LYNCHBURG, Va. - In just their first year in the league, the No. 3 Liberty Flames are headed to the ASUN Championship Final after defeating No. 5 North Florida on Wednesday night in Lynchburg by a score of 65-51. Emily Lytle was the high scorer of the contest, as she led the Flames with 18 points on 6-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-8 from three-point land.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the first half, as Liberty jumped out to a 12-7 lead in the first quarter. North Florida came roaring back to end the first frame on an 8-2 run to take a 15-14 lead. It was much of the same in the second quarter, as the Flames began the second stanza on a 6-0 run. The Ospreys once again responded with a 9-0 run of their own to take a 24-20 lead. The Flames and Ospreys would carry a 29-29 tie into the locker room. UNF's Adrienne Jackson was the story in the first half, as she scored 16 points to lead all scorers. Guard Ria Gulley had 10 points to lead the Flames.
Defense was the name of the game for the Flames in the second half. They surrendered just eight points in the third quarter and held the Ospreys to 30.8 percent from the field. The stout defense helped grow a seven point lead, as Liberty took a 44-37 lead into the final frame. In the fourth and final quarter, Liberty outscored UNF 21-14, and allowed the Ospreys to shoot just 29 percent from the floor. The Flames owned the board, out rebounding North Florida 41-31 overall and 13-7 on the offensive glass. For the game, Liberty forced UNF into 20 turnovers.
Kierra Johnson-Graham finished with 14 points, six rebounds and was a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line. As a team, Liberty did most of their damage from the charity stripe, as they shot 18-19. Lytle scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half and was 3-of-5 from deep. Gulley finished with 10 points, while Ashtyn Baker also put a 10 spot in the score book.
Jackson finished the game with 16 points for North Florida, while Ty Purifoy missed a double-double by just one assist with 12 points and nine assists. Jazz Bond enjoyed a productive night for Ospreys, as she scored 14 points, grabbed five boards and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the free-throw line.
The Flames now advance to the ASUN Women's Basketball Championship Final on Sunday, March 17th, where they will battle with the No. 1 seed FGCU Eagles. The Eagles disposed of No. 7 Kennesaw State on Wednesday night by the score of 77-48. The Championship Final will tip at 3 PM ET and can be seen on ESPN+.
ASUN Conference Women's Basketball Championship Notes
- Liberty advances to its fourth conference title game in the last five seasons
- The win marked Liberty's 300th win at the Vines Center. They finish the year 10-5 at home
- Liberty is the first team since 2015 to make the final in their first year eligible for the ASUN Championship
- North Florida finishes the year with a record of 15-14, the team's first winning record as a D-I team