Tolu Omotola scored 12 of her career-high 17 points during the second half of Liberty's 56-51 win over Gardner-Webb.
Led by Avery Warley's career-high 20 rebounds and Jelena Antic's career-high 17 boards, Liberty outrebounded Gardner-Webb, 65-34, Saturday evening at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames' dominance on the glass played an important role in their 56-51 conference victory. Warley became the first Lady Flame since Dec. 4, 1992 to grab 20 rebounds. That day, Theresa Bream pulled down a Vines Center-record 23 caroms against St. Peter's. Liberty's season-high sixth straight win pushes the Lady Flames' overall record to 15-8. More importantly, the Lady Flames are a game and a half ahead of Radford atop the Big South standings at 9-1. Gardner-Webb, which was limited to 33.3 percent (21-of-63) field goal shooting, has now dropped three of its last four games. The Runnin' Bulldogs fall to 14-9 on the season and 6-4 in conference play. Devon Brown scored four early points for the Lady Flames and lifted Liberty to a 6-2 edge with a pair of free throws at the 16:38 mark. Liberty's lead reached five points before back-to-back Monique Hudson three-pointers put black-clad Gardner-Webb in front for the first time at 12-11, 12:29 before halftime. The Runnin' Bulldogs did not score again for four and a half minutes, but the Lady Flames were only able to grab a 16-12 edge by the end of the drought. Gardner-Webb scored the next five points, taking a 17-16 advantage at 7:03 on a Jasmine Dale trifecta. Liberty ended the half on a 13-2 run, with Brown scoring the surge's first seven points. The Lady Flames took a 29-19 lead into the locker room. Both teams struggled mightily at the offensive end during the first 20 minutes. Liberty shot 33.3 percent (10-of-30) from the field, while Gardner-Webb made 22.2 percent (8-of-36) of its field goal tries before the break. The Lady Flames hit 53.8 percent (7-of-13) of their first-half free throws. Gardner-Webb misfired on its only free throw attempt before the break. Liberty nearly doubled Gardner-Webb up on the glass in the first half, 35-18. The Lady Flames also notched 14 points in the paint before the break. Individually, Brown led all players with 13 points before halftime, while Tolu Omotola and Warley had five points apiece. Warley collected 13 of her rebounds before halftime, and Antic added nine boards. Monique Hudson's eight points paced Gardner-Webb during the first period. She also pulled down four caroms, tying LaTroya Pope for team-high honors. After being held scoreless during the first half, Dominique Hudson tallied five points during the first 45 seconds of the second stanza, cutting her team's deficit in half to 29-24. The Lady Flames' lead fluctuated between five and 10 points until an 8-1 run pulled the Runnin' Bulldogs within two with 5:48 to play. Back-to-back steals and layups by Pope and Dominique Hudson capped the surge, making the score 48-46, Liberty. Antic got Liberty back on track a minute later with a swooping layup that made it 50-46 at the 4:48 mark. Gardner-Webb did not go away, trimming the Lady Flames' lead to two again, 51-49, on Pope's layup with 2:38 to play. However, the Runnin' Bulldogs managed only two points the rest of the way, a Breynna Winkler layup with 24 seconds remaining that made the score 54-51 in favor of the Lady Flames. Emily Frazier and Warley both hit free throws in the final 13 seconds to seal Liberty's 56-51 triumph, its second win over defending Big South champion Gardner-Webb in less than two weeks. The game was certainly not an offensive exhibition. Like Gardner-Webb, Liberty also finished the game at 33.3 percent (20-of-60) from the field. Both teams missed more than half of their free throw attempts as well. The Lady Flames shot 41.9 percent (13-of-31) from the charity stripe, while Gardner-Webb was just 36.4 percent (4-of-11). Omotola finished with a career-high 17 points to lead all players, notching 12 of them after halftime. The redshirt sophomore narrowly missed a double-double, ending up with nine boards. Brown chipped in 16 points and grabbed five rebounds for the Lady Flames, scoring in double figures for the sixth straight game. Warley complemented her prolific rebounding night with 10 points, giving the Washington, D.C., native 13 double-doubles this season and 26 in her career. She is now in sole possession of third place on Liberty's career double-doubles list. Warley also blocked a shot, tying her with Kristina Palaimaite for fourth place in Lady Flames history with 94 rejections. Antic saw her streak of double-digit scoring outputs halted at seven, finishing with eight tallies to go along with her 17 caroms and team-high three assists. Monique (14 points) and Dominique Hudson (12 points) both reached double-digits for the Runnin' Bulldogs, with all of the latter's points coming during the final 20 minutes. Dominique Hudson also distributed four assists, reaching 500 for her career. Monique paced the visitors in both rebounds (6) and assists (5). Liberty will wrap up its three-game homestand Monday at 7 p.m., with a contest against Winthrop. The matchup will be the Lady Flames' annual WBCA Pink Zone game, in support of breast cancer awareness. Liberty won its first meeting with the Lady Eagles this season by a 70-33 count, Jan. 29 in Rock Hill, S.C. Gardner-Webb will remain on the road, traveling to UNC Asheville for a Monday 7 p.m. tilt. The Runnin' Bulldogs will aim to avenge a 60-59 home setback on Jan. 29.