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Antic Leads Lady Flames Past Gardner-Webb
Sophomore Jelena Antic scored 16 of her career-high 22 points after halftime, helping Liberty notch a 68-56 victory over Gardner-Webb in a physical contest at Paul Porter Arena, Monday evening.
The contest featured 46 fouls and 65 free throw attempts, but it was Liberty's defense and balanced scoring attack which made the difference in the rematch of the 2010 Big South Championship title contest. The Lady Flames held the Runnin' Bulldogs to 28.6 percent (16-of-56) field goal shooting and put four of their five starters in double figures in the scoring column.
As a result, Liberty improves to 13-8 overall and 7-1 in Big South Conference play. The Lady Flames, now tied with Radford for first place in the conference standings, have won four straight games overall and seven consecutive road games.
Meanwhile, Gardner-Webb drops to 13-8 overall and 5-3 in the Big South, after suffering its second home setback in the last three days.
After Liberty scored the first two points of the game, Gardner-Webb countered with a 5-0 burst. Freshman Catrina Green scored all five of the Runnin' Bulldog points, including a reverse layup at 17:39 that made it 5-2, Gardner-Webb.
Liberty countered with a 10-2 run, taking a 12-7 lead on Dymond Morgan's second-chance hoop, 12:47 before halftime.
Homestanding Gardner-Webb chipped away at the deficit, pulling to within a single point (19-18), on Green's layup at the 5:28 mark.
The blue-clad Lady Flames then closed the half with their second 10-2 surge of the period, sparked by four points apiece by Antic and Tolu Omotola. Liberty took a 29-20 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
Liberty made 48 percent (12-of-25) of its first-half field goals, as compared with just 25.8 percent (8-of-31) for the Runnin' Bulldogs. Neither team made a three-pointer before halftime, with the Lady Flames misfiring on all four of their attempts and Gardner-Webb going 0-for-8.
Both teams struggled from the foul line during the opening 20 minutes. Liberty shot only 33.3 percent (5-of-15), while Gardner-Webb was 57.1 percent (4-of-7).
Liberty won the rebounding battle before the break, 22-14, aided by nine Avery Warley rebounds.
Omotola scored a team-high 10 first-half points for the Lady Flames and collected six rebounds. Antic and Devon Brown added six markers apiece.
Green, starting in place of the injured Sandra Vaitkute, scored half (10) of Gardner-Webb's points before halftime. Jasmine Dale came off the bench to pull down a team-high four boards.
After Gardner-Webb opened the second-half scoring with a LaTroya Pope steal and layup, Liberty answered with back-to-back old-fashioned three-point plays by Brown and Warley. Warley's conversion at the 17:59 mark put the Lady Flames on top by a 35-22 count.
The Runnin' Bulldogs used the charity stripe to get right back into the contest, scoring the game's next eight points from the line. Brianna Dillard's foul shot at 16:24 cut Liberty's edge to 35-30.
Antic came right back with five quick points. Her three-pointer from the top of the key made the score 40-30, Lady Flames, at 14:25.
Gardner-Webb pulled to within 42-35 at the 12:43 mark, when Dale hit a pair of free throws.
Liberty scored the next five points, going ahead 47-35 when Brown hit two charity tosses with 11:51 left.
The Runnin' Bulldogs again cut it to seven, 49-42, on Dale's three-pointer with 8:52 to play.
But Antic scored the contest's next five points, bolstering the Lady Flames' lead to a dozen, 54-42.
Monique Hudson tallied the last five points of Gardner-Webb's ensuing 7-0 burst, including a triple which made it 54-49, Liberty, with 4:35 remaining.
The Runnin' Bulldogs did not score again until the 1:43 mark. By that time, Liberty had built its lead back to 10 points.
Gardner-Webb got no closer than eight the rest of the way, as Liberty made seven of its eight free throw attempts during the final minute to seal its 68-56 win.
While the homestanding Runnin' Bulldogs were struggling to find their shooting touch, Liberty made more than half of its field goals for the second straight contest. The Lady Flames finished the night at 52.3 percent (23-of-44) from the field, including 57.9 percent (11-of-19) after halftime.
Liberty also fared better from the foul line during the final 20 minutes, hitting 71.4 percent (15-of-21) of its tries. For the game, the Lady Flames ended up at 55.6 percent (20-of-36) from the stripe.
Paced by Warley's game-high 13 caroms, Liberty outrebounded its host, 35-27.
Antic was efficient at the offensive end during her career-high scoring night, making six of eight field goals, two of three triples and eight of nine free throws.
Brown chipped in 14 points and five rebounds, while sharing the team lead with four assists.
Lady Flame post players Warley and Omotola added 12 points apiece. Warley's double-double was her 11th of the season and the 24th of her career. She moves into fourth place on Liberty's career double-double list. Warley also led all players in both steals (4) and blocked shots (3). Her three rejections give her 92 career blocks, tying her with Sharon Snodgrass for fifth place in Liberty history.
Meanwhile, Omotola had eight rebounds and a career-high four assists to complement her scoring output.
Liberty held Gardner-Webb's top scorers Dominique (two points) and Monique Hudson (nine points) in check. However, the Runnin' Bulldogs' freshmen stepped up on Monday. Green and Dale each finished with 15 points and six rebounds. Both players set career scoring highs in the game.
Liberty will return home for its next three games. The homestand begins Saturday at 7 p.m., when High Point visits the Vines Center. The Lady Flames will attempt to complete a season sweep of the Panthers, after recording a 68-60 win at the Millis Center on Jan. 3.
Meanwhile, Gardner-Webb will head to Charleston Southern on Saturday for its first of three straight road contests. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. at CSU Field House.