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Liberty Tops Radford in BSC Opener, 67-65
For the 12th time in the last 13 years, Liberty opened Big South Conference play with a victory, but Saturday afternoon's triumph at Radford was anything but easy. Tolu Omotola's hoop with 43.1 seconds left gave the Lady Flames their first lead of the second half, and Liberty held on for a 67-65 win over the Highlanders inside the Dedmon Center.
Liberty trailed by as many as nine points during the second half, before staging a late rally. Devon Brown scored nine of her game-high 28 points in the game's final 4:45 to help the Lady Flames come back.
Omotola's spinning hoop in the paint put Liberty over the hump and fellow post player Jasmine Gardner helped finish things off with a free throw and two big defensive rebounds in the last 12 seconds. As a result, Liberty improves to 4-3 overall and 1-0 in Big South play with its first road win of the season.
Da'Naria Erwin Spencer tossed in a season-best 21 points for Radford, but her long-distance shot attempt in the closing seconds fell short, dropping the Highlanders to 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the Big South.
Liberty took an advantage just six seconds into the game, after Gardner won the tipoff, leading to a Brittany Campbell layup. The Lady Flames' first double-digit lead came at the 11:57 mark, when Brown's fast break layup made the score 18-8.
Radford answered with an 11-0 run, taking its initial advantage of the afternoon at 19-18, when Ema Reskoska connected on a shot from the paint at 7:35.
Liberty reclaimed the lead just 20 seconds later, on a jumper by Katelyn Adams. The Lady Flames were in front, 25-21, before a 10-0 surge by the home team. Ashley Buckhannon's driving right-handed layup with 3:02 on the clock made the score, 31-25, Radford.
The Lady Flames battled back to within 33-32, after making five straight free throws in a 49-second span. However, Radford scored the half's final three points, taking a 36-32 edge into the locker room.
Radford shot the ball well from the field in the first half, making 48.4 percent (15-of-31) of its tries as compared to 29 percent (9-of-31) for the Lady Flames. Liberty used the free throw line to keep the game close, hitting 12 of 13 tries for 92.3 percent.
The Lady Flames outrebounded the Highlanders, 24-15, in the first half. Meanwhile, Radford made good use of Liberty's 10 turnovers, converting them into 19 points.
Brown led all players with 14 first-half points for the Lady Flames, while Omotola collected a half-best nine rebounds. Erwin Spencer's eight first-half points paced Radford's balanced scoring attack.
Liberty held Radford to one made field goal during the first 4:20 of the second half, enabling the Lady Flames to tie the score at 40 when Brown swished a triple from the right wing at 15:56.
The Highlanders then tallied nine straight points, taking a 49-40 lead with 13:01 left, when La-She' Walker canned a layup.
Gardner scored six straight Liberty points, helping the Lady Flames battle back to within two twice (51-49 and 53-51).
Consecutive hoops by the Highlanders, including a mid-range jumper by Erwin Spencer at 6:52, pushed the home team's cushion back to 57-51.
Radford still led by six at 61-55 with 4:37 to play before Brown scored all of Liberty's points during a 7-1 surge. Her three-pointer, which hit every part of the rim before bouncing through the net, leveled the score at 62-all at the 1:59 mark.
The Highlanders' Jordynn Gaymon and the Lady Flames' Katelyn Adams traded layups on the next two possessions, keeping the score deadlocked at 64-64 with 1:25 left.
After Erwin Spencer split a pair of free throws at the 59.2-second mark, Omotola scored the decisive basket with 43.1 ticks remaining, taking advantage of a mismatch with the 5-5 Ayana Avery guarding her. Omotola's connection made the score 66-65 in favor of blue-clad Liberty.
Omotola then blocked a shot attempt by Avery and Gardner rebounded Erwin Spencer's misfire on Radford's next trip to the offensive end.
After Gardner made her second of two foul shots, Liberty blanketed Erwin Spencer on defense. The senior guard missed well short on a perimeter shot that fell into Gardner's waiting arms as the final buzzer sounded. The Lady Flames' hard-fought 67-65 triumph was their sixth straight victory at the Dedmon Center.
Both teams shot 12-of-31 from the field during the second half, dropping Radford to 43.5 percent (27-of-62) for the game and boosting Liberty to 33.9 percent (21-of-62). The difference came at the foul line, where the Lady Flames connected at an 80 percent (20-of-25) rate, while Radford shot just 57.1 percent (8-of-14).
Liberty controlled the rebounding battle, 50-32, with 23 offensive boards leading to 18 second-chance points. Radford finished with 26 points off of the Lady Flames' season-low 17 turnovers.
Brown scored half of her season-high 28 points during each half, falling just one point shy of her career high. The Waynesboro, Va., native made three triples, nine of her 10 foul shots and collected eight rebounds on the afternoon.
Omotola's clutch hoop punctuated an eight-point, 13-rebound performance. Her 13 boards established a new career high. Gardner fashioned her second double-double of the season, consisting of 11 points and a dozen caroms.
Erwin Spencer, who posted 13 of her 21 points after halftime for the Highlanders, was the only player on her team to reach double figures. Buckhannon was next with nine points, while Gaymon and Victoria Hamilton pulled down five rebounds apiece.
Liberty will play another road game within the Commonwealth on Tuesday, when the Lady Flames travel to James Madison. Tipoff time inside the JMU Convocation Center is slated for 7 p.m.