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The Radford Women’s Basketball team went the distance against Liberty University Saturday, Dec. 1, in a game that opened conference play for both squads. With just seconds to spare on the clock, the Liberty Flames took the victory over RU in a 67-65 nail-biter.
The game kicked off with the Flames in the lead when an 8-4 start in the first four minutes of the game propelled them forward. RU got down by 10 points at the 12 minute mark, the highest deficit the Highlanders faced the entire game.
A three pointer from sophomore guard Ayana Avery with five minutes left in the first half pushed RU in front 27-25. The young star had eight points on the night, and went 2-5 from downtown.
The halftime score for the Highs put them ahead by four points at 36-32 over the Flames. RU went 15-31, shooting only a mere 48 percent field goal percentage.
“Going into the half, I felt good,” said senior guard Da’Naria Erwin Spencer. “But we just had to finish the game out.”
From the locker room, Erwin Spencer knocked down the first basket of the half with a layup in the paint. Leading the team with points scored at 28, Erwin Spencer climbed out as the Highs’ powerful force.
Much of the second half featured back and forth play. The highest lead RU picked up was nine points at the 13 minute mark, which collapsed when a layup from Liberty’s forward Jasmine Gardiner put the Flames back within two.
“I felt we did pretty well. We just have to finish,” said senior guard Ashley Buckhannon. “When we get the lead, we need to learn how to play with it and communicate with each other.”
Down the stretch, the game changed in LU’s favor. Ahead by just a small margin at the two minute warning, the Highs had the last lead of the game with 59 seconds left after a good free throw attempt by Erwin Spencer had RU up 65-64.
A good layup from forward Tolu Omotola put the Flames at a one point advantage. With 11 seconds left, and no choice but to foul, the Highs fell back by two points following a made LU free throw attempt.
With one last chance to tie the score and push the game into overtime, Erwin Spencer drove the length of the court, but the Flames were draped all around her forcing the senior to take an off-balance jumper that bounced off the iron as time expired.
“We fought hard for 40 minutes, but we still have to learn to capitalize on every play,” said Avery. “I think as a team we just need to work on our chemistry, everybody playing for the team and not just for themselves.”
In the game, RU took advantage of 21 points from the bench and 26 points off of turnovers. Overall, the Highs just went 27-62 in field goal attempts and only 3-12 from behind the arc.
The loss dropped RU to 3-3 overall in the early season, and 0-1 in Big South play.
The next game for the Highlanders will be on Wednesday, Dec. 5, on the road against University of North Carolina. The non-conference clash between the Highs and the Tar Heels is the second of three ACC foes RU will face this season. The third match-up will feature Clemson University in mid-December. The next Big South game will feature Longwood University at the end of the month.