Kierra Johnson-Graham scored eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 48-45 setback. (Photo by Carlos Morales)
For the second straight game, Liberty lost on a three-point shot at the final buzzer, Sunday afternoon at UNCG. This time around, the Spartans' Nadine Soliman banked in a triple from the left corner as the horn sounded, thrilling the home spectators at Fleming Gymnasium with a dramatic 48-45 victory.
Soliman, who entered the contest averaging 20.8 ppg, posted 12 of her game-high 14 points during the second half, helping UNCG emerge victorious from a defensive struggle. The Spartans improve to 5-6 with their sixth straight home win, dating back to last season.
The Lady Flames, who previously lost 66-63 on a buzzer-beating trifecta at East Carolina on Thursday, fall to 2-8 this season and 1-4 in games decided by five points or fewer. Liberty shot a season-low 29.5 percent (13-of-44) from the field, leading to a season-low 45 points.
Box Score Highlights Liberty Individuals: KK Barbour – 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks; Kierra Johnson-Graham – 10 points, 5 rebounds; Emily Lytle – 8 points, 8 rebounds.
UNCG Individuals: Nadine Soliman – 14 points, 6 rebounds; Amesha Miller – 8 points, 5 rebounds; Te'ja Twitty – 8 points.
Key Team Stats: UNCG (36.4 percent of 16-of-44) did not shoot much better from the field than the Lady Flames. Liberty shot a season-best 88.9 percent (16-of-18) from the foul line. In a battle between the ASUN's top rebounding team and the SoCon's best rebounding squad, Liberty won the battle of the boards (34-29) for the fourth straight game.
Turning Point A back-and-forth fourth quarter saw the lead change hands four times, and Emily Lytle produced the stanza's fourth tie (45-45) on a spinning bank shot from the paint with 7.5 seconds remaining.
After both teams used their final timeouts, UNCG struggled to find a good look at the basket before Soliman released her contested game winner from a tough angle.
Game Summary First Quarter • Points came at a premium during the first quarter, which Liberty emerged from with a 10-6 edge. The Lady Flames held UNCG to 23.1 percent (3-of-13) shooting during the stanza and forced four turnovers.
Second Quarter • Liberty made only two of its 10 field goal attempts during a five-point second quarter, while the Spartans shot six of nine from the foul line.
• As a result, UNCG edged in front 18-15 at the intermission. It marked Liberty's lowest-scoring half of the season and also the fewest points the Lady Flames have allowed in a half in 2018-19.
Third Quarter • After being held to two points in the first half, Nadine Soliman tallied seven third-quarter points, helping to keep her team in front by four (35-31).
• Liberty kept it close by making 11 of its 12 attempts from the free throw line, including five makes by KK Barbour during the senior's eight-point quarter.
Fourth Quarter • Kierra Johnson-Graham tallied eight of her 10 points and grabbed four boards during the final period, helping Liberty reclaim the advantage on two different occasions. KK Barbour's putback with 4:05 to play had the visitors in front 43-41.
• However, Liberty missed its next five field goal attempts, during which time UNCG hit four free throws. Te'ja Twitty's pair of charity tosses at 1:13 provided the Spartans a 45-43 edge and set the stage for Lytle and Soliman's heroics during the closing eight seconds.
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green Quotes "Our only disappointment was that we tried to manage the game a little bit better and weren't able to do that, both on the offensive and defensive end. Soliman made a big shot. Overall, the defense was pretty much on throughout the game. At the end of the day, we didn't shoot the ball very well at all."
Notes and Nuggets • KK Barbour and Kierra Johnson-Graham each scored all 10 of their points during the second half. For Barbour, it was her 26th career game scoring in double figures but her first since the season opener at Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 9.
• Emily Lytle's eight rebounds paced all players and set a new career high.
• Mya McMillian had a shot blocked during the third quarter, snapping a string of eight consecutive field goal attempts made by the freshman.
• Liberty is now 1-2 against Southern Conference opponents this season, defeating ETSU and losing at Chattanooga and UNCG.
• UNCG improved to 15-8 all-time against Liberty, snapping the Lady Flames' four-game winning streak in the head-to-head series between the former Big South rivals.
Up Next Liberty will play its next two games at the St. Pete Shootout, which will take place at Eckerd's McArthur Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Lady Flames' first tournament game will pit them against UCF, Friday at 5 p.m. The Knights will be Liberty's second American Athletic Conference foe in the last three outings (also East Carolina).
Date: Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 Location: St. Petersburg, Fla. (McArthur Center) TV: None Radio: LFSN Radio (90.9 FM The Light Lynchburg) Tipoff: 5 p.m.