Post Play Powers Liberty to 75-39 Win in Battle of the Flames
In a Thursday afternoon battle between the Liberty Lady Flames and the Lee Lady Flames at Liberty Arena, the home team’s post play made the difference in a 75-39 triumph. Bella Smuda, Bridgette Rettstatt and Mya Berkman combined for 51 points on 19-of-24 from the field.
Liberty closes out non-conference play with a 12-1 record, giving the Lady Flames their best start to a season since the 1997-98 squad opened the year at 28-0. Liberty, which won its ninth game in a row, doubled up Lee in rebounds (42-21) and held its opponent below 50 points for the eighth time in 2021-22.
Lee, ranked No. 25 in NCAA Division II, falls to 10-3. Leading scorer Haley Schubert was held scoreless as the Lady Flames fell 35 points shy of their season scoring average.
Box Score Highlights
Liberty Individuals: Smuda – 18 points, 12 rebounds, 10-12 FT; Rettstatt – 17 points, 8-8 FG; Berkman – 16 points, 7-7 FT; Jordan Bailey – 9 points, 3-7 3FG; Dee Brown – 9 rebounds, 4 assists; Kennedi Williams – 8 assists.
Lee Individuals: Hannah Garrett – 8 points; Micah Black – 6 points; Ally Welfel – 6 points.
Key Team Stats: Liberty shot 53.1 percent (26-of-49) from the field, as compared with 27.5 percent (14-of-51) for the visitors. Liberty made 75 percent of its foul shots, setting season highs for free throws made (18) and attempted (24). Liberty’s 24 assists (on 26 made field goals) set a season high.
Liberty set the tone from the opening tip, building a 15-2 lead during the game’s first 5:26. Six different Lady Flames, including all five starters, scored points during the early run. Liberty’s lead remained in double figures for all but 1:17 the rest of the afternoon.
- Aided by a pair of three-pointers, Lee outscored Liberty 8-5 during the final four and a half minutes of the opening period, following the home team’s 15-2 start. Liberty owned a 20-10 lead through 10 minutes of play, assisted by a 15-3 advantage on the boards.
- Bridgette Rettstatt single-handedly outscored Lee during the second period, 11-10. Her baseline jumper at the halftime buzzer sent the host Lady Flames to the intermission with a 43-20 lead and capped off Rettstatt’s 13-point opening half.
- Liberty made its first eight field goal attempts of the second half, capping off a run of 14 makes in a row on Jordan Bailey’s triple from the top of the key at the 4:05 mark. Her trifecta extended the Lady Flames’ lead to 61-23 on their way to a 66-30 cushion heading to the final period.
- Points were scarce during the fourth quarter, with the two teams tallying nine apiece. Smuda accounted for seven of Liberty’s markers, five of which came at the foul line.
Notes and Nuggets
- Smuda recorded her first double-double of the season and the second of her career. The redshirt freshman set a new career high for points (18) and matched her career high of 12 rebounds.
- Smuda, who had attempted only four free throws during the season’s first 12 games, went 10-for-12 on Thursday. It was the most free throws made by a Lady Flame since Emily Lytle knocked down 12 against Kennesaw State on March 7, 2020.
- Prior to Thursday, the last Lady Flame to attempt seven or more field goals in a game without missing was Berkman, who shot 7-of-7 against North Alabama on Jan. 16, 2021. Rettstatt (8-of-8) and Berkman (7-of-7) were both perfect from the field against Lee.
- Rettstatt has now scored in double figures in all nine games of Liberty’s current winning streak.
- Bailey accounted for three of Liberty’s five triples on Thursday and has connected seven times from behind the arc during the last two games.
- Williams dished out eight assists during just 17 minutes of play, equaling her career high and her own Liberty Arena single-game record. Williams also recorded eight helpers twice last season (Dec. 1, 2020 vs. Norfolk State and Dec. 9, 2020 vs. Hampton).
- Liberty’s 24 assists were their most since a 26-assist effort on Liberty Arena’s opening night (Dec. 1, 2020 vs. Norfolk State).
- Liberty is now 131-2 under Carey Green and 4-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better from the field.
- Thursday marked the 20th women’s basketball game played at Liberty Arena. The Lady Flames are 19-1 at the facility, including 7-1 this season.
- Liberty finished the month of December at 7-0 and is now 17-1 in its last 18 December outings.
- This marked the first hardwood meeting between Liberty and Lee, which was a last-minute replacement for Shepherd due to the Rams’ COVID-19 protocols. Lee became the fifth team Liberty has defeated for the first time ever this season (also Bowling Green, Grand Canyon, Ohio and UTRGV).
Liberty will tip off ASUN Conference play Wednesday with a visit to Stetson (7-6). Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside the Edmunds Center in DeLand, Fla.