Liberty redshirt senior Catherine Kearney scored a career-high 20 points and tied her career high with 13 rebounds, leading the Lady Flames past Shepherd, 69-57, Saturday afternoon at the Vines Center.
Kearney's first double-double of the season and the fourth of her career was timely, as fellow post player Ashley Rininger sat out the matinee due to injury. Liberty was able to improve to 4-7 overall and close out its challenging regular-season non-conference schedule at 3-6, thanks in large part to a 57-28 rebounding advantage.
Shepherd, which was led by Morgan Arden's 15 points, remains at 2-7 after what was classified as an exhibition game for the Rams.
Liberty connected on six straight field goal attempts to start the game, taking an early 14-5 lead. Shepherd then caught fire during the latter part of the opening quarter, making six out of eight shots, capped off by a game-tying triple from Sammy Bane at the 33-second mark. Mickayla Sanders' baseline jumper on Liberty's ensuing possession gave the Lady Flames an 18-16 edge after 10 minutes of play.
Another Bane trifecta, just 52 seconds into the second quarter, put the Rams in front, 19-18. Liberty then held Shepherd to just one made field goal during the remainder of the period, going in front for good and rebuilding a 30-24 advantage by halftime.
Both teams struggled shooting the basketball during the second quarter, as Liberty was 10.5 percent (2-of-19) from the floor and Shepherd made 15.4 percent (2-of-13) of its field goals.
Liberty hit its first four field goal tries of the second half. Back-to-back Kearney layups capped off the surge, extending the Lady Flames' lead to 39-29 at 7:40 of the third quarter. Kearney totaled eight third-quarter points, including another layup at 1:34 which gave Liberty a 50-34 cushion. Shepherd then scored four straight points, pulling to within 50-38 heading to the final period.
The Lady Flames' advantage ballooned to 24 points (65-41) after Sadalia Ellis converted a nice feed from Sanders into a layup with 4:39 remaining in the contest. The scrappy Rams closed the game on a 16-4 run, trimming the final margin to 12 points (69-57) in the first-ever hardwood clash between Liberty and Shepherd.
The Lady Flames shot 37.7 percent (23-of-61) for the game, scoring 30 points in the paint to Shepherd's 14. Liberty also got to the free throw line 12 more times than the visitors, connecting at a 70.4 percent (19-of-27) clip.
Shepherd finished at 34.4 percent (21-of-61) from the field but did connect on seven three-pointers.
After being outrebounded during back-to-back games, Liberty took full advantage of its size on Saturday. The Lady Flames collected 22 offensive rebounds versus the Rams, whose tallest player stands 6-0.
Kearney, Liberty's tallest player at 6-6, tracked down seven offensive boards and blocked two shots. Her 20 points, 14 of which came after halftime, shattered the New Jersey native's previous career high of 14 tallies.
Fellow starting post Katelyn Adams chipped in seven points and 11 boards for the Lady Flames.
Four other Liberty players scored eight points or more on Saturday, including Ellis (nine points, six rebounds), Sanders (nine points, four rebounds, four assists), Molly Reagan (career-high nine points, career-high five rebounds) and Candice Leatherwood (eight points, three assists). Reagan's points marked the first of the freshman's collegiate career.
Bane finished with 12 points on four triples for the Rams, while Kristen Nunn added 10 points.
Liberty will now take a 10-day break from competition for Christmas. The Lady Flames will be back in action on Dec. 29 at Campbell, tipping off at 7 p.m. at Gore Arena. The matchup with the Lady Camels will mark the first of 18 straight Big South Conference games to close out Liberty's 2015-16 regular season.