Brown, Smeenge Lead Liberty Past EKU, 77-57, in ASUN Quarterfinal
Liberty’s starting wing duo of Priscilla Smeenge (career-high 18 points, 4-5 3FG) and Dee Brown (16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) played a key role in the Lady Flames’ 77-57 ASUN Women’s Basketball Championship quarterfinal win over Eastern Kentucky, Sunday afternoon at Liberty Arena.
Liberty (27-3), which never trailed and led by as many as 31, has now advanced to the semifinals in all four of its seasons as an ASUN Conference member. The Lady Flames will travel to West Division champion Jacksonville State (23-6) for a semifinal clash, Wednesday at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Eastern Kentucky’s inaugural season in the ASUN Conference ends at 15-16, with two of those losses coming to the Lady Flames. The Colonels shot just 13.6 percent (3-of-22) during a 12-point first half, digging a hole they could never recover from.
Box Score Highlights
Other Liberty Individuals: Bridgette Rettstatt – 9 points, 12 rebounds; Jordan Bailey – 7 points; Mya Berkman – 6 points, 5 rebounds.
Eastern Kentucky Individuals: Kalissa Lacy – 15 points, 3-4 3FG; Jayla Johnson – 13 points, 6 rebounds, Bridgid Fox – 8 points, 4 rebounds.
Key Team Stats: Liberty shot 48.4 percent (30-of-62) from the field, knocking down nine three-pointers after hitting 11 triples during its first meeting with EKU on Feb. 5. The Colonels finished at 35.3 percent (18-of-51) from the field. Liberty enjoyed significant advantages in rebounds (43-25), points in the paint (32-20) and second-chance points (14-6). The Lady Flames had nearly twice as many assists (19) as turnovers (10). Reserves scored 35 of EKU’s 57 points.
Liberty broke the game wide open with a 16-0 second-quarter run. Smeenge tallied the surge’s final 10 points, including a three-pointer just 38 seconds before halftime which extended the Lady Flames’ lead to 27 points (37-10). EKU got no closer than 20 the rest of the afternoon.
- Liberty doubled up EKU in the opening quarter, 16-8, as the Lady Flames held the Colonels to 20 percent (3-of-15) from the field.
- The Colonels’ offensive struggles continued during the second 10-minute stanza, as EKU was limited to four points on 0-of-7 from the field while committing six turnovers.
- Liberty outscored the visitors 21-4 during the quarter, getting 10 points from Priscilla Smeenge. The Lady Flames took a 37-12 lead into the intermission following an opening half where Smeenge single-handedly outscored EKU, 15-12.
- Jayla Johnson scored 11 points during Eastern Kentucky’s 28-point third quarter.
- But Liberty did the Colonels one better, knocking down four triples during a 29-point stanza of its own. The Lady Flames owned a 66-40 advantage with 10 minutes to play.
- Kalissa Lacy scored seven of her career-high 15 points as Eastern Kentucky outscored Liberty by a 17-11 count during the final period. Liberty misfired on all six of its three-point attempts during the quarter after shooting 9-of-18 for the game up to that point.
Notes and Nuggets
- Smeenge set career highs for points (18) and three-pointers made (4). She hit her first six field goal attempts of the day, four of which came from beyond the arc.
- Brown’s point (16) and assist (6) totals each fell just one shy of her career high.
- Rettstatt grabbed double-digit rebounds (12) for the third game in a row.
- The national leader in field goal percentage, Berkman was held below 10 points for the first time in seven games.
- Liberty has now reached its conference tournament’s semifinal round in 25 of the last 26 seasons.
- The Lady Flames improved to 7-0 against the ASUN West Division this season.
- Liberty moved to 15-2 at Liberty Arena in 2021-22, marking the team’s most home wins since the 2017-18 squad went 15-0 at the Vines Center.
- Sunday marked the first ASUN Women’s Basketball Championship game played at Liberty Arena, where the Lady Flames are now 27-2 all-time.
- Liberty is now just one win away from matching its program record for wins in a season. The Lady Flames went 28-1 in 1997-98 and 28-4 in 2007-08.