Liberty Races Past Bellarmine 77-52 for Win No. 20
Liberty used its familiar formula of defense and rebounding to become the nation’s second team to reach 20 wins this season, Thursday morning at Freedom Hall. The Lady Flames topped Bellarmine 77-52, aided by a +25 rebound margin and the Knights’ 31.3 percent (20-of-64) field goal shooting.
Liberty moves to 20-2 overall and 8-1 in the ASUN with its fifth consecutive win, joining No. 1 South Carolina as the nation’s only two teams with 20 victories this year. The Lady Flames were led by the post trio of Mya Berkman (18 points, 5 rebounds), Jordan Bailey (career-high 17 points, 6 rebounds) and Bella Smuda (8 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks).
Bellarmine falls to 3-17 on the season, 0-9 in conference play and 0-4 all-time against the Lady Flames despite Mackenzie Keelin’s first career double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds).
Box Score Highlights
Other Liberty Individuals: Priscilla Smeenge – 9 points; Bridgette Rettstatt – 8 points, 5 rebounds; Alyssa Iverson – 9 rebounds, 5 assists.
Other Bellarmine Individuals: Jaela Johnson – 13 points, 6 assists; Presley Brown – 9 points.
Key Team Stats: Liberty scored 32 points in the paint, helping the team shoot 44.3 percent (27-of-61) from the field, including 57.7 percent (15-of-26) after halftime. The Lady Flames matched a season high for made free throws (17) on 23 attempts for 73.9 percent. Liberty turned 16 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points. The Lady Flames’ 38 bench points were their most in ASUN competition this season.
Liberty took control from the outset, building a double-digit lead in the first quarter that stayed that way the rest of the day.
Foreshadowing the winning formula that was to follow, the Lady Flames outrebounded the Knights 13-7 during the first quarter and the trio of Berkman, Bailey and Smuda tallied 13 of Liberty’s 24 points.
- Priscilla Smeenge made a layup just five seconds after the opening tip, and Liberty led throughout the opening period. Four players scored four or more points as the visiting Lady Flames doubled up the Knights 24-12 during the first quarter. Liberty shot 7-of-7 from the foul line for the stanza.
- The Lady Flames held Bellarmine to eight points on 2-of-14 shooting during the second quarter, pushing their advantage to 37-20 by halftime. Liberty outrebounded its hosts, 28-16, before halftime, with centers Mya Berkman and Bella Smuda combining for 17 points and 11 rebounds.
- Liberty opened the second half with a 10-0 run, with post players Bridgette Rettstatt and Berkman doing all of the scoring.
- The Lady Flames’ lead got as large as 30 (53-23), and the visitors were on top 56-31 heading to the final period.
- The two teams scored 21 points apiece during an up-tempo final period. Jordan Bailey notched nine points during the first 3:31 for Liberty, pushing the Liberty lead to a game-high 32 points (70-38).
- Mackenzie Keelin accounted for three of Bellarmine’s five three-pointers in the fourth quarter, helping the Knights make a late push.
Notes and Nuggets
- Berkman’s game-high 18 points put her into double figures for the 16th time in 22 games this season. She shot 6-of-6 from the foul line, matching her career high for free throws made in a game.
- Bailey scored 11 of her career-high 17 points within a 3:31 timeframe, spanning the third and fourth quarters.
- Smuda’s 11-rebound performance marked her second game this season and the third of her career with 10+ boards. She has now totaled 50 points, 29 rebounds and eight blocks in 65 total minutes played against Bellarmine for her career.
- Rettstatt appeared in her 132nd career game on Thursday, tying Avery Warley’s (2009-12) Liberty record.
- Iverson’s nine rebounds set a new career high, and she posted her seventh game this season with five or more assists.
- Liberty has now won 20 or more games 21 times in the last 26 seasons.
- Thursday marked the second time this season and the fifth time since joining the conference that Liberty has won an ASUN game by 25 points or more.
- Liberty won the rebounding battle for the 20th time in 22 games this season, including its seventh time by 20 or more boards.
Liberty will wrap up its two-game swing through the Bluegrass State on Saturday, visiting ASUN newcomer Eastern Kentucky for the first time. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at McBrayer Arena.