Liberty women fall in WNIT action

Bowling Green downs Lady Flames 87-80

Liberty University basketball (WSLS)

Bowling Green, OH – – Liberty cut a 22-point deficit to five twice during Thursday evening’s WNIT first-round contest at Bowling Green. However, the Lady Flames’ comeback effort fell just short as the Falcons hung on for an 87-80 victory at the Stroh Center.

The Lady Flames’ season ends at 24-9 despite shooting 50 percent (29-of-58) and hitting a season-high 12 triples. Mya Berkman paced the team in points (16) and rebounds (13) for her 19th career double-double in the final contest of her impressive collegiate career.

Bowling Green (28-6) advances to a second-round matchup with the winner of Thursday’s Niagara at Green Bay contest. Elissa Brett paced the Falcons with 27 points and six rebounds, as the Falcons scored 27 points off Liberty’s season-high 25 turnovers.

Box Score Highlights

Other Liberty Individuals: Emma Hess – 15 points, 3-7 3FG; Pien Steenbergen – 14 points, 4-8 3FG, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks; Bella Smuda – 11 points, 3 blocks; Jordan Hodges – 9 points, 3-3 3FG, 4 assists; Dee Brown – 8 points, 5 assists.

Other Bowling Green Individuals: Jocelyn Tate – 15 points, 4 assists, 5 steals; Allison Day – 13 points, 5 rebounds; Lexi Fleming – 12 points; Nyla Hampton – 11 points, 4 steals, 8-8 FT.

Key Team Stats: Bowling Green got to the foul line 27 more times than Liberty, going 26-of-38 for 68.4 percent to the Lady Flames’ 10-of-11 for 90.9 percent. The Falcons outscored the Lady Flames in the paint, 44-30. Liberty won the rebounding battle, 40-31, and rejected eight shots. Liberty tallied 37 bench points to Bowling Green’s nine.

Turning Point

Bowling Green outscored Liberty 32-8 over a 9:46 stretch spanning the first and second quarters.

Fourteen of the Falcons’ points came off the Lady Flames’ nine turnovers, and Tate scored 10 points for the home team.

Her pair of free throws 23 seconds into the second quarter gave Bowling Green its largest lead (32-10), one which proved to be just too large for Liberty to overcome.

Game Summary

First Quarter

• Mya Berkman opened the scoring with a layup just 20 seconds into the game, but it was all Bowling Green the rest of the way.

• The Falcons answered Berkman’s hoop with a 14-0 run and opened a 30-10 lead through 10 minutes, scoring 14 points off the Lady Flames’ nine turnovers.

Second Quarter

• Aided by three triples, Liberty battled back in the second quarter. The Lady Flames got as close as 13 (41-28) before trailing 45-30 at the half. The Lady Flames shot 58.3 percent (7-of-12) during a 20-point period.

Third Quarter

• The Lady Flames made five more three-pointers during the third quarter, including three by Pien Steenbergen. Liberty got as close as nine twice (54-45 and 63-54) before trailing 65-54 heading to the final 10 minutes.

Fourth Quarter

• Liberty pulled within five twice, at 78-73 on Hodges’ three-pointer with 2:32 left and 80-75 after Steenbergen’s steal and two free throws with 43.4 to play. But the Lady Flames committed four costly turnovers in the final two minutes and Brett hit six free throws during the last 40 seconds to deny Liberty a come-from-behind victory.

Notes and Nuggets

• Berkman’s double-double was her 12th of the season and the 19th of her career, tying Michelle Fricke for seventh place on Liberty’s all-time list. Her 16 points tied Bridgette Rettstatt (2022 first-round win over Campbell) for the most ever scored by a Lady Flame in a WNIT contest and Berkman’s 13 boards set a program WNIT single-game record.

• Berkman finished the year at 69.5 percent from the field, breaking her own program single-season record of 68.9 percent from the 2020-21 campaign. She continues to rank No. 1 nationally for the category.

• Berkman finishes with a program-record 154 career games played. She ranks No. 7 in program history with 1,405 points and No. 6 with 922 rebounds.

• Playing in her home state of Ohio for the first time as a Lady Flame, Hess’s three triples gave her 63 for the season. That is tied with Cynthia Thomson (1990-91) for third in program history, just one away from the Liberty single-season record. Hess finished the year at 37.5 percent from beyond the arc for the fourth-best single-season percentage in program history.

• The last game of Steenbergen’s freshman season resulted in career highs for points (14), three-pointers (4) and steals (3).

• Smuda’s three blocked shots give her 50 for the season, the most by a Lady Flame since Ashley Rininger rejected 53 shots in 2014-15.

• Hodges matched her career high of three triples in a game.

• Kennedi Williams dished out four assists, finishing the year with 144. That is the most helpers by a Lady Flame since Sarah Wilkerson tallied 149 in 1997-98.

• Liberty falls to 1-4 all-time in the Postseason WNIT, including 0-4 on the road.

• The Lady Flames and Falcons have now split their two meetings, both of which have happened in the last two seasons.

• This was Liberty’s 22nd 20-win season in the last 27 years.

• Prior to Thursday, Liberty had been 148-3 under Carey Green when making 50 percent of its field goals, including 12-0 this season. The Lady Flames hit exactly half (29-of-58) of their field goal tries on the night.

• Liberty ended the year with a program-record 224 three-pointers made. Their 169 blocked shots were the Lady Flames’ most rejections as a Division I program, and their 521 assists matched last season’s total as the most helpers in Liberty’s Division I era.