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Liberty Wins GSU Thanksgiving Tournament Title

November 30, 2014  Atlanta, Ga.  RSS
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Liberty won the 2014 GSU Thanksgiving Tournament championship on Sunday.

Liberty won the 2014 GSU Thanksgiving Tournament championship on Sunday.

Tournament MVP Karly Buer hit an up-and-under layup with 1:55 remaining in Sunday afternoon's GSU Thanksgiving Tournament championship game, breaking a 68-68 tie and propelling Liberty to a hard-fought 73-71 triumph over Georgia State at the GSU Sports Arena.

All-tournament team honoree Simone Brown hit two free throws and teammate Sadalia Ellis added another. But Makeba Ponder hit the Panthers' 10th three-pointer of the contest with 3.3 seconds left, cutting Liberty's lead to 73-71. The Lady Flames' first regular-season tournament title since the 2009 Navy Classic was not secure until Ashley Rininger grabbed her 13th rebound of the game off of a missed free throw by Ellis as time expired.

Liberty finishes the month of November at 4-2 thanks in large part to sizeable advantages in rebounds (46-24) and points in the paint (40-14). The Lady Flames also saw three perimeter players score in double figures, including Buer (15 points), Ellis (season-high 15 points) and Brown (11 points).

Georgia State (3-1) suffers its first loss of 2014-15 despite sinking 10 triples and scoring 36 bench points.

The tightly contested first half saw seven lead changes and two ties.

Neither team led by more than five points until Ellee Rollins' baseline jumper capped off a 6-0 Liberty run, giving the Lady Flames a 35-28 edge 44.5 seconds before halftime.

Alisha Andrews nailed a long three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded, cutting Liberty's halftime lead to 35-31.

Liberty controlled the area around the basket during the first 20 minutes, defeating the Panthers in rebounds (21-14) and points in the paint (20-4).

Georgia State stayed close by nailing five triples before halftime and scoring 15 bench points.

Brown and Buer scored nine points apiece for the Lady Flames in the first half, while three different players tallied five first-half markers for Georgia State.

Liberty never trailed after halftime and led by as many as seven points. Ellis hit a pair of free throws with 5:01 left, making it a 66-59 game.

Georgia State turned up the defensive pressure, and Buer's aforementioned layup was Liberty's only field goal the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the Panthers evened the score at 68-all with 2:44 to play, after back-to-back trifectas by Andrews and Ashlee Cole.

Liberty was able to stave off the feisty Panthers during the final 20 minutes by dominating the rebound category by a 25-10 count. Rininger single-handedly matched Georgia State's second-half rebounding total with 10 boards.

Ellis scored 12 points after halftime and helped the Lady Flames shoot 75 percent (12-of-16) from the foul line.

For the game, Liberty shot a season-best 45.9 percent (28-of-61) from the field and nailed 77.8 percent (14-of-18) of its foul shots.

Georgia State finished at 37.9 percent (22-of-58) from the field but made 35.7 percent (10-of-28) of its three-pointers and 81 percent (17-of-21) of its foul shots.

Buer, who added five rebounds and three steals, scored in double figures for the sixth straight game to open her Liberty career. The last Lady Flame to score 10 or more points in her first six outings at Liberty was Megan Frazee as a freshman in 2005-06.

Ellis also contributed five rebounds and three steals to go along with her 15 points. Her two assists put the junior over 200 helpers for her career.

Brown had only scored in double figures twice in her career before doing so in both contests at the GSU Thanksgiving Tournament. She finished with 11 points on Sunday and averaged a team-high 17.0 ppg for the weekend.

Rininger's 13 rebounds were a season high, and she just missed a double-double with nine points.

Jasmine Gardner added eight boards off of head coach Carey Green's bench.

Georgia State's pair of all-tournament team players (Andrews and Kayla Nolan) scored 13 points apiece, with the 4-11 Andrews adding a game-high six assists and three steals. Cole chipped in a dozen points on four triples.

Liberty will open its 20-game Big South Conference schedule on Saturday at Radford. Tipoff is slated at 2 p.m. inside the Dedmon Center for the 62nd all-time meeting between the Lady Flames and Highlanders.

2014 GSU Thanksgiving Tournament Champion: Liberty (2-0)

2014 GSU Thanksgiving Tournament All-Tournament Team
Karly Buer, Liberty (MVP)
Simone Brown, Liberty

Alisha Andrews, Georgia State
Kayla Nolan, Georgia State
Sierra Moore, Penn State
Taylor Reece, Samford