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FGCU Edges Liberty in Thriller, 65-64

February 9, 2019  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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ASUN Conference leader FGCU took everything Liberty had to offer, Saturday afternoon at the Vines Center, before emerging with a hard-fought 65-64 victory to remain unbeaten in conference play.

In a physical game which featured three ties and seven lead changes, Kerstie Phills' layup with 30 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner for FGCU. The Eagles improve to 19-4 overall and 10-0 in ASUN play with their 10th consecutive win.

Liberty falls to 9-14 overall and 5-5 in the ASUN with its second straight setback. The Lady Flames erased an 11-point deficit to briefly take the lead during the final minute. But 24 turnovers, including one on an inbounds play with 1.9 seconds remaining, were too much for Liberty to overcome.

FGCU's Lisa Zderadicka came up with the steal on the game's final play, setting a Vines Center opponent record with her eighth theft of the game. The senior point guard also scored her 1,000th career point on Saturday.

Box Score Highlights
Liberty Individuals: Emily Lytle – 20 points, 5 rebounds; Kierra Johnson-Graham – 13 points, 8 rebounds; Ria Gulley – 10 points, 2-5 3FG; KK Barbour – 9 points, 6 rebounds.

FGCU Individuals: Destiny Washington – 16 points, 7 rebounds; Lisa Zderadicka – 15 points, 8 steals, 4 assists; Nasrin Ulel – 11 points, Kerstie Phills – 10 points.

Key Team Stats: Liberty shot 49 percent (24-of-49) from the field, including 62.5 percent (15-of-24) after halftime. Meanwhile, FGCU hit only 36.1 percent (22-of-61) of its field goals, including just 26.7 percent (8-of-30) of its three-point tries. Liberty outrebounded FGCU 41-27, with a 21-8 advantage after halftime. The Eagles scored 29 points off of Liberty's 24 turnovers.

Turning Point
Bridgette Rettstatt's bank shot from close range with 42 seconds remaining gave Liberty its first lead (64-63) since the second quarter.

However, Kerstie Phills answered with a layup of her won just 12 seconds later to put FGCU back on top.

Rettstatt grabbed a contested rebound off of Ria Gulley's missed bank shot with 1.9 seconds left in the contest. However, Lisa Zderadicka stole the ensuing inbounds pass, sealing FGCU's victory.

Game Summary
First Quarter
• Liberty, which managed only 14 first-half points during the conference opener at FGCU, needed just 5:31 to tally its first 14 points of Saturday's matinee. Kierra Johnson-Graham notched six of those markers, including a pair of free throws which gave Liberty a 14-9 advantage at the 4:29 mark.

• The Lady Flames owned a 17-12 lead through 10 minutes of play, becoming the first ASUN team to lead FGCU at the end of the first quarter this season. Liberty held the Eagles to 27.3 percent (3-of-11) shooting and forced four turnovers.

Second Quarter
• Nasrin Ulel tallied five points during a 7-0 FGCU run, tying the score at 19-19 on her three-pointer from the left wing with 7:20 on the second quarter clock.

• FGCU limited the Lady Flames to nine points during the second period, pulling in front 29-26 at the intermission. Emily Lytle led all players in both points (9) and rebounds (5) during a half which saw three ties and five lead changes.

Third Quarter
• FGCU scored six of the second half's first eight points, including a pair of layups by Lisa Zderadicka, extending to a 36-28 lead just 1:41 into the third quarter.

• The Lady Flames hit their first seven field goals of the third period but also committed seven turnovers during that same time span. FGCU racked up 27 points in the third quarter, taking a pair of 11-point leads before owning a 56-47 edge at the end of the period.

Fourth Quarter
• Emily Lytle and Bridgette Rettstatt (scoreless up to that point in the game) tossed in five points apiece during Liberty's 10-2 run to begin the fourth quarter. The Lady Flames cut their deficit to a single point (58-57) on Lytle's pair of free throws at the 5:55 mark.

• FGCU managed only nine fourth-quarter points, but three of them came on a Nasrin Ulel trifecta with 3:22 remaining, extending the visitors' lead back to four (63-59).

• Kierra Johnson-Graham turned a steal into a three-point play with 1:49 to play, sending Liberty into the frenetic final minute trailing by a single point (63-62).

Liberty Head Coach Carey Green Quotes
"I'm real proud of the effort our girls gave today. They gave a championship effort, but we just came up a little short. It was good to have a majority of our team back, and it was great to see Ashtyn [Baker] back in action. It was a great effort from a defensive perspective. We're sad because we had an opportunity to play and beat the No. 1 seed in our conference right now. We just came up a little short, but hopefully this will be a confidence builder."

Notes and Nuggets
• Emily Lytle, who was limited to six points on 1-of-8 shooting during Liberty's first meeting with FGCU on Jan. 5, notched her fifth 20-point game of the season.

• Kierra Johnson-Graham has now scored in double figures for four consecutive games, the longest such streak of her career. The junior has hit 14 consecutive free throw attempts over the last three outings.

• KK Barbour hit one three-pointer on Saturday, giving her 67 for her career. The senior is now tied with Renee White for 20th place in program history for triples made.

• Bridgette Rettstatt was held below 10 points for just the second time in 10 conference points but contributed all seven of her points during the game's final 7:44.

• Ria Gulley sat out Tuesday's loss to Stetson due to illness but was able to play a team-high 36 minutes and score 10 points on Saturday.

• After missing the last six games due to injury, Ashtyn Baker returned to play 12 minutes, dishing out a team-high three assists and grabbing three rebounds.

• Saturday's game marked the Lady Flames' seventh contest decided by five points or fewer this season. Liberty is 2-5 in those games.

• Prior to Saturday, FGCU had won its first nine ASUN games by 16 points or more, including a 68-50 victory over Liberty in its conference opener, Jan. 5 in Fort Myers, Fla.

Up Next
Liberty will wrap up its four-game homestand Tuesday at 7 p.m. versus Lipscomb. The Lady Flames will attempt to complete a regular-season sweep of the Bisons after recording a come-from-behind 77-60 win at Lipscomb on Jan. 29.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019
Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Vines Center)
Tipoff: 7 p.m.
Radio: LFSN Radio (90.9 FM The Light Lynchburg)