Liberty utilized balanced scoring and an aggressive defensive effort to fuel an 82-53 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.), Saturday afternoon at the Vines Center.
Five Lady Flames scored in double figures, while the home team converted 31 Red Flash turnovers into 25 points. Liberty improves to 1-2 with a win in its first-ever meeting with fellow 2018 NCAA Tournament competitor Saint Francis. The Red Flash, who shot just 32.7 percent (18-of-55) from the field, fall to 0-3 to open the season.
Box Score Highlights
Liberty Individuals: Kierra Johnson-Graham – 12 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals; Bridgette Rettstatt – 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals; Ashtyn Baker – 12 points, 3 steals; Ria Gulley – 12 points, 6-6 FT; Emily Lytle – 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3-4 3FG.
Saint Francis Individuals: Jess Kovatch – 14 points; Leah Morrow – 9 points; Courtney Zezza – 11 rebounds, 3 steals.
Key Team Stats: Liberty shot a season-best 46 percent (29-of-63) from the field, aided by 44 points in the paint and 22 fast break points. The Lady Flames got to the foul line twice as often as the Red Flash (26-13), making 17 of them for 65.4 percent. Liberty outrebounded its third straight opponent to start the season, 45-32, turning 15 offensive boards into a dozen second-chance points. The Lady Flames went over the 20-steal mark (21 steals) for the first time since Nov. 22, 2011 versus UVA-Wise.
Liberty led by only six points (30-24) midway through the second quarter before ending the half on a 15-4 surge to take a 17-point halftime advantage. The run featured three fast break layups and triples by Emily Lytle and Ria Gulley. The Lady Flames also forced seven turnovers during the game-breaking surge.
• Liberty led by two (20-18) after the first 10 minutes, aided by free throw shooting (9-of-15) and strong play from its reserves. The Lady Flames got 13 bench points during the period, including the first five markers of freshman Melat Sissay's career.
• Jess Kovatch scored 10 first-quarter points for the visitors, who turned the ball over eight times during the session.
• Liberty's aforementioned 15-4 run was part of the Lady Flames' 25-point second quarter, their highest-scoring period of the season.
• The Lady Flames shot 4-of-6 from three-point range during the period, including a pair of triples by Gulley.
• After battling foul trouble for much of the first half, Bridgette Rettstatt scored eight points and came up with a pair of steals during the Lady Flames' 22-point third quarter.
• The Lady Flames held Saint Francis to eight points on 15.4 percent (2-of-13) shooting in the final 10 minutes.
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green Quotes
"We got a win! I know that makes everybody happy, and it certainly makes me happy. Everybody contributed on the defensive end, grabbed an offensive rebound or scored points. We continue to move forward, and hopefully we can learn from this game and continue to become even better. We've been working on our defense and making some adjustments, running some traps. We forced 31 turnovers, including 21 steals. It was a combination of speeding them up and jumping some passing lanes and disrupting their offense. I'm very pleased with that."
Notes and Nuggets
• Kierra Johnson-Graham doubled her previous career high with six steals. It was the most thefts by a Lady Flame since Feb. 2, 2015, when Sadalia Ellis came up with six steals against Radford.
• Bridgette Rettstatt's season-high 12 points came in just 16 minutes, and the sophomore also added a career-high three steals.
• Ria Gulley's 12 points established a new career high. She has now made 10 straight free throws and 15 of 16 for the season.
• Emily Lytle has scored in double figures in each of her first three games as a Lady Flame. She has now scored 47 points in her three contests at Liberty after tallying 46 total points during her freshman season at Little Rock.
• All 11 Lady Flames who dressed for the game scored points, including the first career markers for Melat Sissay (5), Lizzie Moore (3) and Jordan Peters (1).
• Although Saint Francis' Jess Kovatch scored a game-high 14 points, she shot just 4-of-14 from the field and 2-of-11 from three-point range. She entered the game as the active leader among all collegiate women's basketball players for points (2,185), career scoring average (22.1 ppg) and three-pointers made (356).
• The game was the first-ever hardwood meeting between the Lady Flames and Red Flash.
• Liberty is now 3-0 all-time versus Northeast Conference (NEC) members.
Liberty will take to the road for a trio of contests during Thanksgiving week, beginning with its first-ever matchup with Chattanooga, Wednesday at 7 p.m. It will mark the Lady Flames' first visit to McKenzie Arena since facing LSU there during the 2005 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship Sweet 16.
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018
Location: Chattanooga, Tenn. (McKenzie Arena)
Radio: LFSN Radio (90.9 FM The Light Lynchburg)
Tipoff: 7 p.m.