B-ball still looking for ‘w’

Flames fall by one in final seconds to visiting Georgia State Panthers

Woulda, coulda, shoulda — A dejected John Caleb Sanders, 33, walks off the court after the one-point loss Sunday. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

With 48 seconds to go, Devon Marshall hit his sixth three-point shot to give Liberty a 63-58 lead and what was believed to be the dagger against the Georgia State Panthers.

However, the Panthers stuck around and clinched a 67-66 victory.

The loss gives the Flames an 0-8 record — their worst start in school history — and an 0-3 mark, which is the worst home start in 22 years.

After Marshall pushed the lead to five late in the second half, Panthers center James Vincent converted a three-point play that closed the deficit to a 63-61 lead. With 25 seconds remaining, Marshall was fouled off the in-bound and made both free throws, giving the Flames a four-point lead. Georgia Sate quickly countered when guard R.J. Hunter drove down the baseline, made a dunk and received another old-fashioned three-point play.

With 16 seconds left, guard Casey Roberts was intentionally fouled and made the front end of two free throws, giving the Flames a two-point lead. Roberts missed the second, causing the Panthers to gather the rebound and call their last timeout to draw up one
final play.

Georgia State guard Devonta White quickly dribbled the ball up the court and penetrated the Flames defense with 12 seconds remaining in the game. White’s aggressiveness lured the Flames in the paint and left open guard Rashaad Richardson on the wing. Richardson, who has shot 23 percent from beyond the arc this season, buried a clutch three-pointer that gave the Panthers a 67-66 lead with 2.4 seconds left.

Traffic — JR Coronado charges through would-be defenders toward the basket. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

“It was a tough loss,” Head Coach Dale Layer said. “I thought on that last play, we played great defense, but we left (Richardson) open. He hasn’t shot well from three this season, but he made a big shot when it mattered most, and you can’t take that from him.”

“It is heartbreaking to lose a game like that,” forward JR Coronado said. “We played a solid game, but it is sad that we went out the way we did.”

With no timeouts remaining, guard John Caleb Sanders received the ball off the in-bound and heaved a half-court shot that hit the backboard and front rim.

“Well, you can’t do a lot with only two seconds, but it was a tough loss today,” Sanders said. “We prepared for this team all week and we worked really hard. It’s just tough that the game ended the way it did.”

At the beginning of the game, Liberty struck first when guard Tavares Speaks knocked down a three. This would be the trend for the rest of the first half.

The Flames hit eight shots from the beyond the arc. Marshall drained three of them and led all scorers with 12 points and an assist. Virginia Tech transfer and forward Manny Atkins led the Panthers with nine points and two rebounds.

The eight three-pointers helped the Flames jump to a 37-29 lead at halftime.
“It was one of my best games, but I would always trade in having a good game for a victory,” Marshall said.

Déjà vu from the home opener against William & Mary struck fans as the Panthers opened the second half with a 9-0 run and eventually took a three-point lead with 15:37 left.

Unlike earlier this season, the Flames persevered and eventually took a six-point lead when Speaks knocked down a two-point field goal, Marshall drained a three-pointer and Sanders and Coronado scored on layups with 12:43 left in the game.

Throughout the second half, the Panthers chipped away at the Flames lead. Coach Layer said his players “played a great game, but sometimes that is not enough.”

Liberty finished with three players in double figures, led by Marshall’s career high 25 points. Roberts completed the night with 11 points — four rebounds, three assists and two three-pointers. Off the bench, Sanders had nine points — six assists and five rebounds.

Georgia State had four players in double figures. Atkins and White finished with 17 points apiece. Hunter had 12 points — seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.

Liberty will host Southern Virginia Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Vines Center. The Flames will look to avoid their first ever 0-4 start at home this season.

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