Jan 30, 2007

High-flying Flames take record-setting game

by Mitchell Malcheff, Sports Reporter

On Saturday night Liberty and VMI combined for 239 points in a shootout that broke 12 Vines Center records — including most combined points. The Flames completed the week 2-0 after a win at Charleson Southern last Monday.

The win snapped a streak of 21 straight road losses covering almost two years. Liberty defeated the Buccaneers 66-63 as Larry Blair drained clutch free-throws with 10 seconds left. 

The victory over Charleston Southern came after three straight losses, and improved the Flames to 2-4 in the Big South. The game was characterized by strong runs from both teams.

The Buccaneers started out on a 7-2 run, which the Flames quickly countered with an 11-2 run of their own.

Junior Dwight Brewington made a three-pointer with 6:19 remaining in the first half, which helped open up a 26-15 lead for the Flames.

A 13-8 run by the Buccaneers to close out the half cut the Flames lead to 34-28, as CSU’s Terrence Greir capped off the first half with a three-pointer as time expired.

The Buccaneers carried their hot shooting into the second half, led by Donnell Covington. He hit five second half three-pointers, including one at 13:28 that gave the Buccaneers a 44-38 lead.
The Flames came back strong, and with 2:29 remaining they held a 60-55 lead.

Covington did his best to keep Charleston Southern in the game, hitting a three-pointer — while falling out of bounds — that cut the Flames lead to 64-63 with 18 seconds left.

Senior Larry Blair, who led Liberty with 15 points, was fouled with 10 seconds left, and hit both free-throws to seal the win for the Flames.

Junior Alex McLean also came up big, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Baker was solid off the bench, chipping in eight points and three rebounds.
The Flames were solid on both ends of the floor, hitting 54.2 percent of their shots while limiting the Buccaneers to 42.9 percent shooting.

Covington led the Buccaneers with 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Dwayne Jackson also had a solid game, contributing 11 points.

The Flames returned home on Saturday night to face the high-octane offense of the Virginia Military Institute, which averages 102.9 points per game.

The Keydets offense was in full swing — but so was the Flames — who eked out a 122-117 victory in one of the most exciting games in recent Flames history.

Liberty came out hot, opening up a 9-2 lead in the first two minutes of the game.

The Flames maintained a comfortable lead throughout the first half, highlighted by a monster dunk from Brewington that put them ahead 42-27 with 6:55 remaining.

“That’s the only thing I can do, coming off the bench. Coach knows I’ll be hungry,” said Brewington, who scored a career-high 30 points for the Flames off the bench on a combination of strong drives and athletic inside play.

On a night that saw four players score over 15 points, McLean was a dominating presence in the post, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. It was his ninth double-double.

“(The Keydets defenders) were trapping, so it was just catch and shoot,” McLean said.

McLean, who scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half, seemed to enjoy the pressure of the up-tempo game. “It was very exciting, the nerves are going, but you try to calm yourself down.”

The Flames led 65-42 at the half. Their 65 points in the half broke a 15-year-old record for points in a half. The previous record, 57, was set against  Averett on Dec. 12, 1992.

The Keydets pressure defense started to wear the Flames down in the second half, and what was a 13-point lead at halftime turned into just a three point 118-115 Liberty lead after a three-pointer by VMI’s Reggie Williams with 30 seconds remaining.

The Flames hung tough, though, and a pair of Blair free-throws with 12 seconds remaining sealed the victory.

Among the 12 Vines Center records broken were 33 team assists and 45 team field goals.

Blair, who was honored before the game for breaking the Liberty men’s basketball scoring record, scored 30 points for the Flames, including six in the last minute.

He finished the contest just two points shy of 2,000 for his career.

The Keydets were led by the strong play of forward Reggie Williams, who shot 14-21 from the field on his way to a 40-point night. Chavis Holmes also scored 17 points for VMI.

Liberty (9-12, 3-4 Big South) plays its next game in the Vines Center on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. against UNC-Asheville.

Contact Mitchell Malcheff at mjmalcheff@liberty.edu.

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