Ilic, Barbour lead Liberty past Presbyterian, 68-60
Iva Ilic scored a career-high 17 points and KK Barbour fashioned her first career double-double (career-high 10 points, career-high 13 rebounds), helping Liberty hold off Presbyterian, 68-60, Tuesday evening at the Vines Center.
The Blue Hose twice trimmed an 11-point second-half deficit to two, including on Cortney Storey’s layup with 5:32remaining. But Liberty sealed its third straight Big South victory with an ensuing 8-0 run. Ilic punctuated the surge with a triple and a long two-pointer, putting the Lady Flames in front for good, 65-55, with just 2:30 to play.
Liberty, now 4-10 overall and 3-0 in Big South play, is tied for first place in the conference standings with Commonwealth rival Radford. The Lady Flames’ size played a major role in helping them avenge two regular-season defeats to PC a year ago. Liberty grabbed 24 offensive rebounds on its way to a 48-27 advantage on the glass, while tallying 34 points in the paint, 21 second-chance points and a season-high eight blocked shots.
Ilic and Barbour were joined in double figures by Keyen Green (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Audrey Rettstatt (10 points), as Liberty scored its most points in its last nine meetings with the Blue Hose. Meanwhile, Kierra Johnson-Graham collared a career-best 10 rebounds for the victors.
Presbyterian suffered its first Big South loss of the season and saw its three-game road winning streak halted. The Blue Hose dropped to 4-10 overall and 2-1 in the Big South, despite 16 points from Taylor Petty. PC entered the game as the Big South leader in three-pointers made, but connected on just 1-of-16 attempts from beyond the arc during the final three quarters and 21.7 percent (5-of-23) for the game.
One day after being named Big South Freshman of the Week for the third time this season, Green scored six points during the game’s first 2:53 of action, giving the Lady Flames an early 8-4 advantage.
Petty’s four-point play at the 4:49 mark was part of a 12-point quarter for the PC sophomore. The lead changed hands six times during the opening 10 minutes, before the Blue Hose took a 23-21 lead into the second quarter.
After Presbyterian had made 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) field goals in the first quarter, Liberty turned up the defensive pressure. The Lady Flames held the Blue Hose without a made field goal for a 5:21 stretch of the second quarter, running off a 10-1 run during that time. Rettstatt closed the Lady Flames’ surge with four straight points, including a three-pointer from right in front of the bench which put Liberty on top by a 37-28 count, 3:38 before halftime.
Liberty retained its advantage for the remainder of the stanza, taking a 42-35 cushion into the intermission. The Lady Flames built their lead around the basket, grabbing 27 first-half rebounds to PC’s 11, scoring 22 points in the paint, blocking five shots and converting 15 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points. Green led the way with 13 points, seven boards and a pair of blocked shots.
Presbyterian kept the game close by taking advantage of its free throws. The Blue Hose shot 73.3 percent (11-of-15) for the half, highlighted by Petty’s 5-of-5 effort. The 2015-16 Big South Freshman of the Year paced all players with 16 points before the break.
With Green sidelined for much of the third quarter after picking up her third foul, fellow post player Barbour picked up the slack with six points, four rebounds and two blocked shots during the period. Her pair of free throws at the 4:46 mark gave Liberty its second 11-point advantage of the quarter at 51-40.
However, the Lady Flames did not score for the remainder of the period. Janie Miles tallied the first four points of PC’s 7-0 surge to end the quarter, cutting the visitors’ deficit to 51-47.
Liberty made 62.5 percent (5-of-8) of its field goal attempts during the fourth quarter and knocked down 60 percent (6-of-10) of its free throws to withstand Presbyterian’s comeback. Rettstatt scored six fourth-quarter points and Ilic added five for the Lady Flames.
Presbyterian’s Storey scored all 11 of her points after halftime, including seven in the final quarter, but it was not enough for the Blue Hose, who shot 38.5 percent (20-of-52) from the field for the game.
Liberty countered at 40 percent (24-of-60) from the field and hit one more triple than PC, knocking down 33 percent (6-of-18) from long range on the night. The Lady Flames also overcame a 56 percent (14-of-25) performance from the foul line.
Ilic’s 17 points were highlighted by a career-high four three-pointers on just six attempts.
In addition to her double-double, Barbour paced the Lady Flames with three blocked shots, matching her career high, and chipped in three assists.
Nene Johnson came off the Liberty bench for nine points, a game-high five assists and a career-best three steals.
Miles made it three Blue Hose in double digits with 11 points, while Salina Virola pulled down a team-best six rebounds.
Liberty will travel to Gardner-Webb (6-8, 1-2 Big South) Sunday afternoon for a contest to be televised on the American Sports Network. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. from Paul Porter Arena for the 20th meeting between the Lady Flames and Runnin’ Bulldogs.