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North Carolina A&T Shoots Down Liberty, 81-74
Led by Amber Calvin's 24 points and six three-pointers, hot-shooting North Carolina A&T held off Liberty by an 81-74 score, Friday evening inside the Corbett Sports Center. For the second straight game, the Lady Flames' late comeback effort fell just short, after Liberty sliced a 12-point second-half deficit to one.
The homestanding Aggies leveled their 2011-12 record at 2-2 with their second consecutive win, thanks in large part to making 52.9 percent (9-of-17) of their three-pointers. North Carolina A&T improved to 39-4 at home since the start of the 2007-08 season and picked up its first win over Liberty since Feb. 15, 1996.
Meanwhile, the Lady Flames dropped their second game in a row, falling to 1-2 on the young season. Liberty lost despite putting four players in double figures in the scoring column and outrebounding its host by 24 boards.
Liberty jumped out to a quick 4-0 advantage to start the game. Danika Dale stole an Aggie entry pass and passed it ahead for Reagan Miller for a layup and Warley hit a jumper from within the lane to give the Lady Flames the edge less than a minute in.
North Carolina A&T got on the scoreboard with the first two of its six three-pointers during the opening period. Mikala Scott knocked down a triple to make it, 4-3, Lady Flames at 17:13. And after a layup by Liberty's Devon Brown, Calvin hit another from behind the arc, tying the contest at 6 apiece 3:49 into the first half.
After a layup by Liberty's Tolu Omotola at 14:32 knotted the contest at 8-8, the Aggies opened up an advantage on a 7-2 spurt. A shot from behind the arc by Scott began the run and three-pointer by Calvin capped it, putting the home team in front, 17-10, at 12:17.
With N.C. A&T up by eight points, 22-14, at 10:22, the Lady Flames erased their deficit with a 10-1 burst. Three consecutive lay-ups, two by Avery Warley and one by Omotola, began the span, while a putback off an offensive rebound by Warley gave Liberty the lead at 23-22, with 6:51 left in the period.
The Aggies closed the half by outscoring the Lady Flames, 17 to 8, during the remainder of the period. A layup by Tiffanie Adair with 1:41 left gave North Carolina A&T its largest lead of the opening half, 43-33. However, a jump shot by LaKendra Washington with 16 ticks left sent the Lady Flames to halftime trailing, 43-35.
Liberty shot 48.4 percent from the field in the first half on 15-of-31 shooting, while hitting 1-of-6 from behind the arc (16.7 percent). The Lady Flames were 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
North Carolina A&T shot 48.6 percent from the floor in the opening half on 17-of-35 shooting, but hit on 6-of-10 from three-point land (60 percent). The Aggies shot 3-of-7 from the foul line.
The Lady Flames held a 23-13 edge on the glass, outscoring the Aggies, 8-5, in second chance points.
During the opening minutes of the second half, Liberty and North Carolina A&T exchanged baskets, with two made free throws by Lady Flame guard Miller slicing the visitors' deficit on the scoreboard to seven points, 50-43, with 15:59 left.
A three-pointer by Calvin and two free throws by Scott gave the Aggies their largest lead of the evening, 55-43, at 14:45 of the second half.
Moments later, keyed by strong defense, the Lady Flames ran off a 14-5 burst over the next 7:17, pulling to within one at 58-57. Layups by Warley and Washington started the run, which saw pressure defense cause five Aggie turnovers during the span.
After a missed shot by Washington, Catherine Kearney collected one of her four offensive rebounds and made a layup, slicing the Liberty deficit to 58-55 at 8:04. Washington capped the burst with a left-handed layup at 7:28, making it, 58-57, North Carolina A&T.
Aggie JaQuayla Berry followed Washington's layup with a make of her own, halting a period of 5:09 in which the host squad was held without a point. Kearney answered with a layup with 6:05 remaining, cutting the North Carolina A&T lead back to 60-59.
After an Omotola foul shot made it, 61-60, Aggies, North Carolina A&T reeled off a 12-3 run, finishing the burst with an old-fashioned three-point play by Berry. With the made foul shot, the Aggies led 73-63, with 2:42.
Kearney converted an offensive rebound moments after the Berry make, cutting the Lady Flames' deficit to eight at 73-65. However, the Aggies went 8-for-9 from the foul line down the stretch to seal the 81-74 win. North Carolina A&T's 81 points were the most by a Liberty opponent since nationally-ranked St. John's posted an 81-66 victory over the Lady Flames on Dec. 28, 2010.
For the game, Liberty shot 45.3 percent from the floor on 29-for-64 shooting but was just 1-for-13 from the three point range (7.7 percent). The Lady Flames hit 68.2 percent, 15-for-22, from the foul line.
North Carolina A&T finished at 43.3 percent from the field on 26-for-60 shooting. The home team was 20-of-27 from the foul line, good for 74.1 percent.
The game marked a contrast in styles, Liberty held a 49-25 rebounding advantage and outscored North Carolina A&T, 18-8, on second chance points. The Lady Flames also held a 26-12 edge in bench points, racked up 50 points in the paint and blocked seven shots.
Meanwhile, the Aggies outscored Liberty from three-point range, 27-3, and turned 23 Liberty turnovers into 23 points.
Warley led the Lady Flames with a season-high 18 points, shooting 8-for-8 from the field, and added seven rebounds. Brown had a game-high eight caroms and chipped in 14 points.
Washington and Kearney each pitched in 11 points apiece off the Liberty bench. Washington's production came in her 2011-12 season debut, while the points were the first of Kearney's career.
Danika Dale had a strong all-around effort for the Lady Flames before fouling out, pacing the team in both assists (5) and steals (4).
Calvin was joined in double figures by three North Carolina A&T teammates. Scott added 19 points, Berry finished with 16 and Adair added 10 off the bench for the Aggies.
Liberty will return home for a Tuesday contest against Virginia-Wise. The Vines Center clash, set for a 7 p.m. tipoff, will be the Lady Flames' first meeting with the Cavaliers since Nov. 28, 1994, when the school was known as Clinch Valley.
North Carolina A&T will continue its four-game homestand Monday at 7 p.m., when Clemson visits Greensboro.