Mickayla Sanders paced Liberty with 15 points on Saturday, highlighted by a trio of three-pointers.
Host Minnesota broke open a tight game with a 12-0 run to start the second half, Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena. Liberty was unable to recover and the Golden Gophers went on to close out a 74-60 victory on day one of the Subway Classic.
The Golden Gophers led by only six points (34-28) at halftime before tallying the first 12 points of the second half, keyed by a pair of Mikayla Bailey three-pointers. Shae Kelley's jumper at 17:03 lifted the Minnesota lead to 18 points (46-28) and the Lady Flames got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Liberty falls to 6-4 on the season and has now lost consecutive games for the first time in 2014-15. The Lady Flames were paced by sophomore Mickayla Sanders, who contributed 15 points and three triples in her second appearance of the season.
Playing its first full game without injured Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Rachel Banham, Minnesota utilized balanced scoring to improve to 10-1. All five Golden Gopher starters reached double digits, helping Minnesota win its sixth straight game overall and its ninth consecutive home contest.
After Jasmine Gardner opened the scoring with a layup, Minnesota reeled off 10 straight points. An old-fashioned three-point play by Kelley at 15:45 gave the Gophers an early 10-2 advantage.
The Lady Flames were forced to play catch up for the remainder of the game. They got as close as 20-19 when Jaymee Fisher-Davis swished a three-pointer at the 8:47 mark, but could not reclaim the lead.
Minnesota used free throw shooting to stay ahead during the opening 20 minutes, taking a 34-28 halftime advantage after sinking 13-of-17 (76.5 percent) of its first-half foul shot attempts. Conversely, Liberty did not get to the free throw line before halftime.
The Lady Flames shot only 30 percent (12-of-40) from the field during the first half, but did make four triples. Minnesota hit 34.5 percent (10-of-29) of its first-half field goals.
The Golden Gophers pulled down 30 first-half rebounds to 20 for Liberty and scored 16 points in the paint.
The Lady Flames converted Minnesota's dozen first-half turnovers into 12 points.
Sanders paced Liberty with eight points during the opening half, despite playing only five minutes. Minnesota's Kelley paced all players with 11 points before the break.
After the Gophers opened up their 18-point lead early in the second half, Ashley Rininger scored eight points during a 10-2 Liberty surge. Her hoop made it a 48-38 game with 13:29 remaining.
However, Minnesota bounced back and was able to take its largest lead of the game (62-43) on Amanda Zahui B.'s layup at the 6:33 mark.
The Lady Flames had one run remaining in them, an ensuing 10-1 burst. Sanders tallied the run's final five points, including a basket with 3:38 to play which made it a 10-point game (63-53) once again.
Liberty was within 10 entering the final minute of play before Minnesota closed things out by sinking seven of its eight free throw attempts, improving to 5-0 all-time against Big South opponents.
The Lady Flames finished the game at 32 percent (24-of-75) from the field, 24 percent (6-of-25) from three-point range and 75 percent (6-of-8) from the charity stripe. Liberty set season lows for free throws made and attempted.
Minnesota ended up getting to the foul line 30 times, making 23 of them for 76.7 percent. The Gophers shot 54.2 percent (13-of-24) from the floor after halftime, raising their final percentage to 43.4 percent (23-of-53).
Minnesota became just the second team to outrebound Liberty this season, finishing with a 50-36 margin on the boards.
The Lady Flames did have some positives on the final stat sheet, highlighted by a season-low 12 turnovers and a 38-8 edge in bench points.
Sanders' 15 points paced Liberty's bench brigade and her three triples moved her into a tie with Laura Rollyson for 20th place in program history with 55 career three-pointers made.
Rininger also scored in double digits off of Carey Green's bench, recording all 10 of her points after halftime.
Karly Buer reached double figures for the ninth time in 10 games this season, ending up with 10 points.
Playing in front of a large contingent of friends and family in her home state, Katelyn Adams tied Gardner and Simone Brown for the team lead with six rebounds and blocked a season-high four shots. Adams, who has recorded at least one rejection in 13 straight games, now ranks sixth in program history with 96 career blocked shots.
Zahui B. paced Minnesota in points (17), rebounds (13) and blocked shots (6). She was joined in double digits by Kelley (16), Bailey (11), Shayne Mullaney (11) and Carlie Wagner (11).
Liberty will play its second and final game at the Subway Classic Sunday against No. 1/1 South Carolina (11-0). The contest, which is slated to tip off at 1 p.m. Eastern at Williams Arena, will mark the Lady Flames' first matchup with the nation's No. 1-ranked team since March 14, 1998. That day, Liberty faced No. 1 Tennessee in the opening round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament in a contest between two undefeated teams.