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Hot-Shooting Hammond Leads LU Past High Point
Senior Rachel Hammond poured in a career-high 25 points, leading the Liberty women's basketball team to a comfortable, 65-42 victory over High Point, Saturday afternoon at the Vines Center, in a battle between the top two teams in the Big South Conference standings.
The Lady Flames improve to 13-7 overall and 7-0 in the Big South, after recording their 10th consecutive win. Liberty wrapped up its second straight unbeaten January, and the Lady Flames have now won 17 straight January contests overall and 37 straight January home games.
High Point was held to a season-low point total and shot a season-worst 25.0 percent (15-of-60) from the field, as the Panthers fell to 10-11 overall and 6-2 in conference action. High Point had won seven of its previous eight games, prior to Saturday.
Moriah Frazee was honored prior to tip-off, as the newest member of Liberty's 1,000-point club, but Hammond began scorching the Vines Center nets as soon as referee Mark Hardcastle tossed the opening tip skyward. Hammond tallied 13 points during Liberty's game-opening 17-5 run which spanned the first 6:34, including a trio of three-pointers.
High Point got to within 10 points on three occasions, including at 21-11 after a short jumper by point guard Frances Fields at 10:15.
The Lady Flames then fashioned a 10-1 burst, widening their advantage to 19 points, 31-12. Kylee Beecher's layup capped off the run, 6:17 before the intermission.
Both teams struggled at the offensive end for the remainder of the half, managing only two points apiece. Liberty owned a 33-14 halftime advantage, after holding High Point to its lowest scoring output in a half this season.
Hammond outscored the Panthers by herself during the first 20 minutes, tallying 15 points. No other Lady Flame scored more than four points in the first half, even though Liberty shot 46.4 percent (13-of-28) from the field.
Meanwhile, High Point managed just five first-half field goals, shooting 16.1 percent from the floor. Freshman Shamia Brown hit three of the Panthers' hoops, as part of a six-point, four-rebound opening stanza.
Liberty nearly doubled up High Point on the glass before the break, posting 29 boards to the visitors' 16. Avery Warley led all players with half a dozen caroms, while Megan Frazee pulled down five rebounds, despite battling foul trouble.
The Lady Flames did not score for the first 3:34 of the second half, as High Point opened the stanza with six straight points. Fields' running bank shot with 16:47 remaining in the contest cut the Panthers' deficit to 33-20.
Hammond then heated up once again for the Lady Flames. She scored the last seven points of an 11-0 Liberty surge, including a fast break layup at the 13:26 mark which made it 44-20, Lady Flames.
High Point notched five consecutive points, including a nifty reverse layup by Amy Dodd, trimming Liberty's edge to 21 points, 51-30. But that's as close as the black-clad visitors would get the rest of the afternoon.
A 14-2 Liberty run, finished off by Megan Frazee's trey from the right wing, gave the Lady Flames their largest lead of the contest, 65-33.
High Point scored the game's final nine markers, making the final score 65-42, Liberty.
Hammond's career-best offensive performance included a career-high five three-pointers. The senior from Clearwater, Fla., became the first Lady Flame to sink five triples in a contest since Daina Staugaitiene hit five versus Hampton on Dec. 15, 2001. Hammond also grabbed seven boards.
Leading Liberty's rebounding parade was Megan Frazee, who matched a season high with 14 boards. Her effort helped the Lady Flames outrebound the Panthers, 58-33, on the afternoon and moved Frazee into ninth place on the Big South career rebounding charts, with 819 caroms. Frazee also completed her fifth double-double of the season with 14 points.
Beecher tied her career high with 10 boards and tossed in six tallies for the Lady Flames. Liberty point guards Amber Mays and Rachel McLeod did a fine job of orchestrating the Liberty attack, dishing out six assists each.
Brown and Mackenzie Maier led the Panthers with eight points apiece. All eight of Maier's points came during the final 20 minutes. The two post players also shared the rebounding lead for coach Tooey Loy's squad, tracking down five missed shots apiece.
Liberty will play the final contest of its four-game homestand Monday at 7 p.m., when Commonwealth rival Radford (6-12, 5-2 Big South) invades the Vines Center. The Highlanders have won five of their last seven games, after opening the year 1-10. The teams will be meeting for the first time since the title game of the 2008 Big South Women's Basketball Championship, which saw the Lady Flames claim a dramatic, one-point victory.
High Point will return to the Millis Center for a pair of home games next weekend. The Panthers' quick homestand will open with a Feb. 7 matchup against Coastal Carolina. Tip-off is slated for 4 p.m.