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Liberty Defeats High Point in BSC Opener
Liberty controlled the paint during Monday night's Big South Conference opener at High Point, outrebounding its host, 47-34, and tallying 40 points in the paint. As a result, the Lady Flames claimed a 68-60 victory at the Millis Center.
Sparked by Avery Warley's second consecutive double-double (12 points, 15 rebounds), Liberty improves to 6-7 overall and opens conference play at 1-0 for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. The Lady Flames have won three of their last four contests, all of which have been played away from the Vines Center.
Meanwhile, High Point struggled from three-point range, shooting only 21.4 percent (6-of-28) for the contest. The homestanding Panthers are now 6-8 overall and 0-1 in the Big South, after losing their first home game since their season-opening contest.
Liberty recorded the game's first run, an 8-0 burst which gave the Lady Flames a 16-7 lead, 13:43 before halftime. Devon Brown punctuated the surge with back-to-back three-pointers.
Shortly thereafter, the Lady Flames reeled off a 10-0 run, featuring six Warley points. Danika Dale's layup at the 9:38 mark capped off the surge with Liberty on top, 28-13.
The Panthers answered with a 15-3 run, cutting Liberty's advantage to three, 31-28, on Jurica Hargraves' second consecutive triple from the left corner, 5:03 before halftime.
Liberty pushed its lead back to nine points, before the Panthers scored the first half's last four tallies. A baseline jumper by Mackenzie Maier made the score 38-33, Lady Flames, at the intermission.
After making 11 of its first 18 shots, Liberty cooled off a bit. The Lady Flames finished the opening stanza shooting 46.9 percent (15-of-32) from the field. Meanwhile, High Point made 37.5 percent (12-of-32) of its field goals, including a quartet from beyond the three-point arc.
Liberty used its size advantage to good effect during the first 20 minutes, leading High Point in rebounds (26-15), points in the paint (24-8) and second-chance points (9-2).
Warley nearly tallied a double-double in the first half, pacing the navy blue-clad Lady Flames in both points (10) and rebounds (8). Brown and Jelena Antic chipped in eight points apiece, with Antic also pulling down six boards. Emily Frazier distributed five assists before the break.
Hargraves drilled three triples among her team-high 11 first-half points for the Panthers. Amy Dodd added seven points and three boards.
Liberty raced out of the locker room with a 10-0 run, during the first 2:40 of the second period. Tolu Omotola's transition layup put the Lady Flames on top by a 48-33 count.
Liberty maintained a double-digit advantage until 8:31 remained, when Erin Reynolds hit a jump shot to make the score 55-46 in favor of the Lady Flames. Her hoop was part of an 8-0 burst by the Panthers, which culminated in Amy Dodd's acrobatic layup with 6:43 left. Her connection made it 55-50.
Those were High Point's last points for more than five minutes, as Liberty reclaimed control of the contest with eight consecutive markers. Antic made a fast break layup with 2:57 showing on the second-half clock, closing the run with Liberty in front, 63-50.
The Panthers got no closer than the final margin of eight points the rest of the way, and Liberty claimed its eighth win at the Millis Center in the last three seasons, 68-60.
For the game, the Lady Flames shot 46.3 percent (25-of-54) from the floor. They only made 53.8 percent (14-of-26) of their free throws, but five of those connections came from Brown and Dymond Morgan in the final minute of play.
High Point ended up at 36.5 percent (23-of-63) from the field for the game and managed only 18 points inside the paint.
Individually, all five Liberty starters enjoyed noteworthy performances, as they collectively finished with 57 points and 40 rebounds. Warley's double-double was her fifth of the season and featured a season-high 15 rebounds. The redshirt junior now has 29 boards in her last two games.
Brown paced the Lady Flames with 17 points, tying a career high with three made triples. Antic made it three Liberty players in double figures, tallying a dozen points and nine rebounds.
Like Antic, Omotola narrowly missed a double-double. She totaled nine points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Finally, Frazier summed a career-best eight assists, the most by a Lady Flame this season.
Three High Point players also scored in double digits, including Hargraves (13 points), Dodd (11) and Shamia Brown (10). Dodd collected a team-leading six rebounds.
Both the Lady Flames and the Panthers will play their next contest on the road, Saturday. Liberty continues its nine-game road swing with a 5 p.m. matchup at Presbyterian College. The Lady Flames are 5-0 all-time against the Blue Hose.
Meanwhile, High Point will head across the state for a 2 p.m. tilt at UNC Asheville.