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Louisville Defense Too Much for Lady Flames

March 22, 2009  Baton Rouge, La.  RSS
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Amber Mays totaled a team-high 11 points and a game-high five assists, Sunday night versus Louisville.

Amber Mays totaled a team-high 11 points and a game-high five assists, Sunday night versus Louisville.

No. 3 seed Louisville used an active defense to force 27 turnovers by No. 14 seed Liberty in the teams' first-round matchup in the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, late Sunday night. The Cardinals' consistent pressure and a balanced offensive attack keyed a 62-42 triumph over the Lady Flames, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.

Liberty, making its 12th NCAA tournament appearance in the last 13 seasons, sees its season end at 24-9. The Lady Flames were limited to 34.1 percent (15-of-44) shooting from the floor and were outrebounded for just the fourth time all season, 37-30.

Louisville, now 30-4, advances to the second round of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, after putting three players in double figures. The Cardinals will meet No. 6 seed LSU Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m., with a "Sweet 16" berth at stake.

Liberty took an early 4-1 advantage on transition layups by Amber Mays and Avery Warley within the first minute and a half of play.

Louisville did not connect on its first field goal until Candyce Bingham's hoop at 15:54. Her two points initiated a 10-0 burst by the Cardinals, which featured a pair of triples. Point guard Deseree' Byrd swished a three-pointer from the right wing, 13:37 before the half, boosting Louisville's advantage to 11-6.

Liberty twice cut its deficit to three points, including at 13-10 on Kylee Beecher's right-handed layup at 9:28.

The Cardinals then put together a 16-2 run, covering the next 6:45. Freshman Becky Burke scored eight points during the surge, and All-American Angel McCoughtry finished off the run with a basket at the 2:43 mark. Louisville's lead reached 29-12 after McCoughtry's hoop went through the net.

The Lady Flames countered with a quick 5-0 spurt in 33 seconds, pulling to within 29-17 when Rachel Hammond drilled a three-pointer with 1:35 left in the stanza.

Louisville answered quickly, closing out the opening half with six straight points. Burke's pair of free throws at the 46.9-second mark sent the Cardinals into the locker room owning a 35-17 lead. The 17 points marked Liberty's lowest first-half scoring output of the season.

After a slow start offensively, Louisville ended the first half shooting 43.3 percent (13-of-30) from the field. Meanwhile, the Lady Flames made only 30.4 percent (7-of-23) of their field goal attempts.
Liberty did post a 19-17 first-half rebounding advantage, but 18 Lady Flames turnovers turned into 19 points for the Cardinals.

Megan Frazee led Liberty in points (6), rebounds (7) and steals (3) during the first 20 minutes of action. Warley chipped in with four points and six boards, while Mays distributed a trio of assists.

Burke paced all players with her 10 opening-half points. McCoughtry added eight points and a team-high five rebounds before the intermission.

It took 3:51 for Liberty to score its first points of the second period, a three-pointer from the right wing by Rachel McLeod. Prior to McLeod's long-range connection, the Cardinals scored the stanza's first 10 points, extending their overall run to 16-0. Byrd's fast break layup with 16:23 remaining in the game finished the run with the Cardinals in front by a 45-17 score.

McLeod's aforementioned trey started a 7-2 Liberty surge. Megan Frazee finished the run with a one-handed floater at 15:04, cutting the Lady Flames' deficit to 47-24.

Louisville came right back with an 8-0 surge, with Keshia Hines contributing consecutive field goals. The Cardinals' advantage jumped over 30 points for the first time, 55-24, with 11:15 left, after Bingham's mid-range jumper found the bottom of the net.

However, Louisville managed only seven points the rest of the evening, as Liberty turned up its defensive pressure. The Lady Flames finished the contest with a 15-4 run, making the final score 62-42, Cardinals.

Louisville became the 84th consecutive team Liberty has held below 50 percent shooting from the field, ending the night at 42.6 percent (23-of-54). However, the Cardinals notched 24 points in the paint, 29 points off Liberty miscues and 29 bench points.

Mays was the only Lady Flame to score in double digits, tallying nine of her 11 points after the intermission. She also tallied a game-high five assists and a pair of steals. Mays finishes her inaugural season at Liberty with 126 assists, the most by a Lady Flame since Sarah Wilkerson's 127 helpers in 1998-99.

Megan Frazee, Liberty's all-time leader in double-doubles, nearly crafted one more in her final collegiate contest. She totaled eight points, eight rebounds and three steals. The Buckeye State native wraps up her Liberty career with 1,883 points and 951 rebounds.

Warley led the Lady Flames with nine rebounds, closing her freshman campaign with 256 boards. She ranks No. 2 on Liberty's all-time freshman rebounding list.

Seniors Rebecca Lightfoot and Hammond combined to make a trio of three-pointers, as the pair scored six and five points, respectively.

Liberty's seven-member senior class of Alexandria Bream, Megan Frazee, Molly Frazee, Moriah Frazee, Hammond, Lightfoot and Jessica Nelson close out a stellar four years with three NCAA tournament appearances, three Big South championships and a 96-31 overall record.

Louisville's two leading scorers on the season, McCoughtry and Bingham, led the way with 12 points apiece for the Cardinals on Sunday. McCoughtry added six boards and four steals, while Bingham also came up with four of her team's 16 pilfers.

The top contributors off Coach Jeff Walz's productive bench included Burke, with 11 points on a pair of triples, and Hines, who added eight points and six caroms.