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Liberty's Comeback Falls Short Versus No. 16/15 Cal

November 28, 2015  Las Vegas, Nev.  RSS
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Sadalia Ellis scored eight of her 13 points during the fourth quarter of Saturday's 77-72 setback to No. 16/15 California.

Sadalia Ellis scored eight of her 13 points during the fourth quarter of Saturday's 77-72 setback to No. 16/15 California.

Trailing No. 16/15 California by 16 points with 5:00 remaining in the fourth quarter of Saturday's South Point Thanksgiving Shootout clash, Liberty fashioned an incredible comeback. The Lady Flames pulled to within three points twice before the Golden Bears hung on for a 77-72 triumph inside South Point Arena.

Mikayla Cowling's layup with 5:00 to play gave Cal a seemingly insurmountable 68-52 advantage. But the Lady Flames reeled off a 13-0 run over the next 3:16, making it a one-possession game (68-65) on a Sadalia Ellis layup at the 1:44 mark.

Cowling stopped the Golden Bears' scoring drought with a three-pointer on Cal's next possession before Jaymee Fisher-Davis answered with a triple of her own, putting the Golden Bear advantage at 71-68 with 1:08 showing on the fourth quarter clock.

Cal point guard Asha Thomas then drained her team's eighth three-pointer of the game with 46 seconds remaining and Liberty could get no closer than four the rest of the way.

Liberty falls to 2-4 with its fourth straight setback, including its second narrow loss to a Top 25 opponent in as many days in Las Vegas. All-tournament team member Ashley Rininger paced the Lady Flames with 18 points and seven rebounds. She was joined in double figures by Ellis (13 points, 6 assists, 3 steals), Fisher-Davis (season-high 13 points) and Katelyn Adams (season-high 11 points, career high-tying 15 rebounds).

Cal, now 5-1, bounced back from its first loss of the season on Friday thanks in large part to the triumvirate of Cowling (career-high 22 points), Kristine Anigwe (16 points, 9 rebounds) and Thomas (14 points, 8 assists). The Golden Bears shot 51.9 percent (28-of-54) from the field, including 53.3 percent (8-of-15) from three-point range, ending Liberty's 69-game streak of holding opponents below 50 percent field goal shooting. Cal also hit 81.3 percent (13-of-16) of its free throws.

California shot a scorching 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from the field during the first quarter, including three made triples. As a result, the Golden Bears opened up a 23-15 advantage through 10 minutes of play.

Cal built a pair of 14-point leads (31-17 and 34-20) during the second quarter before Liberty made a late run. Adams scored six straight points, cutting Liberty's deficit to 34-26 just 47 seconds before halftime. The Golden Bears then took a 36-26 advantage into the intermission.

The navy blue-clad Golden Bears shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field during the first 20 minutes, as compared to just 27 percent (10-of-37) for the Lady Flames. But Liberty stayed in striking distance due in part to 15 offensive boards.

Liberty scored six of the second half's first eight points, trimming its deficit to 38-32 on a Rininger layup with 7:43 left in the third quarter. Cowling and Anigwe tallied all of Cal's points during the Golden Bears' ensuing 12-2 surge. Anigwe's two free throws pushed the California edge to 50-34 at the 2:59 mark, and the Golden Bears owned a 56-41 cushion at the end of three quarters.

Cal's lead got as large as 18 (61-43) on a Gabby Green trifecta with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter before Liberty's final frantic surge. The Lady Flames finished with 31 points in the final quarter, marking their highest-scoring period of the season. Fisher-Davis (10 points) and Ellis (8 points) led Liberty's fourth-quarter scoring outburst.

After a slow offensive start to the game, the Lady Flames hit 55.6 percent (20-of-36) of their second-half field goals, finishing the contest at 41.1 percent (30-of-73).

Liberty established new season highs for points in the paint (48) and bench points (30). The Lady Flames also converted California's 18 turnovers into 23 points and scored 22 second-chance points off of a season-best 25 offensive boards.

Rininger scored 12 of her 18 points after halftime, reaching double digits for the 13th straight game, dating back to last season.

Fisher-Davis hit three of Liberty's five triples on the day, giving her five three-pointers for the two-day tournament.

Adams' double-double was the senior's first of the season and the 10th of her career. She has now tallied 623 career boards, putting the Minnesota native just two behind Sharon Wilkerson for 10th place in Liberty history.

Audrey Rettstatt chipped in nine points and four rebounds for the Lady Flames, coming just one point shy of her career high.

Liberty will open defense of its Big South regular-season title Wednesday at 7 p.m., when the Lady Flames travel to Gardner-Webb (4-1) for their first of 20 conference games this season.