Strong Second Half Leads Saint Joseph's Women's Basketball Past Liberty, 77-65

PHILADELPHIA - Backed by a 26-7 run midway through the second half, the Saint Joseph's women's basketball team topped Liberty, 77-65, Saturday afternoon at Hagan Arena. The Hawks got a combined 39 points from sophomore Sarah Fairbanks and senior Erin Shields as they improved to 4-1 on the season.

Up 48-44 with 12:31 to play, Saint Joseph's asserted itself on both ends of the court over the next eight minutes as it took control of the game. Sparked by a Fairbanks layup off a pass from Jessica Pongonis, the Hawks would hit eight of its next 12 shots, and go 4-of-4 from the foul line as a pair of Pongonis free throws put SJU ahead 73-51 at 4:12.

Saint Joseph's defense, which created 24 turnovers and held the Lady Flames to just 31.7 percent shooting (20-of-63), forced five turnovers and held Liberty to 0-for-8 from the floor during its run, conceding all seven points from the foul line.

In a tight first half, the Hawks held a 29-21 advantage, but Liberty stormed back to finish the period, using an 11-6 run to make it just a 35-32 game.

The Lady Flames (0-4) would tie the game at 36-36 early into the second half, but Saint Joseph's pushed the lead to a two-possession game before going on its run to pull away.

For the game, the Hawks shot 45.5 percent from the field (25-of-55), including 15-of-27 in the second half for 55.6 percent. Behind the arc, Saint Joseph's converted on 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) and went 21-of-26 from the foul line (80.8 percent).

Individually, Fairbanks finished with a game-high 20 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Shields tallied 19 points and had three assists. Freshman Kathleen Fitzpatrick added a season-best 14 points off the bench, while junior Natasha Cloud had a team-best eight assists and seven rebounds to go with seven points.

At the other end, Liberty hit just 2-of-19 from three-point range (10.5 percent) and 23-of-28 from the foul line (82.1 percent). Individually, Katelyn Adams had 16 points to lead the Lady Flames, while Ashley Rinninger tallied 15 points and had 14 rebounds as Liberty outrebounded SJU 52-24.

Saint Joseph's returns to action this Tuesday at Princeton at 5:30.