Reigning Big South Freshman of the Week Keyen Green continued her stellar play, Saturday at the Vines Center. Her second straight double-double (career-high 20 points, game-high 14 rebounds) propelled Liberty to its first victory of the 2016-17 season, 64-38 over West Liberty.
Coming off of a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship in 2015-16, the Hilltoppers were competitive early on. They led for most of the first quarter and trailed by only four (29-25) with 6:41 remaining in the third quarter. Green then scored 10 of her points during a 21-2 Liberty run which broke the game open for good.
Liberty (1-6) used its considerable size advantage to great effect, dominating West Liberty in rebounding (64-31) and points in the paint (38-12). The Lady Flames also got contributions from nearly their entire roster, as 13 players scored points, 14 players grabbed a rebound and 10 Lady Flames combined for the team's season-best 18 assists.
With a triumph in its lone December home game, Liberty was able to avoid matching the worst start to a season in program history. The Lady Flames also halted a four-game home losing streak and an eight-game overall losing skid, both of which dated back to the 2015-16 campaign.
West Liberty classified the matinee as an exhibition, so the Hilltoppers' record remains at 1-7. The outside shooting team hit just 11.8 percent (4-of-34) of its three-point attempts and scored a season-low 38 points despite 14 tallies from Johnie Olkosky and 10 more by McKenna Shives.
An early three-pointer and long two-pointer by Shives helped West Liberty open the game with a 7-2 advantage. The Lady Flames trimmed their deficit to 11-9 by the end of the period, scoring five of their first-quarter points from the free throw line.
Beginning with a pair of layups by Green, Liberty made five straight field goals in the second quarter, after hitting just 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) to start the game. Nene Johnson's fast break layup at 4:26 gave the Lady Flames a 24-16 lead, capping off a 13-3 run.
Liberty took the same eight-point margin (28-20) into the locker room at halftime, aided by Green's big first half (10 points, nine rebounds).
West Liberty cut its deficit to four points (29-25) after three Olkosky free throws with 6:41 to play in the third quarter. Liberty then notched its aforementioned 21-2 run. Sheana Vega's layup with 23 seconds left in the period finished the surge with the Lady Flames on top, 50-27. Liberty then took a 50-30 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Flames' advantage grew to the final margin of 26 points thanks to three fourth-quarter triples. Making her collegiate debut, redshirt freshman Kaitlyn Stovall hit both of her three-point tries, putting an exclamation point on Liberty's win.
Green, who sat out the entire fourth quarter, became the first Lady Flame to post a 20-point game this season. She is also the first Liberty player with a 20-point, 10-rebound effort since Dec. 29, 2015 (Catherine Kearney at Campbell).
Stephanie Patton finished as the Lady Flames' second-leading scorer with a season-high seven points. Freshmen Kierra Johnson-Graham and Ola Makurat chipped in seven rebounds apiece, while Johnson's four assists led all players.
Liberty shot 58.8 percent (10-of-17) during the decisive third quarter but finished at 35.7 percent (25-of-70) overall, including 29.4 percent (5-of-17) from three-point range. The Lady Flames also shot a season-low 45 percent (9-of-20) at the foul line.
West Liberty struggled to find its shooting touch as well, making just 24.6 percent (14-of-57) from the field and 54.5 percent (6-of-11) from the charity stripe.
For the fifth straight game, Liberty both won the rebounding battle and grabbed 20 or more offensive boards (23) in the process.
Up Next Following a break for final exams, Liberty will travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the Rae & Craig Blair Memorial Tournament. The Lady Flames will open the two-day event against Central Arkansas, Dec. 19 at 5 p.m. Eastern. Liberty will then face tournament host UTSA in the finale, Dec. 20 at 7:15 p.m. Eastern, with both contests taking place at the UTSA Convocation Center.