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JMU women nip Liberty

In a paint versus perimeter battle at the Vines Center, Thursday evening Liberty controlled the former, outscoring James Madison by 20 points from inside the lane. However, JMU guards Jasmine Gill and Tarik Hislop combined for 44 points, helping the Dukes remain unbeaten with a 62-58 victory.

Gill equaled her career high with 24 points, while Hislop added 20 markers. The duo helped James Madison, ranked No. 5 in the Women’s Mid-Major Top 25, improve to 5-0 on the year.

Meanwhile, Liberty drops to 3-4, despite a solid, 18-point, eight-rebound outing by redshirt senior center Avery Warley. Listed No. 24 in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25, the Lady Flames fall to 1-7 all-time against James Madison.

After James Madison scored the game’s first two points, Liberty reeled off a 9-0 run. Devon Brown, who scored three of those points, converted a steal into a layup 14:08 before halftime to put the Lady Flames on top, 9-2.

Shortly thereafter, the purple-clad Dukes held the Lady Flames scoreless for nearly eight minutes and took the lead for good on the evening. Nikki Newman helped JMU run off 17 straight points during the span, draining a pair of three-pointers during the surge. The junior’s triple from the right wing, giving the Dukes a 22-11 advantage at the 4:47 mark.

Liberty halted its drought with back-to-back three-point plays by Tolu Omotola and Warley, moving to within 24-17 with 3:48 on the clock.

But the Lady Flames would get no closer than seven points for the remainder of the opening half, as James Madison took a 29-21 edge into halftime.

Neither team shot the ball extremely well during the first 20 minutes of play, with JMU hitting 35.5 percent (11-of-31) of its field goals and Liberty making 25.8 percent (8-of-31). The Dukes outrebounded the Lady Flames, 24-22, but Liberty won the “points in the paint” battle, 16-6.

Warley’s seven points paced the Lady Flames’ first-half scoring attack, while tying Brown and Omotola for team-high honors with four rebounds.

JMU’s Gill led all players with 10 first-half points. Hislop chipped in eight points and three assists, while backcourt mate Kirby Burkholder corralled a half-best five rebounds for the Dukes.

Liberty quickly halved its halftime deficit by scoring the first four points of the second stanza. Brown’s left-handed layup at 18:52 made the score 29-25.

The Dukes rebuilt a seven-point advantage, before a 6-0 Lady Flames spurt. Brown’s fast break layup with 14:05 play shaved JMU’s cushion to a single point, 36-35.

James Madison responded quickly, tallying a 12-2 run. Gill accounted for the last five points of the surge, including a triple that made the score 48-37 in favor of the Dukes at the 12:06 mark.

The see-saw nature of the second half continued, with LaKendra Washington dropping consecutive three-point tries from the left wing. The junior’s second long-distance connection brought Liberty to within 48-43 at 11:17.

That was as close as the Lady Flames were able to get until Reagan Miller’s three-pointer from the left wing with 3:07 left made it 54-52, capping a 6-0 Lady Flames surge.

Hislop helped JMU regain control, nailing a perimeter jumper and finding Lauren Whitehurst for a wide-open layup on the Dukes’ next two trips to the offensive end. As a result, the visitors led 58-52 with 2:22 to play.

However Liberty did not go away. A pair of free throws by Brown with 55 seconds left closed the gap again between the Lady Flames and Dukes to two points, 60-58.

Gill countered with a perimeter jumper 18 seconds later, putting the final score at 62-58, as Liberty misfired on its last three shot attempts.

Liberty improved its field goal shooting in the second half, but still ended the contest at just 34.4 percent (22-of-64) from the floor. James Madison finished at 41.9 percent (26-of-62).

The Lady Flames had the upper hand from the foul line, connecting at a 78.6 percent (11-of-14) clip. Meanwhile, the Dukes struggled to a 46.2 percent (6-of-13) clip.

In addition to controlling the points in the paint category, 36-16, Liberty won the rebounding battle, 44-41.

The Lady Flames committed a season-low 14 turnovers, but the visiting Dukes converted those miscues into 20 points.

Warley’s 18 markers, which equaled a season high, put her over 1,100 for her career. The Washington, D.C. native has now posted 1,107 career points.

Brown contributed 13 points on a night where Liberty’s team and coaching staff donned red ribbons to memorialize the death of Brown’s mother, Jennifer Brown, on Nov. 22. Now just seven points shy of 1,000 for her career, Brown also grabbed a season-high nine rebounds.

Danika Dale also totaled nine boards, complementing her six points and team-high five assists. Omotola added eight points, six rebounds and a team-best two steals.

In addition to Gill’s 24 points, the Boston College transfer notched six rebounds and four assists. Hislop led the Dukes with five assists.

Outside sharpshooter Burkholder, ranked No. 5 nationally for three-pointers made, was limited to three points on Thursday. However, she contributed eight rebounds and four steals to JMU’s victory.

Liberty will remain within the Commonwealth of Virginia for its next five games, including a Wednesday contest at Virginia. Tipoff inside John Paul Jones Arena is slated for 7 p.m.

James Madison will tip off CAA play Sunday at 2 p.m., when the Dukes travel to Towson.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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