Women’s Basketball Falls At Liberty, 76-56
LYNCHBURG, Va. – In its final tuneup before Southern Conference play begins, the UNCG women's basketball team battled back from a double-digit second-half deficit to trail by just seven with six minutes left, but 2012-13 Big South preseason favorite Liberty was too much in the end as the Lady Flames captured a 76-56 victory Tuesday evening inside the Vines Center.
"I saw some really good things tonight," head coach Wendy Palmer said. "I hope our effort tonight shows how special this team can eventually be. We got down early but continued to fight back. I told the team that this game would be won with defense and rebounding and we just fell short in those areas."
The Spartans forced the Lady Flames into 27 turnovers, which resulted in 17 steals for the Blue and Gold – including a career-high four from sophomore Jarae Savage. UNCG hit 38-percent of its shots in the second half to finish with a 32-percent mark from the field while the Lady Flames ended up at 44 percent (29-for-66). Liberty, long considered one of the top rebounding teams in the nation, also held the upper hand in that statistic by a 55-36 count. The Lady Flames shared the ball well, recording 21 assists on their 29 buckets.
Freshman point guard Lucy Mason set a career high in the game with 18 points, including the team's only three-point field goal, while junior guard Breonna Patterson netted a season-best 14 with 12 in the second half. On the boards, junior Janae' Stevenson picked up a team-best seven (four offensive) and fell just short of double figures in points with eight.
Liberty rattled off seven of the first nine points of the game, including five from Devon Brown, before Mason cut the deficit to three with a jumper. The home team stretched its cushion to 17-7 at the 12:29 mark on a tip-in bucket by Ashley Rininger, but the Spartans responded behind three different players to slice the deficit to 19-12 with 8:47 remaining in the half.
UNCG was held scoreless for a long stretch as Liberty went on an 11-0 run to take a 30-12 advantage all the way down to the 2:59 mark. The Spartans were able to keep relatively close as the halftime buzzer sounded, as four points from senior Natalie Headley, the last coming with 56 seconds on the clock, ended an 8-4 run for UNCG to make the halftime score 34-20.
The Spartans suffered from a poor shooting half, knocking down just 25-percent of their attempts from the field (7-for-28) while the Lady Flames drained 46 percent of their tries (15-for-33). UNCG continued its fine early-season defensive effort in the first 20 minutes, forcing 15 Liberty turnovers and recording 10 steals. The Lady Flames held a 27-17 advantage on the glass and pulled down 10 offensive rebounds as part of that effort.
Mason paced UNCG with 11 points in the period while Headley chipped in with four. Freshman Jazmine Missouri and Stevenson each grabbed three rebounds apiece while Rininger led all players with six boards (three offensive).
Liberty opened up a 41-23 advantage in the second half on the strength of an Emily Frazier three-point field goal. The lead grew to 19 before the Spartans made a run as a Stevenson jumper made the score 46-35 with 11:17 left in the game.
After an old-fashioned three-point play by Katelyn Adams stretched the Lady Flame lead back to 15, UNCG made one final push. With Liberty in front 51-38 at the 8:20 mark, three-straight buckets by Savage and Stevenson gave the Spartans life and brought the visitors to within 51-44 with 7:06 on the clock. A three-pointer by Mason cut the Lady Flames' cushion back to eight after Sadalia Ellis knocked down a pair of free throws, but Tolu Omotola dropped in a layup to put the Liberty lead back to double figures. The Lady Flames were able to salt the game away in the last five minutes, scoring the contest's final 10 points.
UNCG returns to the court Saturday, heading to the mountains to face Western Carolina in both teams' league opener. Tipoff at the Ramsey Center is slated for 5 p.m.
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