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Brown, Miller Star in Season-Opening Win
Liberty's Devon Brown scored a game-high 20 points and freshman Reagan Miller added 17 markers, leading the Lady Flames to a 61-46 season-opening win over UNC Greensboro, Friday evening at Fleming Gymnasium.
Liberty, which also got 14 rebounds from Avery Warley, is 1-0 after its sixth victory in the last eight season openers. Meanwhile, the Spartans were held to just 31 percent (18-of-58) field goal shooting in Wendy Palmer's collegiate head coaching debut, opening the year at 0-1.
It only took 15 seconds for Liberty to score its first points of the 2011-12 season. Warley won the opening tipoff and made a nice post move shortly thereafter. Her right-handed layup at 19:45 initiated a game-opening 6-0 surge by the Lady Flames.
Home-standing UNC Greensboro did not make its first field goal for nearly five minutes. Sidnei Harmon broke the ice with a jumper from the paint at the 15:15 mark, making the score 8-4 in favor of Liberty.
Starting point guard Miller scored the first seven points of the Lady Flames' ensuing 13-2 burst. Liberty's lead reached 21-6 when Warley hit two free throws 10:07 before halftime.
The Lady Flames went more than nine minutes without making a field goal, but UNC Greensboro could get no closer than 23-12 during that time, after Jarae Savage's close-range hoop at 3:08.
Liberty scored six of the next eight points, taking another 15-point edge (29-14) before a shot clock buzzer-beating three-pointer by the Spartans' Dayshaun Richbow made the halftime score 29-17, Lady Flames.
Visiting Liberty shot 45.5 percent (10-of-22) before halftime, as compared with just 25 percent (7-of-28) for UNC Greensboro. The Lady Flames out-rebounded the Spartans, 20-17, while coming up with six steals and three blocked shots.
Miller led all scorers with 11 points in her first half of collegiate basketball while Brown chipped in six tallies off the bench. Warley grabbed nine boards before the intermission to pace the Lady Flames.
Three different UNC Greensboro players scored four points apiece. One of them was Savage, who also pulled down four rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
Liberty fashioned a 9-2 run early in the second half, with the last five points coming courtesy of Brown. The redshirt junior's fast break layup bolstered the Lady Flames' lead to 40-21 with 15:17 remaining.
Back-to-back Sarah Folwell three-pointers highlighted UNC Greensboro's 8-2 burst. Her triple from the right wing cut the home team's deficit to 42-29 at the 12:19 mark.
The Spartans kept chipping away at Liberty's advantage, getting within a dozen points (46-34) with 9:24 left on the clock.
Brown scored Liberty's next five tallies on a three-pointer and a 15-foot jumper. Her connection from the foul line at 7:08 pushed the Lady Flames' cushion back up to 51-36.
UNC Greensboro made one last push, and Dayshaun Richbow split a pair of free throws to make it 54-43 with 2:30 to play.
However, the Lady Flames closed out the 61-46 road victory by making five charity tosses during the final minute of play.
While the Spartans were struggling to find the mark, Liberty ended the contest at a solid 48.9 percent (22-of-45) clip on field goals. The Lady Flames also got to the free throw line more than twice as often as UNC Greensboro, shooting 60.9 percent (14-of-23) on the night.
Liberty won the rebounding battle by a 40-32 count and totaled 10 steals in an aggressive defensive effort.
Brown, who notched 14 of her 20 points after halftime, has now totaled 46 points in two career matchups with UNC Greensboro. She also chipped in six rebounds and three steals in an uncommon reserve role on Friday.
Miller's 17 points came as the first Liberty freshman to start the first game of her career at point guard since Sarah Wilkerson in 1996-97.
Warley is now tied with former Radford Highlander Corrie Fertitta for fifth place on the Big South Conference career rebounding list, after her 14 rebounds pushed the redshirt senior center's total to 915. Warley narrowly missed a double-double, ending the contest with eight points.
Danika Dale led all players with four assists and shared the team lead with three steals.
Harmon closed the game with a team-high eight points for UNC Greensboro. Savage collected a team-best six rebounds while Richbow totaled five steals to pace all players.
Liberty will now prepare for its 2011-12 home opener, Tuesday evening versus 0-1 VCU. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. for the Lady Flames' first of 14 home games at the Vines Center this season. The game will be a matchup between CollegeInsider.com Women's Mid-Major Top 25 squads, with Liberty currently listed No. 20 and VCU checking in at No. 19.
Meanwhile, UNC Greensboro will begin a three-game road trip Wednesday at 7 p.m., when the Spartans travel to No. 20/19 North Carolina.