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Liberty Shakes Off Slow Start to Top Shepherd, 73-65

February 21, 2021  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Shepherd had not played a basketball game in 354 days prior to Sunday's contest at Liberty Arena. However, the Rams showed no signs of rust while jumping out to a 15-point first-half lead. Aided by a 20-point effort from Emily Lytle and a career day (13 points, 6 assists) from Kennedi Williams, Liberty was able to respond and pull out its 15th straight home win, 73-65.

Liberty improves to 15-5 after closing out the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 5-3 record. The Lady Flames used a 20-4 run that spanned the second and third quarters to seize control of the game.

Shepherd, which classified the game as an exhibition, remains 0-0 this season. The Rams, who will officially tip off their 2020-21 season with a Saturday home matchup against Southern Virginia, got 22 points from Sydney Clayton and 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Abby Beeman. However, the outsized Rams were outrebounded 42-27 and outscored inside the paint, 44-28.

Box Score Highlights
Liberty Individuals: Lytle – 20 points, 7-8 FG, 3-4 3FG; Bella Smuda – 15 points, 8 rebounds; Williams – 13 points, 6-8 FG, 6 assists; Nenna Lindstrom – 8 points, 2-4 3FG.

Other Shepherd Individuals: Marley McLaughlin – 11 points, 3-7 3FG.

Key Team Stats: Liberty shot 44.4 percent (28-of-63) from the field, including 55.2 percent (16-of-29) after halftime. The Lady Flames' reserves scored 38 points to Shepherd's four. Liberty committed 13 turnovers, but only four after halftime. The Lady Flames hit a season-high 84.6 percent (11-of-13) from the foul line.

Turning Point
McLaughlin's layup 4:00 before halftime gave Shepherd a 32-20 lead, but it proved to be the Rams' last made field goal of the opening half.

Liberty then started to utilize its considerable size advantage. Post players combined to score 13 points during the Lady Flames' key 20-4 surge which stretched into the second half.

Lytle's spinning layup with 6:38 to play in the third quarter capped off the run with Liberty now owning a 40-36 advantage. The Lady Flames never trailed again.

Game Summary
First Quarter
• For the second straight game, Liberty found itself trailing by 10 points early on. Beeman scored eight early points for the Rams, including a pair of free throws that put the visitors in front 18-10 at 4:14 of the opening stanza.

• Liberty trailed 18-10 after a first period which saw the Lady Flames shoot 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from the field and commit six turnovers.

Second Quarter
• Clayton tallied seven points during the first 2:09 of the second quarter, including a triple from the left wing which extended Shepherd's advantage to 15 (27-12).

• Smuda single-handedly matched the Rams' point total over the remainder of the half (7-7), helping Liberty get back into the game. The Lady Flames closed the half on a 12-2 run to pull within two (34-32) at the intermission.  

Third Quarter
• Liberty continued its momentum from the end of the second quarter into the third, opening the second half with an 8-2 burst. Emily Lytle's spinning layup at 6:38 put the Lady Flames in front, 40-36.

• Lytle totaled nine points during the period, including the Lady Flames' final five tallies of the stanza, as Liberty built a seven-point advantage (55-48) heading to the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter
• After hitting only three triples during the first three quarters, Liberty knocked down three triples during the final period. All three came at crucial times.

• Shepherd cut its deficit to four points twice, but the Lady Flames quickly answered with a three pointer each time, one by Lytle and one by Williams. Lytle later hit a dagger triple as the shot clock expired, giving Liberty a 70-61 lead with just 2:00 remaining.

Notes and Nuggets
• Lytle's 20-point game was her fourth of the season and the 14th of her career. The redshirt senior is now in sole possession of eighth place in program history for most 20-point outings.

• Three-time ASUN Freshman of the Week Smuda scored in double figures for the third straight contest and pulled down a team-high eight boards.

• Playing some key minutes in the absence of Ashtyn Baker (illness), Williams improved her career high from eight points to 13. She also dished out five or more assists for the sixth time this season, going over the 100 mark for the sophomore's career.

• Priscilla Smeenge made the first start of her collegiate career and pulled down a career-best six rebounds.

• Bridgette Rettstatt became the 16th Lady Flame ever to grab 600 career rebounds. Her four caroms on Sunday give the senior 602 for her career, good for 15th place on Liberty's all-time list.

• Sunday marked the first time Liberty had rallied from a 15-point deficit to win since March 3, 2018. That day, the Lady Flames trailed High Point 42-25 in the third quarter at the Vines Center before coming back for a 57-49 triumph.

• Liberty is now 2-0 all-time against Shepherd and 6-0 against PSAC opponents.

• The Lady Flames are 10-0 at Liberty Arena and have won 15 straight home games, dating back to last season.  

Up Next
Liberty will remain in Lynchburg for its final ASUN Conference home series of the season. The Lady Flames will play host to Stetson (7-10, 5-7 ASUN) on Saturday and Sunday, tipping off at 2 p.m. each afternoon inside Liberty Arena. Senior Day will be celebrated prior to Sunday's matinee.