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Liberty's Defense Shines in 59-39 Win
|Terika Lunsford and the Lady Flames played strong defense all afternoon, keying Liberty's 59-39 victory over visiting Presbyterian College.|
In a battle between the Big South's top two defensive teams, Liberty got the upper hand in its matchup with Presbyterian College, Saturday afternoon inside the Vines Center. The Lady Flames limited the Blue Hose to 24.6 percent field goal shooting during a 59-39 conference victory.
Liberty is now 10-7 overall and 5-1 in Big South action after winning its fourth straight game. The Lady Flames are now 8-0 all-time against Presbyterian College and have held the Blue Hose below the 50-point mark every time.
Presbyterian College, which saw its two-game winning streak snapped, is now 8-9 overall and 2-4 in conference games.
Despite averaging 79.2 ppg in Big South Conference play entering Saturday's matinee, Liberty managed only one point during the first six minutes of the game. Fortunately for the Lady Flames, their defense was up to the challenge, and Presbyterian College led by just a 2-1 count at the 14:00 mark of the opening half.
Kristen Stevens' three-pointer from the left wing gave the Blue Hose a 5-3 cushion before Liberty went on a 10-0 run. Avery Warley bookended the surge with layups, including one off of a nice feed from Reagan Miller 10:32 before halftime, which put the Lady Flames in front, 13-5.
Liberty's advantage fluctuated between five and nine points until the Lady Flames closed out the opening half with a 6-0 surge. Warley tallied four points during the run, including a putback of her own missed shot at the 23-second mark. The hoop gave Liberty a 27-14 halftime advantage, marking the Lady Flames' largest lead during the first 20 minutes.
The homestanding Lady Flames shot 37 percent (10-of-27) from the field during the first half, as compared with just a 22.2 percent (6-of-27) clip for the Blue Hose.
Liberty controlled the paint in the first half, outrebounding its guest by a 26-14 count and scoring all 27 of its points inside the paint or at the foul line.
Warley led all players with eight first-half points and tied Devon Brown for team-high honors with five boards.
For the Blue Hose, Chelsea Parker grabbed five boards in the opening half.
After Mariah Pietrowski opened the second-half scoring with a pair of free throws, Liberty reeled off five straight points. Warley's old-fashioned three-point play at 17:11 bolstered the home team's edge to 16 points, 32-16.
The Lady Flames did not make a three-pointer in the first half, but Danika Dale and Reagan Miller hit triples on consecutive possessions, making it 38-19 with 15:02 remaining.
PC used a pair of three-pointers to climb back into the game, kick-starting an ensuing 10-4 surge. Sherece Smith's second-chance hoop exactly midway through the second half trimmed her team's deficit to 42-29.
The Blue Hose only made one field goal over the next six-plus minutes, enabling Liberty to push its lead to a game-high 21 points (54-33) when Brown made two free throws with 4:04 to play.
Presbyterian College got no closer than 16 the rest of the afternoon, as Liberty became the first Big South team to record a double-digit victory over the Blue Hose this season, 59-39.
Liberty shot 50 percent (9-of-18) from the field after halftime, upping its mark to 42.2 percent (19-of-45) for the game. The Lady Flames also enjoyed a sizable advantage at the free throw line on the afternoon, where they hit 19 of 31 attempts for 61.3 percent. PC only got to the foul line eight times for the game, making four of the tries.
Now the nation's No. 1-ranked team for rebound margin, Liberty did nothing to hurt its cause on Saturday, finishing with a 46-29 edge on the glass. The Lady Flames also scored three times as many points in the paint (30) as the Blue Hose.
For the game, Warley paced all players in points (16), blocks (3) and steals (3), while also grabbing eight rebounds. The redshirt senior claimed sole possession of third place in program history with 134 career blocked shots. However, she saw her career-best streak of 18 straight made free throws snapped during the second half.
Brown scored in double figures for the 18th straight time, ending up with 13 points and game-high totals in both rebounds (9) and assists (4). She passed Sharon Snodgrass for eighth place on Liberty's career scoring list with 1,176 points.
Dale continued her strong play in the Big South, tallying eight points, a matching number of rebounds and three assists. The senior is now averaging 10.0 ppg in conference play this season.
For the Blue Hose, Pietrowski and Dria David each entered the contest averaging between 11 and 12 ppg. However, PC's two leading scorers managed just seven combined points on Saturday.
Karlee Taylor stepped up as Presbyterian College's top offensive threat against Liberty, scoring nine points on a trio of three-pointers. Smith pulled down a team-high eight rebounds, with six coming at the offensive end.
Liberty will wrap up its quick two-game homestand Monday at 7 p.m., when Winthrop visits the Vines Center.
Presbyterian College will travel across the Commonwealth for a Monday evening contest at Radford. Tipoff inside the Dedmon Center is slated for 7 p.m.