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Liberty Claims Win No. 20 with Defense

March 7, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Dymond Morgan demonstrates the aggressive defense which keyed Liberty's 49-40 victory over Presbyterian College.
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Defense was the name of the game for the Liberty women's basketball team during Monday evening's regular-season finale versus Presbyterian College. The Lady Flames held the Blue Hose to 34.2 percent shooting and came up with 15 steals in a 49-40 victory at the Vines Center.

The win gives Liberty its 12th 20-win season in the last 14 years, pushing the Lady Flames' overall record to 20-9. Liberty finishes its 12th Big South regular-season championship run with a 14-2 league mark, putting the Lady Flames three games ahead of both Gardner-Webb and Radford entering the Big South Women's Basketball Championship.

Meanwhile, Presbyterian College finishes its best Division I campaign with a 9-20 overall mark and a 5-11 Big South record. However, the Blue Hose dropped to 0-7 all-time versus the Lady Flames.

Both teams got off to a slow start at the offensive end, as the score was tied 4-4 after the first six minutes of play.

Presbyterian College went nearly seven minutes without making a field goal during the middle of the opening half, and the Lady Flames fashioned an 8-1 surge in the meantime. A Devon Brown triple and an old-fashioned three-point play by Dymond Morgan bookended Liberty's run. Morgan's conversion at the 9:32 mark gave the home team a 14-7 advantage.

The Blue Hose pulled to within 16-11 when Sherece Smith nailed a jumper 4:08 before halftime. However, those were the visitors' final points of the stanza.

Liberty closed the half on an 8-0 run, including four points by Jelena Antic. The sophomore's putback of her own missed shot in the final minute sent the Lady Flames into the locker room with a 24-11 advantage.

The Lady Flames shot only 32.1 percent (9-of-28) from the floor during the opening 20 minutes, but the Blue Hose ended up at just 23.5 percent (4-of-17).

Liberty owned a considerable first-half advantage in both points off turnovers (10-0) and second-chance points (11-2).

Brown led all players with 10 points before the break, while Antic chipped in six markers. Avery Warley grabbed a half-high six rebounds, helping Liberty outrebound PC by a 20-15 count.

Smith and Mariah Pietrowski had four points apiece for Presbyterian College in the first period. Teammate Shonda Burnside collected a team-leading five rebounds.

Brown converted a steal into a layup just seven seconds into the second half, making it 10 straight points for the Lady Flames and boosting Liberty's advantage to 26-11.

The Blue Hose held the Lady Flames to just four points over the next seven-plus minutes, trimming the gap to 30-20 when Chelsea Parker banked in a three-pointer with 13:07 to play.

Rachel McLeod tallied three points during Liberty's ensuing 7-0 run, including a baseline jumper at 10:24 which pushed the Lady Flames' cushion back to 37-20.

Three-point plays by Smith and Burnside started and finished PC's 8-2 burst. As a result, the Blue Hose were within 39-28 with 6:44 to play.

Tolu Omotola and Warley countered with three-point plays on Liberty's next two possessions, reclaiming the momentum. Warley gave the Lady Flames a 45-28 advantage.

Sparked by three Amanda Mills triples, the Blue Hose made an inspired comeback attempt the rest of the way. PC got as close as 48-40 in the final minute, on two Megan Schaaf free throws. However, the Lady Flames hung on for a 49-40 triumph. It was the 12th straight game Liberty has held its opponent to 58 points or fewer.

Presbyterian actually shot a higher percentage from the field for the contest than Liberty, as the Lady Flames ended up at 33.9 percent (19-of-56). Liberty tallied 22 points off of turnovers, though, as compared to just one for the Blue Hose.

Liberty outrebounded its 23rd straight opponent, finishing with a 42-29 edge on the glass and nabbing 20 offensive boards.

Brown led all players with 12 points, despite playing only 18 minutes. Warley added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds.

Omotola chipped in seven points, to go along with five boards. The redshirt sophomore also tied career highs for both blocks (3) and steals (3).

Liberty seniors Morgan, McLeod and Kittery Maine combined for 12 points, contributing to the Lady Flames' 99th win since McLeod and Maine joined the team in 2007-08. With Liberty's next victory, they will tie the Class of 2005 (highlighted by Katie Feenstra and Kristal Tharp) as the winningest senior class in program history.

Smith was the lone PC player to score in double digits, ending the evening with 10 points. Burnside grabbed a team-best six rebounds for the visitors.

Liberty will now prepare for the Big South Women's Basketball Championship, where the Lady Flames will be aiming for their fourth straight title. Liberty has earned the No. 1 seed and will face No. 8 seed Coastal Carolina Friday at noon in the quarterfinal round. The entire tournament will be contested at the Millis Center in High Point, N.C. for the third year in a row.