailed two three-pointers in 44 seconds for Winston-Salem State. Her second triple, with 16:05 remaining in the contest, trimmed her team's deficit to 33-31.
Hammond quickly went back to work. She made two more three-pointers during Liberty's ensuing 10-0 surge, bolstering the Lady Flames' advantage to 43-31.
The Lady Rams got no closer than nine points down for the remainder of the afternoon, while Liberty's lead reached 16, 50-34, at the 6:46 mark on a Warley layup. The Lady Flames went on to wrap up a 55-43 decision, their first road triumph of the season.
The Lady Flames' size advantage was a key factor throughout the contest, as Liberty owned a 37-26 rebounding edge and outscored Winston-Salem State in the paint, 28-10.
Hammond complemented her 13 points with a career-high five steals. Reigning Big South Freshman of the Week Kylee Beecher also fashioned a solid all-around performance, contributing six points, seven boards and three assists.
Bumpus ended with a team-high 13 points in her Winston-Salem State debut, but the defense of Mays and Hammond kept the guard off the scoreboard in the second half. Rector chipped in with nine points on a trio of three-pointers and added five caroms, four assists and four steals.
Interestingly, the home team only attempted two free throws in the entire contest, and those charity tosses did not come until just 2:10 remained on the second-half clock.
Liberty will travel to Nashville, Tenn., on Monday to face its second nationally-ranked opponent of the season, No. 19/20 Vanderbilt. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern at Memorial Gymnasium, for the first meeting between the Lady Flames and Commodores since the opening round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.