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Liberty takes over, handles UCA women

by Adam Cole | January 23, 2022 at 2:26 a.m.

CONWAY -- The University of Central Arkansas women's basketball team quite literally had a tall task on its hands Saturday.

The Sugar Bears played host to Liberty, which boasts a roster with seven players 6-0 or taller. It also has a top-five defense in the country in points allowed per game (50.3) and opponent field-goal percentage (32.6%).

The Flames stuck to their guns, downing the Sugar Bears 79-51 at the Farris Center and extending UCA's losing streak to three games.

"In spurts, we played hard," UCA Coach Sandra Rushing said. "But when you're playing a team like Liberty, who's better; They're a better basketball team, and that's where we want to be. ... They're big, they shoot it well, they take care of the ball."

Central Arkansas (6-10, 1-4 ASUN) was shut down at the basket. The Sugar Bears' 18-of-60 mark from the field was its third-worst shooting performance of the season, and its 9.1% three-point percentage was also its third-worst mark showing.

Randrea Wright's performance was one of UCA's few bright spots. She finished with a team-high 15 points and had 4 assists and 2 steals.

"I love her heart and how she competes," Rushing said of Wright.

UCA's nine turnovers were their fewest in a game this season. It also pulled down more offensive rebounds (16) than Liberty (12) and grabbed nine steals.

Lucy Ibeh returned after a one-game absence against Jacksonville State on Wednesday. Ibeh, who was dealing with a non-covid illness, is at 100%, according to Rushing. Ibeh finished Saturday with 7 points, 4 steals and 2 rebounds.

Liberty (17-2, 5-1) had its most efficient shooting outing this season, making 30 shots on 50 attempts (60%). Fifty of Liberty's 79 points came inside the lane, and it grabbed 41 rebound's to UCA's 26. The Flames took hold early, finishing the first quarter with a 24-8 lead.

Five Flames finished in double figures, with Mya Berkman tallying a team-high 19 points. Berkman, who came into Saturday ranked second in the NCAA in individual field-goal percentage, tied her third-best scoring performance this season, previously scoring 21 on Jan. 5 against Stetson, and 24 on Nov. 13 against Ohio.

Priscilla Smeenge (13), Bella Smuda (11), Bridgette Rettstatt (10) and Dee Brown (10) joined Berkman as the nucleus of Liberty's scoring.

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