Simone Brown scored a career-high 23 points during Liberty's 80-68 win over Penn State on Friday.
Sophomore Simone Brown scored 18 of her career-high 23 points during the second half, helping Liberty turn a nine-point deficit into an 80-68 win over Penn State, Friday afternoon at the GSU Sports Arena. The Lady Flames' victory in the opening game of the GSU Thanksgiving Tournament moves them into Sunday's championship game.
Liberty was behind 37-28 early in the second half before turning things around with a 27-4 run. The Lady Flames hit five triples during the surge, including three by Brown. The second made three-pointer of Ellee Rollins' career closed out the run with Liberty on top by a 55-41 count with 12:14 to play, and the Lady Flames never trailed again.
Brown, who more than doubled her previous career high of 10 points and nailed a career-best five triples, did not miss a shot after halftime. She made all six of her field goal attempts, including four trifectas, and made two free throws during the final 20 minutes, helping Liberty improve to 3-2 on the year. The Lady Flames will face either host Georgia State on Samford on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. as they seek their first regular-season tournament title since the 2009 Navy Classic.
Liberty is now 2-0 all-time versus Penn State, as the Lady Flames also defeated the Lady Lions by a 78-70 margin during the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament in College Park, Md. Three-time defending Big Ten champion Penn State falls to 1-4 on the season with its fourth straight setback, despite putting four of its starters in double figures in the scoring column.
Liberty started the game well, opening up an 8-2 lead on Karly Buer's triple from right in front of the Penn State bench at 15:53 of the first half.
The Lady Lions responded with a 12-2 run, going in front 14-10 on Kaliyah Mitchell's old-fashioned three-point play at 10:28.
Penn State's lead got as large as eight (27-19) when Tori Waldner hit two free throws, 3:20 before halftime.
Jaymee Fisher-Davis bookended Liberty's ensuing 9-2 run with a pair of three-pointers, bringing the white-clad Lady Flames to within 29-28 at the 1:36 mark.
Penn State then scored the half's final six points, including four by Sierra Moore, taking a 35-28 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
The Lady Lions shot 45.2 percent (14-of-31) from the field during the first half, while Liberty made just 31.3 percent (10-of-32) of their field goals.
The two teams grabbed 19 rebounds apiece before halftime, but Penn State owned advantages in points in the paint (20-12) and fast break points (10-4).
Ashley Rininger scored seven first-half points for the Lady Flames, while Katelyn Adams collected six rebounds.
Penn State's Moore (10 points) was the only player on either team to reach double figures before the intermission.
After the Lady Lions opened the second-half scoring on a hoop by Lindsey Spann, Brown scored the first eight points of Liberty's aforementioned 27-4 surge.
Penn State got back to within five (59-54) on a Mitchell layup with 8:42 remaining, but Liberty halted the Lady Lions' momentum with a left-handed hook by Rininger and two free throws by Emily Frazier.
Liberty's lead got as large as 16 points at 80-64 before the Lady Flames closed out their second all-time win over a Big Ten opponent, 80-68.
In the second half, Liberty shot 57.7 percent (15-of-26) from the field, 85.7 percent (6-of-7) from three-point range and 80 percent (16-of-20) from the foul line. The Lady Flames finished the game shooting 43.1 percent (25-of-58) from the floor, 45.5 percent (10-of-22) from beyond the arc and 80 percent (20-of-25) from the charity stripe. Liberty established season highs for three-pointers made and free throw percentage.
Penn State ended up at 40 percent (26-of-65) from the floor, just 13.3 percent (2-of-15) from three-point range and 66.7 percent (14-of-21) on foul shots.
Liberty won the rebounding battle by a slim 38-35 margin, but Penn State owned decisive advantages in points in the paint (36-26) and fast break points (20-6).
Brown's productive day also included six rebounds and three steals in a career-high 34 minutes played.
Rininger and Buer chipped in 13 points apiece, with Rininger grabbing eight boards. Buer, who made her first start of the season, has now scored in double figures during all five of her games in her first year in a Liberty uniform.
Sadalia Ellis contributed nine points, a game-high five assists and three steals to Liberty's victory. Adams finished with a season-best and team-leading 11 rebounds.
Penn State's double-digit scorers included Spann (17 points), Moore (14 points), Mitchell (10 points) and Waldner (10 points).