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Radford Comes Back to Defeat Liberty, 62-53
Visiting Radford erased a 15-point second-half deficit Monday evening, roaring back to claim a 62-53 victory at Liberty. The Highlanders' first victory at the Vines Center since Feb. 3, 1996 pulls Radford into a tie for first place in the Big South Conference standings.
The Lady Flames owned a 42-27 lead with 16:36 remaining in the contest, before the Highlanders outscored them, 35-11, the rest of the way.
Radford is now 7-11 overall and tied with Gardner-Webb for first place in the Big South, at 4-1. The Highlanders converted 21 Liberty second-half turnovers into 23 points, keying their comeback effort.
Meanwhile, the Lady Flames slip to 9-8 overall and 3-1 in conference play. Liberty saw several streaks snapped during its first home game since Nov. 30. Prior to Monday, the Lady Flames had won five straight games overall, seven straight home contests, eight straight matchups against Radford and 16 straight home meetings with the Highlanders.
After the game's first three minutes featured two ties and a pair of lead changes, Liberty fashioned a 7-0 run. Devon Brown punctuated the surge with a pull-up three-pointer from the left wing, giving Liberty a 13-6 edge at the 14:55 mark.
The Lady Flames' lead reached eight, but the red-clad Highlanders were able to even the score with an 8-0 burst. Da'Naria Erwin Spencer scored the first and last points of the run, including an 18-foot jumper at 7:24 which made it 19-19.
Liberty's edge was a precarious one point, before the Lady Flames closed the opening half with a 12-2 run. Jelena Antic scored six points during the surge, with all three of her hoops coming off of Emily Frazier assists.
The Lady Flames took a 34-23 lead into the locker room at halftime, aided by a 23-15 rebounding advantage and 20 points in the paint.
Liberty only shot slightly better from the field than Radford in the first half. The Lady Flames canned 36.4 percent (12-of-33) of their field goals, while the Highlanders shot 33.3 percent (9-of-27). However, the Lady Flames excelled at the free throw line, making 90 percent (9-of-10) of their charity tosses.
Individually, Avery Warley led all players in points (10), rebounds (8) and steals (3) before halftime. Antic chipped in eight points, while Frazier tallied five rebounds and a matching number of assists for the Lady Flames.
Erwin Spencer, the reigning Big South Player of the Week, scored seven first-half points for the Highlanders. Meanwhile, Erica Rivera came off the bench to nab a team-high four rebounds.
Liberty made four of its first five shots to start the second half, pushing its lead out to 42-27 when Antic drilled a layup off a Brown bounce pass with 16:36 remaining.
Radford then turned up the defensive pressure, holding the Lady Flames to two points over the next 8:30. During that time, the Highlanders trimmed the gap to 44-39 on a mid-range jumper by Erwin Spencer at the 10:22 mark.
Tolu Omotola sank a layup at 8:09, finally breaking Liberty's offensive drought and temporarily halting the Radford momentum.
The homestanding Lady Flames owned a 49-42 advantage with 5:36 left, before Radford took the lead for good with a 14-1 run. Ashley Buckhannon scored seven points during the surge. Her deep three-pointer from the right wing tied the score at 50-50 at the 2:40 mark. Twenty seconds later, Buckhannon hit two free throws, giving the Highlanders a lead they never relinquished, at 52-50.
By the time the run was complete, Liberty found itself facing a 56-50 deficit entering the game's final minute.
Antic gave the Lady Flames a brief glimmer of hope, halving the Radford advantage to 56-53 with an old-fashioned three-point play at the 41-second mark.
The Highlanders were able to seal their victory by forcing three Liberty miscues and making all six of their foul shots down the stretch.
For the contest, Liberty outshot Radford from the field. The Lady Flames finished at 38.5 percent (20-of-52), while the Highlanders ended at 37.5 percent (21-of-56). Liberty also won the rebounding battle, 43-28, and doubled up its guest in points in the paint, 32-16.
Radford's keys to victory included stellar free throw shooting (83.3 percent), 16 steals, 34 points off turnovers and 20 bench points.
Antic's 15 points paced Liberty's three players in double figures, and the sophomore also grabbed nine rebounds. Warley notched her fifth double-double in the last six games, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high four steals.
Omotola finished just one point shy of her career high with 12 markers. Meanwhile, fellow Texas native Frazier distributed a game-high six assists and grabbed a career-best six boards.
Erwin Spencer ended up with 15 points, four assists and four steals for the Highlanders. Brooke McElroy added 11 points, 10 of which came after halftime. Rivera led the team with five caroms.
Liberty will continue its three-game Big South homestand Saturday, with a matinee versus Charleston Southern. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. at the Vines Center.
Meanwhile, Radford will return home for its next four contests, beginning with a matchup against Presbyterian College, Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Dedmon Center.