Emily Lytle scored in double digits for the sixth straight game, finishing with 11 points. (Photo by Hunter Julius)
A strong defensive effort and balanced scoring were key as Norfolk State topped Liberty 66-53 in the Christmas City Classic consolation game, Sunday afternoon at Lehigh's Stabler Arena.
Raven Russell and Dana Echols (13 points apiece) led five Norfolk State players in double figures. The Spartans also forced 22 Liberty turnovers, improving to 3-4 on the season with their first-ever win over Liberty.
Liberty, which only led for 27 seconds the entire afternoon, drops to 1-5 with its third straight loss during its Thanksgiving week road swing.
Box Score Highlights Liberty Individuals: Ashtyn Baker – 12 points, 5-6 FG; Bridgette Rettstatt – 11 points, 9 rebounds; Emily Lytle – 11 points
Norfolk State Individuals: Dana Echols – 13 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds; Raven Russell – 13 points; Khadedra Croker – 11 points, 6 rebounds; La'Deja James – 10 points, 7 steals; De'Janaire Deas – 10 points, 5 rebounds
Key Team Stats: Norfolk State shot 21-of-26 (80.8 percent) at the foul line, compared to just 7-of-10 (70 percent) for the Lady Flames. Liberty shot a slightly better percentage from the field (43.8 percent to 40.8 percent) but was outrebounded (30-29) for the third game in a row.
Turning Point Liberty briefly took its lone lead of the game (12-11) when Ria Gulley hit a three-pointer at 4:01 of the first quarter.
Norfolk State then outscored the Lady Flames 18-5 over the next 8:27, building a 29-17 advantage when Dana Echols hit three free throws with 5:33 remaining before halftime. Liberty, which committed four turnovers and made only one field goal during that span, got no closer than seven points down the rest of the way.
Game Summary First Quarter • Norfolk State raced out of the gates, getting three-pointers from Raven Russell and Alexys Long on its first two possessions of the afternoon.
• The Spartans led for all but 1:05 of the opening quarter, outrebounding the Lady Flames 10-5 and seeing Russell score seven points. As a result, Norfolk State was on top 20-15 through 10 minutes of play.
Second Quarter • Another three-pointer, this one by Long with 1:17 remaining before halftime, gave Norfolk State its largest lead of the opening half at 39-24. The Spartans hit all 11 of their free throw attempts during the stanza and 15-of-17 (88.2 percent) in the first half.
• Emily Lytle scored five of her nine first-half points during the final minute, cutting the Lady Flames' halftime deficit to a dozen (41-29).
Third Quarter • Ashtyn Baker tallied six points in the third quarter, helping the Lady Flames battle back to within seven on two occasions.
• Liberty limited Norfolk State to 11 third-quarter points but still trailed by eight (52-44) heading to the fourth period.
Fourth Quarter • The Spartans squelched Liberty's comeback hopes by forcing five fourth-quarter turnovers which led to six points.
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green Quotes "We struggled on the offensive end and the defensive end as well. It's certainly frustrating. There was a period where it was an eight-point game and we came down and committed three straight turnovers. It's just not a good combination with what's going on right now. We just didn't defend in the first half. We gave up 41 points. At that rate, you're going to get yourself in trouble, especially if you're turning the ball over. We just could not get into a rhythm on either the offensive end or the defensive end."
Notes and Nuggets • Ashtyn Baker's 12 points equaled her season high.
• All-Tournament Team member Emily Lytle (11 points) scored in double figures for the sixth straight game to begin her Liberty career. However, she missed all five of her three-point tries after entering the game at 50 percent (16-of-32) from long range this season.
• Bridgette Rettstatt has scored in double digits in back-to-back games for the first time in the sophomore's career.
• Liberty is now 7-1 all-time against Norfolk State.
• The Lady Flames fall to 0-2 versus in-state opponents this season (Virginia Tech and Norfolk State) and 0-2 against MEAC foes (Bethune-Cookman and Norfolk State).
• Liberty has lost three straight games within a single season for the first time since dropping four in a row between Nov. 12-25, 2017.
Up Next Liberty will face its second straight in-state opponent on Thursday, welcoming CAA preseason favorite James Madison (4-1) to the Vines Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff. The Lady Flames and Dukes are matching up for the fourth straight season and for the 12th time in the last 13 years. Liberty is seeking its first win over JMU since Dec. 4, 2012.
Thursday's game will be Liberty's final home tilt of 2018, as the Lady Flames' next five contests will take place away from Lynchburg.
Date: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Vines Center) TV: ESPN+ Radio: LFSN Radio (90.9 FM The Light Lynchburg) Tipoff: 7 p.m.