CAA Preseason Player of the Year Jazmon Gwathmey scored a career-high 33 points for James Madison on Monday, including 16 during a 33-8 game-opening run by the Dukes. Liberty could not recover and suffered a 72-56 setback inside the JMU Convocation Center.
The Lady Flames fall to 2-2 after suffering their second straight setback and seeing their 10-game winning streak against in-state opponents snapped. Liberty was outrebounded (35-30) for the first time in 26 games and shot only 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from the free throw line.
JMU improves to 3-1 on the season and 28-2 in its last 30 home games. Ashley Perez complemented Gwathmey's production by scoring 10 of her 14 points after halftime.
James Madison dominated the opening 10 minutes of play, shooting 61.1 percent (11-of-18) to Liberty's 18.2 percent (2-of-11). Gwathmey scored nine first-quarter points for the Dukes, helping JMU open up a 23-6 advantage.
Gwathmey continued with the hot hand early in the second quarter, scoring the hosts' first seven points of the session. Logan Reynolds followed with a three-pointer at 7:08, giving JMU its largest lead of the game, 33-8.
Katelyn Adams scored a pair of hoops during an 8-0 Liberty run, which cut the Lady Flames' deficit to 35-18 on Audrey Rettstatt's free throw, 52.3 seconds before halftime.
JMU then scored five quick points to end the opening half, including Gwathmey's third triple of the stanza and a Hailee Barron layup at the buzzer. Aided by Gwathmey's 21 first-half points, the Dukes took a 40-18 lead into the locker room.
Liberty struggled shooting the basketball during the opening half, making 30.4 percent (7-of-23) from the field, 14.3 percent (1-of-7) from three-point range and 30 percent (3-of-10) from the foul line.
The Lady Flames scored nine of the second half's first 11 points, pulling to within 42-27 on Adams' layup with 6:25 to play in the third period. But the Dukes hit 11 of their 12 free throw attempts during the third quarter and rebuilt their advantage to 56-35 with 10 minutes to play.
A youthful Liberty lineup made a run at James Madison during the fourth quarter. A three-point play by KK Barbour and two Brooke Alexander free throws had the red-clad Lady Flames within 11 points (65-54) with 2:50 to play. However, Perez swished a three-pointer on JMU's next possession, foiling the Lady Flames' comeback effort and leading to Liberty's first double-digit loss since a Dec. 21, 2014 setback to then No. 1/1 South Carolina.
Liberty shot the ball better during the second half but still ended the night at 38.8 percent (19-of-49) from the field, 30.8 percent (4-of-13) from three-point range and 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from the free throw line.
The Dukes shot 43.6 percent (24-of-55), headlined by six triples. They also missed only two free throws, finishing at 90 percent (18-of-20) for the game.
James Madison's aggressive defense forced 20 Liberty turnovers, converting them into 29 points.
One bright spot for Liberty was the play of its bench, which outscored JMU's reserves, 28-13. Adams' season-high 10 points and team-high four rebounds paced the Lady Flames' bench effort.
Fellow redshirt senior post player Ashley Rininger led the Lady Flames with 12 points, moving into ninth place in program history with 1,172 career tallies.
Gwathmey hit all 10 of her free throw attempts during her career-best offensive showing, while also connecting on three triples. Point guard Angela Mickens set up several of Gwathmey's hoops, totaling eight points and a game-high five assists for JMU.
Liberty will travel to Las Vegas for a pair of matchups against nationally ranked opponents at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. The Lady Flames will face No. 11/14 Ohio State (2-2) in their opening game of the tournament, Friday at 5:15 p.m. Eastern.