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Liberty Shoots Past Presbyterian in Big South Opener, 76-64

January 2, 2018  Clinton, S.C.  RSS
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KK Barbour scored nine of her 11 points during the second half of Liberty's 76-64 win at Presbyterian.

KK Barbour scored nine of her 11 points during the second half of Liberty's 76-64 win at Presbyterian.

Trailing Presbyterian by as many as nine points in Tuesday's Big South opener at the Templeton Center, Liberty used hot second-half shooting to spark a come-from-behind victory. The Lady Flames pulled out a 76-64 win after making 62.5 percent (15-of-24) from the field, 83.3 percent (5-of-6) from three-point range and 88.9 percent (8-of-9) from the foul line after halftime.

Liberty improves to 6-7 overall and starts Big South play at 1-0 for the second straight year after snapping a five-game road losing streak. The Lady Flames had not won a road game since the season opener at Old Dominion on Nov. 10 and had lost their last two visits to Presbyterian.

Making her first start of 2017-18, Lela Sellers played a key role in Liberty's win, scoring a season-high 18 points and sinking all five of her three-point attempts. She was joined in double figures by post players Bridgette Rettstatt (career-high 13 points, eight rebounds), Keyen Green (14 points) and KK Barbour (11 points, seven rebounds).

Presbyterian falls to 3-9 and 0-1 in the Big South despite hitting 13 of its 26 three-point tries. Tess Santos made three triples during a 19-point outburst after entering the game with just eight career points. The undersized Blue Hose were outrebounded by a 31-17 count on the night.

The first quarter included three ties and five lead changes, the last of which came when PC's Kacie Hall beat the buzzer with a three-pointer, putting the home team on top, 16-14.

The Blue Hose carried that momentum into the second period, fashioning an 8-0 run early in the stanza. Presbyterian's lead reached 29-20 on a three-pointer by Big South Freshman of the Week Macee Tamminen with 4:01 to play in the half.

Liberty responded with nine straight points, including six by freshmen. Rettstatt's layup closed out the burst at 2:27, evening the score at 29-29.

Late three-pointers by Briley Buckner and Tamminen, PC's sixth and seventh of the half, helped the Blue Hose rebuild a four-point lead (37-33) at the intermission.

Paced by Sellers (9 points) and Rettstatt (8 points, 7 rebounds), Liberty shot 50 percent (13-of-26) from the field in the first half and outrebounded Presbyterian, 15-11.

However, the Blue Hose also made 50 percent (12-of-24) of their field goals and 53.8 percent (7-of-13) of their first-half three-pointers. Santos posted a 14-point opening half for the home team.

Barbour and Green each posted three-point plays during Liberty's 13-0 third-quarter run. Ashtyn Baker came up with a steal and layup at 5:41, punctuating the surge and giving the Lady Flames a 52-42 advantage.

Liberty stayed in front for the remainder of the quarter, during which it shot 84.6 percent (11-of-13) from the field. The Lady Flames took a 62-54 lead into the final 10 minutes of play.

Three-pointers by Santos and Janie Miles opened the fourth quarter scoring, trimming the Blue Hose deficit to 62-60 just 1:06 into the period.

However, PC did not make another field goal until Miles' triple with just seven seconds remaining. In the meantime, Liberty sealed its victory with an extended 16-1 surge.

The Lady Flames finished the evening at 56 percent (28-of-50) from the field, improving to 110-2 under Carey Green when making at least half of their field goals. Liberty also hit 53.8 percent (7-of-13) from beyond the arc and 72.2 percent (13-of-18) from the charity stripe.

Presbyterian made 47.7 percent (21-of-44) of its field goals and 90 percent (9-of-10) of its foul shots.

Sellers, whose five triples marked a new career high, has now played well in each of her two Big South Conference openers. Last season, she scored a career high 21 points during a conference-opening victory at Charleston Southern. Tuesday's game marked Sellers' final contest as a 19-year-old, as she will turn 20 on Friday.

Green and Barbour stepped up in the decisive second half, combining for 21 points after being limited to two points apiece before the intermission.

Kierra Johnson-Graham filled the stat sheet with eight points, four rebounds, a career-high five assists and a career-best three steals.

For PC, Santos was joined in double digits by Miles (14 points) and Tamminen (13 points), who nailed four triples apiece. Cortney Storey was held to six points, well below her 17.3 ppg average, but did contribute eight assists and four steals.

Up Next
Liberty will play its next two games at the Vines Center, beginning with its Big South home opener against Charleston Southern (6-6, 1-0 Big South) on Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. for a rematch of the teams' 2017 Big South Women's Basketball Championship quarterfinal tilt.

Saturday will mark Liberty's final men's/women's basketball doubleheader of 2017-18 at the Vines Center. The Liberty-CSU clash will be followed by a men's basketball contest between the Flames and Presbyterian at 4 p.m.