Rachel McLeod converted one of her three steals into this fast break layup during the second half, Monday night against Winthrop.
Liberty outscored Winthrop by a 42-8 margin in the paint Monday evening at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames' dominance around the basket played a key role in their 72-38 triumph over the Lady Eagles. Avery Warley highlighted Liberty's effort in the paint during its annual WBCA Pink Zone game, pacing all players in points (16) and sharing game-high honors in rebounds (12) for her fourth straight double-double. The Lady Flames have now pushed their overall record to 16-8 with a seven-game winning streak. Combined with Radford's loss at Coastal Carolina, Liberty's triumph puts the Lady Flames two and a half games ahead of the Highlanders atop the Big South leaderboard at 10-1. Head coach Carey Green's Lady Flames also extended a pair of lengthy streaks in their head-to-head series against Winthrop. Liberty has won 19 straight meetings with the Lady Eagles inside the Vines Center and has held Winthrop below the 60-point mark in 23 straight match-ups. Winthrop, which saw a two-game winning streak halted, falls to 11-12 overall and 4-6 in Big South play. They were limited to 26.4 percent (14-of-53) field goal shooting on the night. Winthrop's Lacey Lyons tied the score at 5-5 with a three-pointer at 16:59 of the first half. However, the Lady Eagles did not tally another point for the next 6:33. During Winthrop's scoring drought, Liberty reeled off 12 straight points. Tolu Omotola's shot clock buzzer-beating layup at the 11:32 mark put the Lady Flames in front, 17-5. Winthrop countered with a 7-0 run, trimming its deficit to 17-12 on Kaitlyn Rubino's triple from the top of the key, 8:26 before halftime. The Lady Eagles were within six points, before Devon Brown scored four points during an 8-0 Liberty surge. Her pull-up jumper in the paint gave the Lady Flames their largest lead of the opening half, 30-16. Liberty then took a 30-18 lead into the locker room at halftime. Both teams struggled shooting the basketball during the first 20 minutes of play. Liberty hit 33.3 percent (10-of-30) of its field goals, as compared to just 25.9 percent (7-of-27) for Winthrop. Liberty did get to the foul line 10 more times than the Lady Eagles (12-2), making nine of its attempts for 75 percent. First-half rebounds were even at 21-apiece, as Warley grabbed seven of the Lady Flames' boards and TaQuoia Hammick had a matching number for the visitors. Brown led all players with her 13 points during the opening period, while Warley chipped in nine tallies. Kaitlyn Rubino's five points led the way for Winthrop. Two old-fashioned three-point plays by Omotola and another by Warley within the first 6:07 of the second half helped Liberty bolster its lead to 43-24. The Lady Flames' advantage reached 45-24 at the 13:13 mark, when Dymond Morgan's pair of free throws capped a 10-2 Liberty surge. Consecutive three-pointers by Dequesha McClanahan and Mary Hathaway punctuated Winthrop's ensuing 8-0 run, which made the score 45-32, Lady Flames, with 11:58 left. Liberty answered right back with a 10-0 burst, including four points by Rachel McLeod. The senior's steal and fast break layup at the 8:46 mark gave Liberty a 55-32 cushion. Lyons hit a three-pointer on Winthrop's next possession, but her team got no closer than 20 points down the rest of the night. Liberty went on to claim its second 30-plus point victory over the Lady Eagles in the last 17 days, winning by a 72-38 count. The Lady Flames were efficient in the second half, connecting on 60 percent (15-of-25) from the field and outscoring Winthrop in the paint by a 26-2 margin. For the game, Liberty shot 45.5 percent (25-of-55) from the field. They also rebounded from a 13-of-31 foul shooting performance during Saturday's game against Gardner-Webb in fine fashion. On Monday, the Lady Flames made 82.6 percent (19-of-23) of their free throws. Liberty, now ranked No. 6 nationally in rebound margin, finished the contest with a 41-32 edge on the glass. Warley's double-double was her 11th in the last 13 games and her 14th of the season. She was joined in double figures in the scoring column by both Brown (13 points) and Omotola (12 points), marking the 15th straight game that at least three Lady Flames have reached double digits. Not to be overlooked are the contributions of the Liberty bench. The Lady Flames' reserves outscored their counterparts from Winthrop, 26-7. Leading the charge off of the bench were Danika Dale and LaKendra Washington, with six points apiece. Winthrop did not have a single player score in double figures. The Lady Eagles were paced by Lyons' eight points. Hammick grabbed 12 rebounds to equal Warley's total. Liberty will take to the road for its next three contests, beginning with a Saturday visit to Radford. The Lady Flames will attempt to avenge their lone Big South Conference loss of the season, a 62-53 setback on Jan. 17. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Dedmon Center. Winthrop will continue its four-game road swing Saturday at 5 p.m., when the Lady Eagles head to Presbyterian College.