Liberty tops North Alabama 86-63 for 5-0 ASUN start

Liberty women move to 5-0 in ASUN play with win over North Alabama (WSLS)

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Playing before a national television audience on ESPNU Saturday afternoon at Liberty Arena, Liberty posted an impressive 86-63 triumph over North Alabama. The Lady Flames’ eighth consecutive victory boosts their ASUN-leading record to 5-0.

Liberty (9-3, 5-0 ASUN) utilized its inside-outside attack to great effect. Ashtyn Baker hit five of the Lady Flames’ 10 triples and scored a team-high 18 points. Meanwhile, centers Mya Berkman (17 points) and Bella Smuda (13 points) combined for 30 points inside. The Lady Flames and FGCU (1-0) are the only remaining unbeaten teams in ASUN Conference play.

North Alabama (3-9, 2-1 ASUN) suffers its first conference loss of the season. The Lions shot a season-low 30.2 percent (16-of-53) from the field and were outrebounded by 12 (46-34).

Box Score Highlights

Liberty Individuals: Baker – 18 points, 5-7 3FG; Berkman – 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7-7 FG; Emily Lytle – 14 points, 6 rebounds; Smuda – 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks.

North Alabama Individuals: Jaida Bond – 22 points, 10 rebounds; Jaila Roberts – 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists; Sakyia White – 8 points, 8 rebounds.

Key Team Stats: Liberty shot 43.1 percent (31-of-72) from the field, including 45.5 percent (10-of-22) from beyond the arc. North Alabama made 89.3 percent (25-of-28) of its free throws. The Lady Flames dished out 20 assists and committed a season-low six turnovers. Liberty’s 17 offensive rebounds led to a season-high 28 second-chance points. The Lady Flames also doubled up the Lions in the paint, 40-20.

Turning Point

After Savannah Holt’s long three-pointer 7:07 before halftime pulled North Alabama within five at 27-22, the visiting Lions did not score again for more than seven minutes.

Liberty fashioned a 12-0 run during North Alabama’s scoring drought, which featured nine consecutive missed field goals. Smuda contributed four points, three rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot to the extended surge, which pushed the Lady Flames’ lead into double figures for good.

Game Summary

First Quarter

• Berkman hit three layups during the game’s first two minutes, kick-starting Liberty’s 12-2 game-opening run.

• The Lady Flames led 22-14 at the end of the first quarter, as North Alabama shot just 26.7 percent (4-of-15) for the stanza.

Second Quarter

• Two triples within the first three minutes of the second period trimmed North Alabama’s deficit to 27-22.

• Liberty responded with the aforementioned 12-0 run. The Lady Flames owned a 39-25 halftime lead after nine different players scored points during the first 20 minutes.

Third Quarter

• Baker (9 points) and Berkman (6 points) combined for 15 of Liberty’s points during a 17-4 run to begin the second half.

• Liberty led by as many as 29 on its way to a 72-44 advantage at the conclusion of the third period. The Lady Flames scored 33 points for the stanza, the team’s most ever in any quarter. Baker scored 11 points, continuing her season-long trend of scoring well during the third period.

Fourth Quarter

• Liberty took a pair of 32-point leads (80-48 and 82-50) during the fourth quarter, before Bond helped North Alabama go on a 13-4 run to close the game. Bond tallied 12 of her game-high 22 points during the final stanza.

Notes and Nuggets

• Baker scored 11 of her 18 points during the third quarter. She has now scored exactly half (80 of 160) of her points this season during the third period.

• Baker hit her first five three-point attempts of the afternoon, matching her career high for triples in a game. She has now made 22 triples in 2020-21, her most in a single season during her career. Baker is shooting 54.8 percent (17-of-31) from long range at Liberty Arena.

• Berkman scored 17 points in 16 minutes, hitting all seven of her field goal attempts. She is the first Lady Flame to attempt at least seven field goals without a miss since Feb. 20, 2018. That day, Baker shot 7-of-7 at Winthrop.

• Lytle’s 14 points marked her seventh straight game scoring in double figures.

• Smuda set a new career high with her 13 points.

• Priscilla Smeenge made her Liberty debut after transferring from Michigan. She contributed two points, two rebounds, a block and a steal in 10 minutes off the bench.

• Saturday’s game saw the largest margin of victory in six all-time meetings between Liberty and North Alabama, as the Lady Flames improved to 4-2 versus the Lions.

• Liberty extended a number of winning streaks. They have now won eight straight games overall, 11 straight home games, 11 consecutive ASUN Conference tilts and 13 straight meetings with ASUN foes. North Alabama was the last ASUN opponent to defeat Liberty (86-75 on Feb. 8, 2020).

• The home team remains undefeated at Liberty Arena, including a 6-0 record for the Lady Flames and an 8-0 mark for the Liberty men’s basketball team.

• Liberty has now recorded 20 or more assists in five of six home games this season.

• Sixteen Liberty players appeared in Saturday’s matinee, with none playing more than Baker’s 21 minutes. Conversely, only eight North Alabama Lions took the court, and Bond went all 40 minutes.

• Prior to Liberty’s program-record 33-point outburst in the third quarter, the Lady Flames had scored 31 points in a quarter three times. They did so in the fourth quarter versus California on Nov. 28, 2015, in the fourth quarter at High Point on Feb. 14, 2017 and in the second quarter at ETSU on Dec. 4, 2018.

• Liberty Head Coach Carey Green missed his fifth consecutive game. In addition to recovering from a recent surgery, he also tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Associate Head Coach Alexis Sherard continued to serve as acting head coach in Green’s absence.

• Saturday’s game marked the first nationally televised event ever at Liberty Arena and the first ASUN Conference women’s basketball game ever to appear on national linear television.

Up Next

Liberty and North Alabama will wrap up their two-game weekend series Sunday at 2 p.m. inside Liberty Arena.