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Liberty Seniors Star in 88-62 Win Over CSU
Liberty's five seniors (Devon Brown, Brittany Campbell, Terika Lunsford, Tolu Omotola and LaKendra Washington) played a leading role in the Lady Flames' 88-62 victory over Charleston Southern, Saturday afternoon at the Vines Center. After being recognized prior to tipoff, the quintet combined for 54 points and 26 rebounds during both teams' regular-season finale.
Omotola (game-high 21 points), Brown (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Lunsford (season-high nine points) highlighted the seniors' efforts and helped Liberty extend its winning streak to 11 games.
The Lady Flames close out the regular season with a 24-6 overall record and a 16-2 Big South ledger. Liberty tied the Big South record for conference victories that it originally set last season.
Charleston Southern wraps up the regular season at 8-19 overall and 3-15 in the Big South, despite 12 made three-pointers.
Liberty jumped out to an 8-3 lead to start the game, before Charleston Southern countered with back-to-back three-pointers by DJ Fowler and Erin Bratcher. Bratcher's triple put CSU in front, 9-8, at 16:15 of the opening half.
The Lady Flames answered with a 10-2 run, capped off by Reagan Miller and Brown three-pointers. Brown's connection came at the 14:05 mark, giving Liberty an 18-11 advantage.
Charleston Southern stayed close thanks to its three-point shooting. The Lady Buccaneers hit four early triples, including one by Zhaquondalee' Greer which trimmed her team's deficit to 20-17 at 12:35.
Liberty then opened up some breathing room with a 10-0 surge. Ashley Rininger's layup gave the Lady Flames a 30-17 cushion with 7:24 remaining before halftime.
CSU used two more triples and a fast-break layup by Shay Jones to battle back to within 32-25 with 3:48 on the clock.
The Lady Buccaneers were still within seven points at 35-28 before Liberty closed the half on an 8-1 surge, taking a 43-29 advantage into the locker room.
Liberty used its size advantage to great effect in the first half, led by the duo of Omotola (14 points, six rebounds) and Jasmine Gardner (nine points, 10 rebounds). The Lady Flames owned considerable advantages in rebounds (33-10), points in the paint (26-6) and second-chance points (13-2) during the first 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, CSU made seven of its 18 three-point attempts before halftime for 38.9 percent, scoring 21 of its 29 points from beyond the arc.
Liberty gradually extended its lead after halftime, taking its first 20-point advantage at 57-37 when Campbell came up with a steal and then found fellow senior Brown for a layup with 13:02 remaining.
The Lady Flames' lead stayed above 20 points the rest of the afternoon, eventually reaching 31 (83-52) on Katelyn Adams' putback hoop with 2:35 left.
Liberty's final margin of victory was 26 points (88-62) during its 19th straight home win over CSU.
The Lady Flames finished at 45.1 percent (32-of-71) field goal shooting, including 26.3 percent (5-of-19) from three-point range. Liberty set the program single-season record for three-pointers made during Saturday's tilt, as the Lady Flames have now connected on 152 triples this season.
CSU shot 36.7 percent (18-of-49) for the game and 41.4 percent (12-of-29) from the three-point line.
Liberty closed the game with an overwhelming 54-25 rebounding edge, including 24 offensive boards. The Lady Flames also topped the Lady Buccaneers in points in the paint (48-12) and second-chance points (22-3).
The Lady Flames committed a season-low 10 turnovers and came up with 13 steals, leading to 25 points off of CSU miscues.
Omotola pulled down eight rebounds to go along with her 21 points, while classmate Brown totaled 19 points and 11 boards for her second double-double of the season.
Not to be overshadowed by the seniors, junior Gardner fashioned her third double-double of the year, consisting of 11 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Ten of her boards came at the offensive end, as Gardner posted the most boards by a Lady Flame in 2012-13, doing so in just 20 minutes of action.
Campbell paced the Lady Flames with five assists, while Washington led the team with three steals.
Jones topped CSU with 18 points, highlighted by four made triples. Backcourt mate Fowler chipped in 13 points, while leading the visitors in both assists (9) and rebounds (5).
Liberty and Charleston Southern will now prepare for the 2013 Big South Women's Basketball Championship, which will be contested March 6-10 at The HTC Center in Conway, S.C.
The Lady Flames have earned the tournament's No. 1 seed and will play in a quarterfinal game on Friday at 8 p.m. against either No. 8 seed Coastal Carolina or No. 9 seed Gardner-Webb.
The Lady Buccaneers are seeded No. 10 and start tournament play on Wednesday, facing No. 7 seed Longwood at noon.