LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Liberty wrapped up a two-game ASUN series sweep with a hard-fought 79-73 victory at Bellarmine, Sunday afternoon. The Lady Flames battled back from an early 10-point deficit and needed two defensive stops and four clutch free throws during the final 30 seconds to emerge from Freedom Hall victorious.
Liberty (14-5, 10-2 ASUN) has now won 10 or more conference games for the 22nd consecutive season. But Sunday’s victory was the narrowest of its 10 ASUN wins this year.
Conference newcomer Bellarmine (4-13, 4-8 ASUN) had a shot to tie the game at 75-all with 19 seconds left, but Bella Smuda rebounded Lauren Deel’s miss. Dee Brown then doubled Liberty’s lead with a pair of free throws with 18.1 seconds showing on the clock.
The Knights’ Breia Torrens, who had knocked down four three-pointers on the afternoon, could not make it five, and Brown tracked down her miss. The Lady Flames’ leading scorer on the day, Emily Lytle (17 points) then sealed the victory with two more free throws with just 6.7 ticks left.
Box Score Highlights
Other Liberty Individuals: Smuda – 16 points, 8-9 FG, 6 rebounds; Bridgette Rettstatt – 11 points, 3 assists; Mya Berkman – 10 points, 8 rebounds; Ashtyn Baker – 9 points, 4 assists, 3 steals.
Bellarmine Individuals: Torrens – 16 points, 4-7 3FG; Tasia Jeffries – 16 points; Deel – 12 points, 6 rebounds; Sheniqua Coatney – 9 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks; Kathleen Scott – 7 points, 6 assists, 3 steals.
Key Team Stats: Liberty finished at 49.1 percent (28-of-57) from the field, scoring 40 points in the paint. The Lady Flames shot 78.3 percent (18-of-23) from the foul line, including 10-of-12 during the fourth quarter. Bellarmine shot well from three-point range (53.8 percent, 7-of-13) for the second day in a row. The Knights tallied 21 points off Liberty’s 17 turnovers. The Lady Flames outrebounded their eighth straight opponent (35-30), with eight offensive boards leading to 13 second-chance points.
During a game which included six ties and 10 lead changes, the Lady Flames went ahead for good late in the third quarter.
Jeffries’ jumper with 5:03 to play in the period gave Bellarmine its final lead at 51-50. Baker then made two free throws at the other end just six seconds later, beginning a 10-5 Liberty surge to end the quarter.
Smuda scored the Lady Flames’ final eight points of the stanza, sending the visitors into the final 10 minutes in front by four (60-56).
• Liberty took just 1:14 to score the game’s first seven points, but Bellarmine outscored the Lady Flames 21-4 over the next seven minutes, opening up a 21-11 advantage on Coatney’s putback.
• Liberty then wrapped up the stanza with a 9-1 surge, cutting its deficit to 22-20 at the end of a high-scoring quarter.
• The Lady Flames shot 66.7 percent (10-of-15) from the field during a 26-point second quarter, opening up as much as an eight-point lead on the way to their highest-scoring first half of the season.
• However, Liberty could not shake the Knights, who trailed by only four (46-42) at the intermission after scoring 15 points off the Lady Flames’ 10 first-half turnovers.
• After scorching the nets during the opening 20 minutes, Liberty missed nine of its first field goal attempts to begin the second half. That allowed Bellarmine to take a pair of one-point leads (49-48 and 51-50).
• The torrid offensive pace slowed during the third period, which saw each team shoot 35 percent and total 14 points.
• Liberty’s largest lead of the game (71-62) came with 4:05 left, on the heels of a 7-0 run. Berkman’s back-to-back layups capped off the burst.
• Bellarmine then scored 11 of the game’s next 15 points, including Deel’s layup at the 56.2-second mark which trimmed the deficit to 75-73.
Notes and Nuggets
• One day after scoring her 1,000th career point, Lytle scored a team-high 17 for the Lady Flames. Her three triples move her into fourth place on Liberty’s all-time list with 152 career three-pointers made.
• Smuda set a new career high with her 16 points on Sunday. During the two-game weekend series, the freshman totaled 31 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots in 32 minutes of playing time.
• Four Lady Flames scored in double figures on Sunday after five Lady Flames reached double digits during Saturday’s game.
• Liberty has now posted 10+ conference victories during all 22 seasons of Carey Green’s tenure as head coach. The Lady Flames are now 295-53 in conference play under Green, as he inches closer to a milestone of his own with his 490th career coaching victory.
• The 10-point deficit (21-11) Liberty faced early on was the largest deficit the Lady Flames have overcome during a victory this season.
• The Lady Flames are now 4-4 this season in games decided by 10 points or fewer and 6-2 when tied or trailing at the end of the first quarter.
Liberty is currently scheduled to have next weekend off from competition before returning home for a two-game series against Stetson, Feb. 27 & 28 at Liberty Arena. However, the ASUN Conference schedule is subject to change.