Monday evening's rematch of the 2016 Big South Women's Basketball Championship title game between Liberty and UNC Asheville had a distinct tournament feel. The visiting Bulldogs went on a 13-4 run over the final 1:22, pulling out a gritty 57-53 victory and ending the Lady Flames' eight-game home winning streak.
Liberty (12-16, 11-6 Big South) preceded Asheville's (14-14, 8-9 Big South) game-ending run with an 8-0 surge of its own, going ahead 49-44 when Iva Ilic swished a three-pointer with 3:00 to play. But the Lady Flames' two top scorers, Ola Makurat (career-high and game-high 19 points) and Keyen Green (10 points, 7 rebounds) fouled out within a span of 16 seconds.
Green's disqualification was compounded by a delay of game technical, which led to four straight made free throws by the Bulldogs' Chatori Major. Zip Scott's steal and layup quickly followed, and Asheville had turned a five-point deficit into a 50-49 lead in 12 seconds.
Audrey Rettstatt countered with a layup, briefly giving Liberty a 51-50 edge with 58.8 seconds to play. However, KJ Weaver's layup on Asheville's next offensive possession gave the Bulldogs a lead they never relinquished.
Liberty shot 0-of-4 from the field and 2-of-4 from the foul line during the final 27 seconds, while Asheville closed out its victory by making 5-of-6 free throws.
The Lady Flames, who shot only 33.3 percent (19-of-57) from the field and 52.6 percent (10-of-19) from the charity stripe, saw several streaks halted while suffering their first Big South home setback of the season. Liberty had won three straight games overall and nine consecutive home meetings with the Bulldogs prior to Monday. The Lady Flames dropped into fourth place in the Big South standings with one game remaining.
Asheville got 13 points from Major, 12 more from Jessica Wall and a game-high 11 rebounds from Weaver. Those efforts helped the Bulldogs sweep the regular-season series from the Lady Flames for the first time in program history. Asheville has now recorded four straight wins over Liberty, dating back to last season.
Liberty never trailed during an opening quarter which saw Makurat score nine points. Jessica Wall countered with a pair of triples for Asheville, but the Lady Flames owned a 16-12 advantage after 10 minutes of play.
Makurat's hot shooting extended into the second quarter, as the freshman's three-pointer 14 seconds into the period gave Liberty its largest lead of the opening half at 19-12. The Lady Flames were still on top by a 23-17 count before going the last 6:02 of the period without making a field goal.
Asheville outscored the Lady Flames, 12-3, during Liberty's offensive drought, paced by Major's five points. As a result, the Bulldogs took a 29-26 halftime lead.
Asheville held Liberty to 34.6 percent (9-of-26) shooting in the first half, while scoring 10 points off of the Lady Flames' seven turnovers. Makurat led all players with a dozen first-half points for Liberty.
The Lady Flames scored the third quarter's first six points, going in front 32-29 at the 7:37 mark. Scott tallied seven points for the visitors during the period, including five during an 8-2 burst which closed out the stanza with Asheville leading once again, 40-37.
The fourth quarter saw the lead change hands four times, but Liberty ultimately lost at the Vines Center for the first time since Nov. 17.
Asheville shot better than the Lady Flames from both the field (40.4 percent, 19-of-47) and the free throw line (62.5 percent, 15-of-24).
Liberty finished with a slim 37-36 edge on the boards and converted its 15 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points.
The Lady Flames' reserves were limited to nine points, matching the team's season low. Scott scored nine points by herself off of Asheville's bench, setting a new career high.
Makurat's career-high scoring night saw the freshman match her career best with three triples.
Green, who won her record-breaking eighth Big South Freshman of the Week award earlier in the day, was limited to 21 minutes played due to foul trouble.
Up Next Liberty will host Campbell (21-7, 13-4 Big South) for Senior Day, Saturday at the Vines Center. Audrey Rettstatt will be recognized prior to the game's 2 p.m. tipoff.
The Lady Flames' regular-season finale will see the team attempt to complete a season sweep of the Camels. Liberty notched a 58-52 victory in Buies Creek on Jan. 31.