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Lady Flames Win Big South Opener, 55-42
Liberty broke open a close game against Gardner-Webb with a 18-2 run spanning the first and second halves, Saturday evening at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames went on to hand the Bulldogs a 55-42 setback in Gardner-Webb's first-ever Big South contest and the conference opener for both squads.
Liberty is now 6-7 overall and 1-0 in Big South play, after claiming its third consecutive victory. Megan Frazee tallied a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds, while Avery Warley posted her second consecutive double-double, with 10 points and 15 boards. Their efforts, and a 53-27 rebounding advantage, helped the Lady Flames open Big South play with a victory for the ninth straight season.
Meanwhile, Gardner-Webb saw a two-game winning streak halted, as the Bulldogs drop to 7-6 overall and 0-1 in conference action. Margaret Roundtree tossed in a team-best 10 points in head coach Rick Reeves' return to the Vines Center. Reeves was Liberty's head coach from 1990-91 through 1998-99.
Sisters Megan and Moriah Frazee combined to score the game's first five points, putting the Frazee triplets over 3,000 career points. The latter's layup at 17:56 closed the Lady Flames' contest-opening surge, giving Liberty a 5-0 advantage.
The Lady Flames did not convert another field goal for more than four-and-a-half minutes, enabling the visiting Bulldogs to knot the score at 6-6. Roundtree's jumper from close range leveled things with 15:14 remaining in the half.
Liberty quickly responded with an 8-0 burst. Megan Frazee tossed in the final five points of the Lady Flame run, lifting the home team's lead to 16-8 at the 9:52 mark.
Another Roundtree jumper from the paint, this one coming at 4:38, narrowed her team's deficit to 18-14.
The Lady Flames then closed the stanza on a 9-0 run. Moriah Frazee initiated the surge with five straight points, and Megan Frazee ended the half's scoring with a layup, sending Liberty to the locker room with a 27-14 advantage.
Megan and Moriah Frazee combined to score 23 of Liberty's 27 first-half markers, with Megan tallying a dozen points and Moriah adding 11.
Teammate Warley, coming off an 18-rebound effort on Tuesday at Virginia Tech, pulled down seven opening-half caroms to pace all players. Her work on the glass helped Liberty outrebound Gardner-Webb in the first half, 24-14.
LaTroya Pope sank all three of her field goals before the intermission, on her way to six points for Coach Reeves' Bulldogs. However, Gardner-Webb shot only 22.6 percent (7-of-31) from the field for the half and did not attempt a single free throw. Courtney Epps paced the black-uniformed visitors with five boards.
Warley scored the second half's first two baskets off Rachel Hammond assists, helping Liberty begin the stanza on a 9-2 run. Megan Frazee's hoop at 16:17 pushed the Lady Flames' lead to 36-16, finishing off an overall surge of 18-2, which started in the first half.
Roundtree hit back-to-back layups to trim her team's deficit to 36-20 with 14:40 showing on the second-half clock.
Liberty rebuilt its lead to 40-20, on a pair of charity tosses by Warley, before the Bulldogs crafted their best extended run of the evening.
The Lady Flames did not score again for 5:03, as Gardner-Webb posted a 10-0 burst to trim their deficit in half. Meranda Burnett's mid-range jumper with 6:42 left put her team back within 10, at 40-30.
Freshman Kylee Beecher halted the Gardner-Webb run with a free throw on Liberty's next possession, and the Bulldogs were never able to cut their deficit to single digits.
Rachel McLeod put the finishing touches on Liberty's 55-42 decision, with a driving layup with 14 seconds remaining.
Liberty only shot 37 percent (20-of-54) from the floor for the contest, but the Lady Flames held their third straight opponent to a season-low point total. The Bulldogs managed only 27.6 percent (16-of-58) field goal accuracy on the evening.
Twenty of the Lady Flames' season-high 53 rebounds came at the offensive end, leading to 21 second-chance points. Coach Carey Green's squad has outrebounded its last three opponents by at least 16 boards apiece.
Moriah Frazee ended the contest with 14 points, while Beecher and Hammond evenly split a dozen rebounds. Amber Mays paced all players with four assists for the Lady Flames.
Three different players—Epps, Dominique Hudson and Laura Povilonyte—each hauled in five boards to lead the Bulldogs. The game was a homecoming of sorts for Povilonyte, like her coach, as she played high school basketball in Lynchburg, at Holy Cross.
Liberty will not play again until Jan. 10, when the Lady Flames travel to Winthrop for a battle of the top two teams in the Big South preseason coaches' poll. Tip-off at the Winthrop Coliseum is scheduled for 2 p.m., as the Lady Flames will seek to avenge their lone Big South loss from the 2007-08 season.
Meanwhile, Gardner-Webb will remain within the Commonwealth for the second contest of its four-game Big South road swing. The Bulldogs will meet Radford Monday night at Peters Hall. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.