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Liberty Runs Past Gardner-Webb, 78-51
Liberty broke open a close game with a 21-2 run that spanned both halves, Monday evening at Gardner-Webb. From that point on, the Lady Flames cruised to a 78-51 victory inside Paul Porter Arena.
The Lady Flames' seventh win in a row pushes their overall record to 13-7. Liberty is now 8-1 in Big South action after prevailing in a rematch of the last three Big South Championship title contests.
Reagan Miller led the way for Liberty, hitting a career-high five three-pointers and equaling her career high with 18 points.
Gardner-Webb has now lost five consecutive games, dropping to 2-17 overall and 1-8 in conference play.
Avery Warley scored four points within the first 49 seconds of the game, giving Liberty an early 4-0 advantage.
But Gardner-Webb tallied seven of the next nine points, taking its first lead at 7-6 on Jasmine Dale's long triple from the right wing at 17:40.
The Runnin' Bulldog edge reached 11-8, 15:27 before halftime, when Jessica Heilig hit an acrobatic layup.
Miller beat the shot clock buzzer with a three-pointer on Liberty's next possession, kick-starting a 9-2 burst by the visitors. A driving runner by Danika Dale at the 11:33 mark gave the Lady Flames a 17-13 cushion.
Mayhana Dunovant cut her team's deficit to 17-16 with a three-pointer from the left wing at the 11:13 mark. But the Runnin' Bulldogs only made one more field goal in the next 7:20 of play. That allowed Liberty to take a 28-20 advantage when Devon Brown grabbed a defensive rebound and took it the length of the floor for a layup at 4:49.
Gardner-Webb scored four straight points, halving Liberty's lead to 28-24 when Eliana Scanlon split a pair of free throws with 3:02 left in the half.
Liberty then tallied the final eight points of the period, and Brown gave the Lady Flames a 36-24 halftime advantage with a bank shot that fell through the net as the buzzer sounded.
Liberty shot 44.8 percent (13-of-29) from the field in the first half, with Gardner-Webb checking in at 33.3 percent (9-of-27). The Lady Flames made 87.5 percent (7-of-8) of their first-half free throws, while the Runnin' Bulldogs connected on only 33.3 percent (3-of-9) from the line.
The blue-clad Lady Flames controlled the paint in the first half, outrebounding their hosts, 23-14. Liberty also outscored Gardner-Webb in points in the paint (20-6) and second-chance points (10-4).
Miller led all players with 11 points in the first half, hitting a trio of three-pointers. Brown chipped in eight points and five rebounds, while Warley grabbed nine boards and blocked two shots during the first 20 minutes.
Jasmine Dale scored eight points during the opening period to pace Gardner-Webb. Brianna Dillard added a team-high four rebounds.
Liberty scored 13 of the second half's first 15 points, boosting its overall run to 21-2 spanning the two periods. Brown beat the shot clock buzzer with a jumper from just inside the three-point arc with 14:54 left, making it 49-26, Lady Flames.
The visitors' cushion reached 30 points for the first time at 60-30, on Terika Lunsford's left-handed fast break layup with 10:06 showing on the second-half clock.
Liberty's largest lead of the evening, a 33-point bulge at 64-31, came when Tolu Omotola hit two free throws at 8:37.
Gardner-Webb kept battling and pulled to within 69-43 with 5:14 left, on Jasmine Dale's steal and resulting layup.
But that was as close as the Runnin' Bulldogs got, as Liberty closed out a 78-51 win. It was the Lady Flames' largest margin of victory in 10 all-time meetings with Gardner-Webb and gave head coach Carey Green career win No. 299.
Liberty finished the contest with a 48.4 percent (30-of-62) mark from the field, aided by 46 points in the paint and a season-high 18 fast break points. The Lady Flames also hit 62.5 percent (5-of-8) of their three-point tries and 68.4 percent (13-of-19) of their free throw attempts.
Meanwhile, the Runnin' Bulldogs struggled to a 28.3 percent (15-of-53) night from the floor. Gardner-Webb did a nice job of getting to the foul line, connecting on 69.2 percent (18-of-26) of their tries.
Liberty posted a 45-33 rebounding advantage and a 19-8 cushion in second-chance points for the game.
Individually, Miller notched four assists and a career high-tying four rebounds to go with her 18 points.
Brown added 14 points and seven rebounds, becoming the 22nd player in program history to grab 500 career rebounds. The redshirt junior has now pulled down 503 boards for the Lady Flames.
Warley recorded her sixth double-double in 10 career matchups with Gardner-Webb, consisting of 13 points and a dozen rebounds. The Washington, D.C., native now has 1,117 career rebounds to her credit and needs 11 more boards to break former Charleston Southern standout Kate Sanford's Big South all-time record.
Omotola and Jasmine Gardner posted matching stat lines of eight points and five rebounds for the Lady Flames, who saw all 10 players in uniform score a point and grab a board on the night.
Jasmine Dale was the lone Runnin' Bulldog to score in double digits, totaling 15 points. Dillard and Catrina Green corralled six rebounds apiece.
Liberty will return to North Carolina for another pair of games next weekend. The road swing will begin Saturday at 1 p.m., when the Lady Flames visit Campbell for the first time since Dec. 5, 1998.
Liberty will look to complete a season sweep of the Camels, after recording a 90-61 win inside the Vines Center on Jan. 9. The matinee at Campbell will be the 1,000th contest in program history, since the Lady Flames started playing women's basketball in 1975-76.
Gardner-Webb will also be on the road next weekend, playing at Coastal Carolina Saturday at 4:30 p.m.