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Liberty Runs Past Radford To Move Into First Place
The Liberty Lady Flames handed in-state rival Radford its first Big South loss of the season and halted the Highlanders' seven-game winning streak, by a count of 79-66, Saturday evening at the Vines Center. The Lady Flame defense came up with a season-high 14 steals, while the Liberty sophomore duo of Megan Frazee (27 points) and Rebecca Lightfoot (career-high 13 points) took advantage at the offensive end.
Liberty is now tied with UNC Asheville for first place in the Big South Conference standings at 4-1 after finishing the month of January with a 6-1 mark. The Lady Flames now own a 12-8 overall record.
Radford not only saw its winning streak ended, but yielded its most points since an 80-71 loss at Evansville on Nov. 17. The Highlanders leave town with an 11-7 overall record and a 3-1 overall ledger after losing to the Lady Flames for the 15th-consecutive time.
The Lady Flames and Highlanders went back and forth to open the contest. The lead changed hands three times and the score was tied on three other occasions prior to the first media timeout.
Liberty broke a 7-7 tie by tallying six of the game's next seven points. A Roli-Ann Nikagbatse jumper from close range gave the Lady Flames a 13-8 lead at the 15:19 mark.
Serena White came off the bench to score Radford's next five markers. Her three-pointer from the left corner with 13:02 left before halftime cut Liberty's advantage to 15-13.
White's long-distance connection would be the Highlanders' last field goal until Kelli Darden's hook shot at 6:51. The Lady Flames ran off a 13-2 run in the meantime, with Megan and Molly Frazee combining for the first nine points of the surge. Liberty's edge stood at 28-15 after a Michelle Parker jumper from just inside the three-point stripe, 7:10 before the half.
Radford shaved its deficit to eight points, 32-24, after a 7-2 run. Charron Leeper's mid-range jumper with 4:09 on the first-half clock capped the burst.
The Lady Flames came right back with two-straight three-point possessions, getting a three-point play by Megan Frazee and a Lightfoot triple from the top of the key. Frazee added a free throw at 2:50, wrapping up a 7-0 run and increasing the Lady Flames' lead to 39-24.
Liberty's advantage still stood at 15 points before Radford's Johnette Walker hit a three-pointer as the halftime buzzer sounded, making the score 41-29 in favor of the Lady Flames at the break.
Megan Frazee, limited to seven points before fouling out of Monday's game against Winthrop, exploded for 15 points, five rebounds and four steals during the first 20 minutes of play. She led all players in each of those statistical categories but was the only Lady Flame to miss a free throw during the opening stanza. Liberty sank its first 14 attempts from the foul line and was 15-of-16 (93.8 percent) overall.
Allyson Fasnacht chipped in with seven points, two assists and a pair of the Lady Flames' 10 first-half steals. Rebounding, a strength of both teams entering the contest, was controlled by homestanding liberty before halftime. Liberty pulled down seven offensive boards and outrebounded its opponent by a 20-12 margin.
Darden provided much of Radford's offensive output during the first half, going for 12 points to complement her team-best three rebounds and two blocked shots. Walker contributed six markers and three steals for the Highlanders.
Radford started the second half with a 9-2 run, including a pair of Shavon Earp three-pointers from the corner. Earp's second basket came with 14:23 remaining and trimmed her team's deficit to 43-38.
Megan Frazee helped halt the Highlanders' momentum with a three-pointer. The Lady Flame edge then pushed back up to eight, 48-40, after Jamie Feagin converted a Frazee assist at the 11:27 mark, wrapping up a quick, 5-2 Liberty surge.
After Walker cut the Liberty lead to six with a lay-up at 11:07, the Highlanders did not make their next field goal until the 3:41 mark, when Vandy Pullen fashioned a three-point play.
By that time, Liberty had extended its advantage to 64-46 with an extended, 16-4 run. Lightfoot, Parker and Moriah Frazee each contributed four points to the surge. Frazee tossed in the final four markers, including a lay-up at the 5:16 marker.
Radford sliced the Lady Flames' advantage to 12 points when Serena White drained a three-pointer with exactly one minute remaining. Liberty then eliminated all doubt, as Megan Frazee and Lightfoot made back-to-back field goals to help account for the final margin of victory.
Frazee ended the game with a team-high seven rebounds and a career-best five steals, to complement her game-high point total. Lightfoot scored 10 of her career-high 13 points after halftime.
Liberty shot the ball efficiently, making 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the field, three of its four attempts from long distance and 82.8 percent (24-of-29) of its foul shots. The team's shooting percentage was aided by 36 points in the paint.
The Lady Flames ended the game with a 39-36 rebounding. In addition to Megan Frazee's work under the glass, Karolina Piotrkiewicz hauled in five caroms.
Four Highlanders ended up in double figures, paced by Darden's 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Walker posted an impressive all-around game, totaling 12 points, five rebounds, six assists and a game-high six steals. Earp tallied a dozen points of her own, and White totaled 10.
Radford shot just 36.1 percent (22-of-61) from the field and turned the ball over 20 times. The Highlanders stayed close much of the way, however, in part due to their 19 offensive boards.
Radford will remain on the road for its next game, traveling to High Point on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. match-up against the Panthers.
Liberty will play its next contest at UNC Asheville's Justice Center, the site of the 2007 Big South Women's Basketball Championship. Tip-off for the contest between the Lady Flames and Bulldogs will be 2 p.m. on Feb. 3.