KENNESAW, Ga. – Making its 22nd conference tournament title game appearance in 25 years, Sunday at the KSU Convocation Center, No. 2 seed Liberty was denied a chance to qualify for an 18th NCAA Tournament. Led by Tournament MVP Kierstan Bell (30 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists), No. 1 seed FGCU claimed its eighth ASUN Women’s Basketball Championship title with an 84-62 triumph over the Lady Flames.
Liberty’s 2020-21 season ends at 19-8 despite the best efforts of all-tournament team members Emily Lytle (25 points, 9 rebounds) and Ashtyn Baker (11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) on Sunday. Lytle averaged 21.0 ppg for the three-game tournament, earning her third consecutive ASUN All-Tournament Team award.
FGCU’s 25th consecutive win runs the Eagles’ record to 26-2 and punches their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time. Tishara Morehouse (15 points, 5 assists) and Aaliyah Stanley (12 points) joined Bell on the all-tournament team. The Eagles shot 50 percent (26-of-52) from the field and knocked down 14 triples, improving to 8-0 all-time against Liberty and 2-0 versus the Lady Flames in the ASUN title game (also 2019).
The all-tournament team was rounded out by the duo of Lipscomb’s Dorie Harrison and North Florida’s Rhetta Moore.
Box Score Highlights
Other Liberty Individuals: Priscilla Smeenge – 6 points, 3 assists; Mya Berkman – 6 rebounds.
Other FGCU Individuals: Emma List – 8 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists.
Key Team Stats: Liberty could not keep up with FGCU’s torrid offensive pace, shooting just 37.7 percent (20-of-53) from the field and 35 percent (7-of-20) from the three-point line. The Lady Flames did go 15-of-15 at the foul line, marking the first time in program history they have attempted 15 or more free throws in a game without a miss. FGCU converted Liberty’s 18 turnovers into 19 points and dished out 22 assists on 26 made field goals. Liberty outrebounded the Eagles 34-28. However, for just the third time this season, Liberty scored fewer bench points than its opponent, as FGCU posted a 21-14 edge in that category.
The game went back and forth early on, and Mya Berkman’s putback at 5:49 of the second quarter had the Lady Flames within five at 29-24.
FGCU’s Stanley and Seneca Hackley hit three-pointers on the Eagles’ next two offensive trips, kick-starting a 15-2 run. By the time Bell hit two free throws during the final minute of the first half, the Eagles owned a 44-26 advantage. The FGCU lead remained at 16 points or larger the rest of the way.
• The opening quarter featured four ties and four lead changes. FGCU closed out the period with a 9-0 run, taking a 22-16 lead after Alyssa Blair’s three-pointer (the Eagles’ fifth of the quarter) swished through the net just before the buzzer sounded.
• The Eagles’ halftime lead stood at 16 points (44-28) after a 17-point first half from Bell.
• After being held to two first half points, Baker knocked down a pair of triples during the third period. However, Bell added nine more points of her own and FGCU’s lead reached 23 (67-44) heading to the final quarter.
• Lytle kept battling until the end, tallying her final eight points during the fourth quarter. However, Liberty was unable to overcome its deficit and drops to 17-4 all-time in conference tournament finals.
Notes and Nuggets
• Lytle’s 20-point game was her second in a row, seventh of the season and 17th of her career. She has now tallied 20 points or more in four of Liberty’s five ASUN Championship contests over the last two seasons.
• Lytle passed Moriah Frazee for 13th place on Liberty’s all-time scoring list, wrapping up the year with 1,153 career points.
• Lytle’s three triples on Sunday give her 171 for her career, leapfrogging Dawn Coleman for third place in program history.
• Lytle finished the season at 39.1 percent (54-of-138) from three-point range, breaking the Liberty single-season record of 38.8 percent which Sharon Wilkerson had held since 1997-98.
• Baker earned a second all-tournament team honor of her career. She was previously voted to the Big South All-Tournament Team as a freshman in 2018.
• Baker’s 11 points moved her into 16th place on Liberty’s all-time scoring list. She passed Brenda Gunsallus on Sunday and has now tallied 1,081 career points.
• Despite being limited to two points on Sunday, Berkman finished the season at 68.9 percent from the field. That breaks the Liberty single-season record of 67.1 percent set by current assistant coach Katie (Feenstra) Mattera during her senior season, 2004-05.
• Liberty finished the year with a program-record 190 three-pointers made. The previous record of 175 had stood since 2013-14.
• With FGCU entering the game ranked No. 21 in the coaches poll and No. 24 in the AP poll, Liberty has now lost 34 straight matchups with Top 25 foes.
• FGCU became just the second team this season and the fourth team in Liberty’s last 85 games to shoot 50 percent or better against the Lady Flames.
• Sunday’s game was the 60
conference tournament contest Carey Green has coached at Liberty. He is now 53-7 in conference tournament tilts and will head into the 2021-22 season with 495 coaching victories to his credit.