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Winthrop Snaps Liberty's Streak with 71-69 Win
Winthrop guards Diana Choibekova, Samiya Wright and Dequesha McClanahan combined for 64 points during Saturday's matinee at the Winthrop Coliseum, leading the Eagles to a 71-69 victory over Liberty. As a result, the Lady Flames saw their season-best 11-game winning streak halted.
Liberty falls to 17-8 on the season and 12-2 in Big South play, despite a 19-point, 15-rebound performance by Avery Warley. The Lady Flames maintain a two and a half-game advantage atop the Big South standings, after second-place High Point also lost on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Winthrop's third straight victory boosts the Eagles' season record to 14-11. Winthrop is 8-5 in Big South action, after winning for the eighth time in 50 all-time meetings with the Lady Flames.
Reagan Miller got the Lady Flames off to a good start, hitting a three-pointer from right in front of the Winthrop bench on the game's opening possession. Liberty's lead reached 15-9 on another triple, this one by Danika Dale at the 14:28 mark.
Winthrop's Wright then scored the first 12 points of the Eagles' ensuing 17-3 surge. McClanahan's hoop at 8:06 capped the run, giving the home team a 26-18 advantage.
Liberty held the Eagles without a made field goal for the next four minutes, climbing back to within a single point at 28-27 after a 9-2 burst. Catherine Kearney's putback hoop with 4:17 on the clock closed out the surge.
But Winthrop was able to stay on top for the remainder of the opening half, pushing its advantage back to five points before taking a 36-33 lead into the intermission.
The first half statistics vividly described the contrast in styles between the two teams. Liberty shot 46.7 percent (14-of-30) from the field, including 20 points in the paint. The Lady Flames also outscored the Eagles inside the paint, 20-8 and won the rebounding battle, 26-19.
Meanwhile, Winthrop took exactly half of its 42 first-half field goal attempts from three-point range, hitting six triples for 28.6 percent. The Eagles forced 13 turnovers by the Lady Flames before halftime, scoring nine points off of those miscues.
Warley notched a double-double in the first half, pacing the Lady Flames in both points (13) and rebounds (11). Devon Brown was limited to two points before halftime, but contributed eight rebounds and six assists.
For Winthrop, both Wright (16 points) and Choibekova (14 points) reached double digits during the first 20 minutes of play. McClanahan totaled five assists before the break.
The Eagles bolstered their lead to nine at 50-41, after scoring five straight points in 29 seconds. Wright's fast break layup punctuated the burst at the 14:29 mark, necessitating a Liberty timeout.
Dale scored five points during Liberty's ensuing 10-0 run, including a hoop from close range that gave the Lady Flames a short-lived 51-50 edge with 9:24 to play.
Choibekova drilled a three-pointer from the left corner on Winthrop's next trip to the offensive end, halting Liberty's momentum and ending a 5:24 scoreless drought by the Eagles.
Winthrop did not trail again until 4:38 remained, at which point LaKendra Washington's triple swished through the net, making the score 60-59 in favor of the Lady Flames.
The lead traded hands twice during the next 1:06, before Winthrop took the lead for good with a 5-0 run. McClanahan, who had only made five of her first 27 field goal attempts, finished off the surge with back-to-back hoops, including a layup with 1:40 left that made it 66-62, Eagles.
Liberty twice closed the gap to two points, but Winthrop held off the Lady Flames by making five of six free throws during the final minute. As a result, Miller's last-second NBA-range three-pointer only cut the final margin to 71-69. The Eagles' 71 points marked the first time they have scored 60 or more points against the Lady Flames since Jan. 19, 2002, which spans 24 head-to-head meetings.
The Lady Flames finished the game at 43.9 percent (25-of-57) from the field, bettering Winthrop's mark of 36.1 percent (26-of-72). Liberty also fared better at the free throw line, making 75 percent (15-of-20) of its tries as compared with 64.3 percent (9-of-14) for the Eagles.
Winthrop did a lot of its damage from the perimeter, making 10-of-32 three-point tries for 31.3 percent. The Eagles additionally turned 23 Liberty turnovers into 20 points.
Liberty won the battle of the boards, 47-36, and tallied 34 points in the paint to Winthrop's 22.
Warley's double-double was her 11th of the season and the 43rd of her career. She also blocked two Winthrop shots, marking the ninth straight game the redshirt senior has turned away multiple shot attempts.
Fellow post player Tolu Omotola scored 11 of her season-high 16 points during the second half for the Lady Flames, while also corralling seven rebounds.
Brown was held to a season-low six points, but tied her season high with 11 rebounds and established a new career high with a team-high eight assists. Brown's half-dozen markers made her the seventh player in program history to reach 1,300 career points.
Winthrop's Choibekova topped all players with 25 points, as the nation's leader in three-pointers made hit seven of them on Saturday. Wright added 21 points, while McClanahan finished with 18 points and nine assists.
Talyor Calvert and TaQuoia Hammick pulled down seven rebounds apiece to pace the Eagles' efforts on the boards.
Liberty will play its final road game of the 2011-12 regular season Monday, when the Lady Flames travel to Presbyterian College. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. inside the Templeton Center, as the Lady Flames attempt to improve to 9-0 all-time against the Blue Hose.
Winthrop will host Radford in a Monday evening contest, also set for a 7 p.m. tipoff at the Winthrop Coliseum.