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Brown, Omotola Lead Liberty Past Radford

March 2, 2012
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Tolu Omotola scored a career-high 22 points during Liberty's 72-66 win over Radford on Friday.
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Radford was able to cut Liberty's 15-point second-half advantage to three, Friday evening at the Vines Center. However, the Lady Flames held on for a 72-66 triumph in the regular-season finale, led by 22 points apiece from Devon Brown and Tolu Omotola.

Brown and Omotola finished with nearly identical statistical lines, as both redshirt juniors complemented their offensive output with nine rebounds and each player scored 15 points during the second half. Omotola's point total was a new career high.

The Lady Flames' duo also contributed largely to one of the game's most important statistics, free throws. Liberty ended the evening at 79.5 percent (31-of-39) from the charity stripe, with Brown and Omotola each making at least 10 free throws. The 31 made foul shots equaled the Lady Flames' most ever at the Vines Center.

Liberty closes the regular-season at 21-8 overall and 16-2 in Big South action. The Big South regular-season champion Lady Flames set a new conference record with their 16 Big South triumphs this year.

Radford falls to 15-14 overall and 9-9 in the Big South, after dropping its fourth contest in its last five outings. The Highlanders fell despite stellar efforts from guards Da'Naria Erwin Spencer and Ashley Buckhannon. Erwin Spencer scored 21 of her game-high 27 points during the second half, while Buckhannon chipped in 21 points on the night.

After the start of the game was delayed 30 minutes due to Radford's team bus being stuck in traffic, both teams got off to a sluggish start at the offensive end. The Lady Flames and Highlanders combined to make just five of their first 18 field goal attempts, and Liberty owned a 9-7 edge at the first media timeout, which came at the 14:59 mark.

The Lady Flames held the visitors scoreless for nearly five and a half minutes, notching a 9-0 run in the meantime. LaKendra Washington's three-pointer from the top of the key 10:47 before halftime gave Liberty a 16-7 advantage.

Erwin Spencer's 17-foot jumper at 6:56 ended the Highlanders' nine-minute field goal drought, cutting her team's deficit to 18-10.

The Lady Flames scored seven of the contest's next nine points, bolstering their lead to 25-12 when Omotola split a pair of free throws 4:55 before halftime.

Liberty's advantage reached 14 points, at 28-14, before Radford went on a 6-1 burst. Ema Reskoska's putback hoop 34 seconds before the intermission pulled her team to within 29-20.

Liberty took a 30-20 lead into the locker room at halftime, despite shooting just 24.1 percent (7-of-29) from the field during the first 20 minutes of play.

Liberty was aided by a trio of first-half three-pointers and a 72.2 percent (13-of-18) performance from the foul line. Meanwhile, Radford hit only 22.6 percent (7-of-31) of its first-half field goals.

The homestanding Lady Flames enjoyed a 32-19 rebounding advantage before halftime, led by Jasmine Gardner's nine boards.

Brown and Omotola led Liberty's offensive attack before halftime, tallying seven points apiece.

Radford's top first-half scorer was Buckhannon, with seven points of her own.

Omotola scored six of Liberty's first eight points to start the second half, including a second-chance hoop from close range which put the Lady Flames in front by 15 (38-23) with 16:13 left.

Erwin Spencer then ignited a 9-0 Radford surge with five consecutive points. Buckhannon capped off the run with a steal and layup at the 14:13 mark, cutting the Liberty edge to 38-32.

The Highlanders continued battling back, and trimmed the deficit to a single point at 44-43 on Buckhannon's three-pointer from the right corner with 9:33 on the clock.

Omotola helped Liberty halt Radford's momentum with old-fashioned three-point plays on the Lady Flames' next two trips to the offensive end. That began a 9-0 Lady Flame run, which ended at the 7:26 mark, when Brown's free throw made it 53-43, Liberty.

The Lady Flames' cushion got up to 63-50 after Brown's fast break layup at the 3:26 mark.

Radford then made a furious run at Liberty, scoring 16 points in the next 2:55, while holding the Lady Flames to six foul shots during the same time. The Highlanders' surge featured four three-pointers, including one by Erwin Spencer that made it a one-possession game at 69-66 with 29.2 seconds left.

Brown then made two clutch free throws to give Liberty some breathing room. Radford's final shot attempt, a three-point try by Katherine Brockett, was rebounded by Omotola, who made a foul shot to produce the final score of 72-66. The Lady Flames sealed the win from the foul line, making nine of their 10 attempts during the final 1:45.

Liberty needed its big night from the foul line, because the Lady Flames finished the game at only 38 percent (19-of-50) from the field. However, Liberty did shoot 57.1 percent (12-of-21) on its field goal tries after halftime.

Radford shot the ball well during the second half, making 50 percent (17-of-34) of its field goals and 53.3 percent (8-of-15) of its three-point attempts. For the game, the Highlanders went 36.9 percent (24-of-65) from the field and 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from three-point land.

The nation's No. 1-ranked team in rebound margin, Liberty closed the game with a 47-31 edge on the glass and a 30-18 cushion in points in the paint.

Radford, which ranks No. 13 nationally in steals, forced 21 Liberty turnovers and converted the miscues into 21 points.

Brown's 22-point evening marked her eighth 20-point game of the season. She scored half of her points at the free throw line, sinking 11 of her 13 attempts.

Omotola's 22 points eclipsed her previous career high of 19 tallies, set Feb. 19, 2011 at Radford. She also set career highs for free throws made (10) and attempted (14), while going over the 500-point mark for her career.

Gardner shared the team rebounding lead with Brown and Omotola, equaling her season high with nine caroms.

Liberty seniors Danika Dale and Avery Warley played their final home game at the Vines Center on Friday, improving to 44-8 inside the facility during the last four years. Additionally, Warley broke Courtney Watkins' school record with her 128th career game played.

Erwin Spencer's 27 points for Radford equaled her season high, and the guard also came up with three steals. Buckhannon's 21 points went along with her eight assists and trio of steals.

Tiana Cannon was the Highlanders' top rebounder, collecting seven boards on the night.

Both Liberty and Radford will now prepare for the 2012 Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship, to be held March 9-11 at the Millis Center in High Point, N.C. The complete tournament bracket will be announced following the conclusion of Monday evening's quartet of Big South games. The Lady Flames and Highlanders have combined to win 22 of the 25 championships in tournament history.