BOILING SPRINGS – Alexus Hill scored 21 of her career-high 27 points in the second half and overtime to lead Gardner-Webb to an 84-82 win over first-place Liberty Sunday afternoon in Paul Porter Arena.
Hill made a pair of short jumpers in overtime to twice give Gardner-Webb (7-8, 2-2 Big South) the lead and assisted on a short jumper by Carley Plentovich to put the Runnin' Bulldogs up 81-77 with 49.8 seconds left. Hill played just under the full 45 minutes, making 10-of-18 shots and dishing off four assists without a turnover.
Liberty (4-11, 3-1 Big South) dropped its first league contest, despite leading 21-12 after the first period and 37-28 at halftime.
The Flames' KK Barbour forced overtime with 5.4 seconds left after being fouled on a wing three-pointer. She calmly sank all three chances to tie the score, 73-73.
The two teams traded baskets to open the extra period until Gardner-Webb was able to string together a quick 5-0 run to take an 82-77 lead after a made free throw by Tierra Huntsman with 25 seconds remaining. Liberty would pull within one points with six seconds remaining after a three pointer by Ola Makurat, yet Hill would sink a free-throw with 3.2 seconds remaining to give the Runnin' Bulldogs a two-point edge. The Flames would not be able to get a shot attempt off in the final seconds to seal the Gardner-Webb win.
Liberty was strong out of the gates, going on a 10-0 run midway through the first period to build a 14-6 advantage. A pair of free throws from Huntsman would break up the run, yet the Flames would push their advantage to double-digits before leading by nine at the end of the period, 21-12.
Gardner-Webb would open the second period with a 5-0 run to pull within four points at 21-17 with 8:52 on the clock after a layup by Ky'Asia Stanford, but Liberty would once again push its lead to nine points with 4:59 remaining. The two teams would trade baskets for the remainder of the period, as Liberty led by a score of 37-28 at the half.
The Runnin' Bulldogs would change their defensive strategy to a press that led 11 turnovers by Liberty throughout the remainder of the game, while GWU only committed two during that span.
GWU would open the third period with a run of 12-3 to tie the contest at 40-40 with 5:00 on the clock. Liberty would score on its next two possessions to take a four-point lead, but the Runnin Bulldogs would answer with a 5-0 run to take a one-point lead with 2:22 on the clock after a layup from Stanford gave GWU the 45-44 advantage. GWU would go on to lead at the end of the period by two-points at 51-49.
Gardner-Webb would lead by as many as five points in the fourth period, leading 66-61 with 2:17 to go after a layup from Hill, but Liberty would chip away at that lead to tie the game with 12 seconds on the clock. Huntsman would convert an old-fashioned three-point play with 7.9 seconds to go, but Liberty would tie the game with 5.4 seconds remaining after Barbour's free throws that set up overtime.
Hill was the leading scorer of the contest with 27 points on a 10-of-18 shooting performance, while Huntsman (15 points) and Stanford (12 points) also reached double figures for Gardner-Webb.
Liberty was led offensively by Barbour who had 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
The Runnin' Bulldogs return to action on Tuesday evening, hosting UNC Asheville at 7:00 pm. The game can be viewed via the Big South Network (www.bigsouthsports.com).