Defense Makes the Difference in Liberty’s 67-45 Win Over Hampton

Local Sports

 LYNCHBURG, Va. – Liberty used a stout defensive effort to key a 67-45 victory over Hampton, Wednesday evening at Liberty Arena. The Lady Flames held the Lady Pirates to 21.7 percent field goal shooting, blocked six shots and came up with a season-high 12 steals.

      Liberty (2-3) improves to 2-0 at the brand-new Liberty Arena despite a sluggish start which saw the Lady Flames manage only five first-quarter points. Liberty broke the game open by outscoring its in-state foe 46-18 during the middle two periods.

      Hampton (0-1) drops its season opener despite a strong performance by Preseason All-Big South forward Nylah Young (15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals). The Lady Pirates’ other 11 players combined to shoot just 9-of-54 from the field.

Box Score Highlights

Liberty Individuals: Bridgette Rettstatt – 12 points, 7 rebounds; Mya Berkman – 8 points, 8 rebounds; Bella Smuda – 7 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks; Kennedi Williams – 8 assists.

Other Hampton Individuals: Victoria Mason – 7 points, 5 assists; Tia Montagne – 7 points.

Key Team Stats: Liberty shot 49.2 percent (29-of-59), aided by a season-best 44 points in the paint. The Lady Flames recorded 23 assists on 29 made field goals and have now tallied 49 assists in two games at Liberty Arena. Liberty enjoyed a season-high +15 (53-38) rebound margin. The Lady Flames connected on only 31.6 percent (6-of-19) from the free throw line after entering the game at 70.2 percent on the season.

Turning Point

Liberty led by just two points (19-17) after Nas Nigatu’s three-point play for the Lady Pirates, 3:36 before halftime. The Lady Flames then opened up some breathing room with an 11-0 run which spanned the second and third quarters, building a lead which remained in double digits for the remainder of the contest.

The extended spurt was highlighted by three-pointers on Liberty’s last possession of the first half (Makaela Kestner) and the opening possession of the second half (Emily Lytle).

Game Summary

First Quarter

• Liberty struggled against Hampton’s defensive pressure during the first quarter, tallying more turnovers (9) than field goal attempts (7) over the game’s first 10 minutes.

• Young scored the visitors’ first nine points of the contest, helping the Lady Pirates build a seven-point lead (9-2) on their way to an 11-5 cushion at the end of the stanza.

Second Quarter

• The Lady Flames’ defense was the story of the second quarter, as they held Hampton to 1-of-17 shooting from the field and six total points.

• At the opposite end of the court, Liberty shot 61.5 percent (8-of-13) during a 19-point period. Kestner’s three-pointer from the top of the key with 16 seconds remaining in the half gave the home team its largest lead up to that point (24-17), and that’s how the score stood at intermission. 

Third Quarter

• Liberty quickly scored six points within the second half’s first 1:13, closing out the aforementioned 11-0 overall run and extending its advantage to 13 (30-17).

• The Lady Flames went on to score more points during the third period (27) than they had during the entire first half (24), pushing out to a 51-29 lead.

Fourth Quarter

• The two teams scored 16 points apiece during the final 10 minutes of play. Liberty’s reserves accounted for all 16 points, including the first two of Sophia d’Oliveira’s collegiate career.

Notes and Nuggets

• Rettstatt was the lone Lady Flame to score in double figures and has now led the team in scoring in both Liberty Arena contests.

• Smuda grabbed a game-high and career-high nine rebounds in only 10 minutes of playing time. She also blocked two shots, giving her seven rejections in her first five collegiate games.

• Williams has dished out eight assists during both games at Liberty Arena for the two highest single-game totals of the sophomore’s career.  

• The Liberty men’s (2-0) and women’s basketball (2-0) teams both remain unbeaten at Liberty Arena. The Lady Flames have won seven straight home games, dating back to last season.

• Liberty has won seven straight head-to-head matchups with Hampton, including two in as many years.

• Wednesday marked the first time Liberty has hosted a Big South opponent since March 11, 2018, when the Lady Flames defeated UNC Asheville in the Big South Championship title game at the Vines Center.        

Up Next

The Lady Flames will remain at home on Sunday for their first-ever meeting with Carson-Newman. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Liberty Arena.

The contest will match up a pair of 20-win teams from last season, as the Lady Flames finished 20-11 and the Lady Eagles were 22-8.

Date: Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020

Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Liberty Arena)

TV: ESPN+

Radio: LFSN Radio (90.9 FM The Light Lynchburg)

Tipoff: 2 p.m.

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