Liberty cut a 13-point second-half deficit to four during Tuesday's matchup with James Madison, but could get no closer. The Dukes put three players into double figures and shot 75 percent in the fourth quarter, closing out a 62-48 triumph at the Vines Center.
Freshman Kierra Johnson-Graham gave the Lady Flames a second-half spark, finishing with a team-high 11 points in just 11 minutes off the bench. But Liberty falls to 0-2 after struggling from both the field (28.8 percent, 15-of-52) and the free throw line (50 percent, 13-of-26) for the second straight game to start the season.
James Madison improves to 2-1 with its second straight win, despite Precious Hall (17 points, 6-of-22 FG) being held well below her 31.5 ppg scoring average. Tasia Butler stepped up with her first career double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds), including nine fourth-quarter points. Meanwhile, Kamiah Smalls chipped in 16 points and eight boards for the three-time defending CAA champions.
JMU held Liberty scoreless for a 6:02 span of the first quarter, tallying a 10-0 run during that time. Hall scored six of the Dukes' points, giving JMU an early 10-2 advantage.
A Stephanie Patton three-pointer and a three-point play by Molly Reagan then sparked a 7-0 Liberty surge to close out the opening quarter. JMU led 10-9 after 10 minutes of play.
Butler scored seven points in the first 1:24 to start the second quarter, extending the visitors' advantage to 17-10. Liberty clawed back to within three (21-18) on Iva Ilic's triple with 4:23 remaining.
James Madison scored the half's final eight points, taking a 29-18 lead into the intermission despite only shooting 36.1 percent (13-of-36) for the stanza. The Dukes scored 18 points in the paint and took advantage of 13 Liberty turnovers during the first 20 minutes. Hall led all first-half scorers with a dozen points.
The Lady Flames struggled shooting the basketball before halftime, making 20 percent (5-of-25) from the field and 50 percent (6-of-12) from the line.
JMU built its largest lead of the game to that point (35-22) with 6:13 to play in the third quarter, following consecutive layups by Smalls. Liberty responded with a 9-0 burst, highlighted by back-to-back Johnson-Graham triples. Reagan's free throw at 2:49 trimmed the Lady Flames' deficit to 35-31.
Logan Reynolds' three-pointer on JMU's ensuing possession slowed Liberty's momentum, and the Dukes stayed in front, taking a 41-35 lead into the final period.
The Dukes scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter, including two Butler layups, extending to a 50-35 cushion midway through the period. Liberty got no closer than 12 points down the rest of the evening, as JMU hit nine of its 12 fourth-quarter field goal attempts.
The Dukes became just the second in-state opponent to defeat Liberty in its last 17 Commonwealth clashes despite being limited to a season-low 62 points.
Audrey Rettstatt scored all eight of her points after halftime for the Lady Flames, while Keyen Green grabbed a team-high eight boards.
Butler connected on all seven of her field goal attempts, helping JMU shoot 42.6 percent (26-of-61) for the game. However, the visitors made just three of 22 three-point tries for 13.6 percent.
James Madison had the upper hand in most statistical categories, including rebounds (41-38), points in the paint (36-18) and second-chance points (17-7). The Dukes also turned Liberty's 23 turnovers into 22 points.
Aided by Johnson-Graham, the Liberty bench outscored James Madison's reserves, 27-5, and accounted for all five of the Lady Flames' triples for the game.
Up Next Liberty will close out its season-opening three-game homestand Thursday at 7 p.m. when Appalachian State (1-1) visits the Vines Center. It will mark the Mountaineers' first visit to Lynchburg since 1988-89, Liberty's first NCAA Division I season.