Men’s basketball rebounds

After last-second loss to Longwood, Liberty bounced back to defeat Presbyterian

looking for an opening — John Caleb Sanders looks for space against Presbyterian. Photo credit: Leah Stauffer

Looking for an opening — John Caleb Sanders looks for space against Presbyterian. Photo credit: Leah Stauffer

The Liberty Flames (9-12, 3-3 Big South) men’s basketball team split two Big South Conference games during the past week. The Flames lost to the Longwood Lancers (7-14, 2-4 Big South), Wednesday, Jan. 22, 69-66 and defeated the Presbyterian Blue Hose (4-17, 0-6 Big South) Saturday, Jan. 25, 65-53.

Longwood 66, LU 63

With six threes under his belt, Longwood guard Lucas Woodhouse capitalized on another three-point opportunity to seal the Lancers 69-66 win. Despite tough defense from Flames forward Antwan Burrus, the Woodhouse three sent a dagger through the Flames with 2.9 seconds remaining in regulation.

“I was just feeling it,” Woodhouse said. “So I just pulled up, and it went in.”

After the Flames advanced the ball to halfcourt, they called a timeout with 2.2 seconds left. Off the inbound, forward Tomasz Gielo had a chance to send it to overtime, but his shot clanked off the rim.

“It felt pretty good,” Gielo said. “…When I got the ball, I was pretty far out, so I took a dribble and shot it. It felt good, but it didn’t go in.”

Liberty left Willet Hall still in search of their first victory at the venue (0-13).

“I thought we played a pretty good road game,” Flames Head Coach Dale Layer said. “But, they are a good team here.”

Although they were unable to control Woodhouse, who came into the game ranked second in the NCAA in assists, the Flames kept other scores, such as guard Tristian Carey, on lock.

“They did the same thing last year,” Woodhouse said. “So I knew going into the game I had to be aggressive. I hit a couple shots at the beginning of the game, which got my confidence up and carried it onto the second half.”

Guard John Caleb Sanders held Carey to seven points on 3-8 shooting (all in the second half).

“We did a good job on (Carey),” Layer said. “You’ve got to pick your poison a little bit. Carey got 40 on us last time we were here. … Woodhouse had a career game here tonight. When you overemphasize one thing, another thing is left.”

The Flames gained a seven-point lead to start the game behind 12 points from Gielo. However, toward the end of the half, Liberty could not hold onto the cushion and went into halftime up by four with the score 36-32.

In the second half, turnovers and poor shooting plagued the Flames. After shooting 53.8 percent in the first half, Liberty only shot 35.7 percent in the second. They also committed seven turnovers, bringing their total to 15 and leading to 18 Longwood points.

“We are addressing (turnovers),” Layer said. “We’re benching guys, we’re watching tape and we’re putting them in situations that mimic the game. … It’s no question that it’s been the Achilles’ heel of this team.”

Toward the end of the game, Burrus hit a jumper to put the Flames up 63-58. However, turnovers and a 5:24 scoring drought hurt Liberty.

Woodhouse hit three threes in the final 2:44 to seal the victory.

“(Woodhouse) made big shots,” Layer said. “We had a 6-foot-9-inch guy on him, and (shots) were challenged. You’ve got to give him credit.”

Gielo tied his career high with 20 points and added 10 rebounds as well. Center JR Coronado also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Burrus added 13 points and six rebounds.

Liberty 65, Presbyterian 53

The Flames bounced back from two straight losses with a 65-53 win over the Presbyterian College (PC) Blue Hose at home Saturday, Jan. 25.

“There’s nothing like a win,” Layer said. “(In past games we have been) struggling down the stretch, struggling with turnovers that allow us to not be the team we need to be. And to limit those tonight and to get a win, I think, allows us to feel a little bit better about ourselves.”

Dunk — Antwan Burrus scored his 1,000th career point against Presbyterian. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Dunk — Antwan Burrus scored his 1,000th career point against Presbyterian. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

In the first half, Liberty jumped out to an 8-4 lead behind two three pointers from senior guard Davon Marshall.

However, the Blue Hose answered with a couple threes of their own from the game’s leading scorer Jordan Downing. His second three went through the net with 12 minutes left in the half to give PC a 14-13 lead.

“Now (Downing is) the go-to guy,” Sanders said. “…You can try to contest (his shots), but … it’s almost like he doesn’t even feel you there.”

Only 30 seconds later, Sanders took back the Flames lead with a three, spurring a 12-3 run.

But the Flames defense faltered on the next several possessions. The nine-point lead quickly dwindled to one after an 8-0 PC run.

The two teams traded baskets to end the half with the Flames clinging to a 33-31 lead going into the locker room.

Although Liberty only shot 37.9 percent in the half, the Flames were able to hold onto the lead because of their ability to rebound.

With 21 rebounds, the Flames more than doubled the Blue Hose rebounding total of eight in the first half. Liberty’s ability to grab offensive rebounds led to 11 second-chance points for the Flames.

Also in the first 20 minutes, Burrus contributed five points and became the 24th Flame in history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark in his career.

To start the second half, Gielo provided a spark for the Flames with a layup and two three pointers. Three minutes into the half, Liberty had stretched the lead out to 44-35.

“(Gielo’s) threes were the daggers in the second half that allowed us to extend the lead, and that’s what we missed the first half,” Layer said.

By the second media timeout of the half, the Flames increased the margin to 10 with a triple from senior guard Casey Roberts.

Despite their best efforts and 24 total points from Downing, the Blue Hose never trailed by less than 10 for the remainder of the game.

The Flames held the Blue Hose to 22 points on 34.6 percent shooting in the second half. The Blue Hose finished 41.7 percent for the game.

“Defensively, we were much better second half than in the first half,” Layer said. “We limited them to contested jumpers, which they were making them, but it’s hard to live on them.”

The stingy defense also led to offense for the Flames, who converted seven Blue Hose turnovers for 11 points in the game. Liberty finished with a 43.6 shooting percentage.

Rebounding was also a determining factor in the Liberty win. The Flames out-rebounded the Blue Hose 41-18 on the night, and Liberty scored 16 total points off 17 offensive rebounds.

The Flames received contributions from their bench as well. Roberts scored eight on the night with two threes, and Burrus finished with a double-double on 12 points and 10 rebounds. Starters Sanders and Gielo each added 13 for Liberty. Sanders added 10 assists to complete the double-double.

“I think if I have more of a mindset of a point guard, not a scoring point guard, but really pass first, I think that’ll help us,” Sanders said. “And maybe late in the game, if I need to go get some buckets, I can do that.”

Liberty will head to Conway, S.C., to take on conference rival Coastal Carolina Wednesday, Jan. 29.

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