Nov 18, 2008

Smith and Curry dazzle as Flames win big 97-77 over Montreat

by Chris Wong

Led by four players in double digits, the Liberty Flames men’s basketball team triumphed in its home opener against the Montreat College Cavaliers on Friday night, 97-77.

A packed Vines Center of 5,198 attendants housed fans ready for Liberty basketball’s season opener. Freshman Seth Curry scored the first points when he nailed a jumper from the top of the key on Liberty’s first possession. The jumper also marked the freshman’s first points in a Liberty uniform.

Curry then swished in a three-pointer to give the Flames a 5-0 lead and junior Kyle Ohman followed with a trey of his own to increase the lead to 8-1. The Flames were able to open up a 15-3 lead in the game’s first seven minutes and would never look back.

The Flames aggression in the first half helped to create a huge scoring margin as the lead grew to 32-15 after another Curry three-pointer with 6:13 on the clock. Montreat, however, went on an 18-13 run and cut the deficit to 10 at 34-24 with 3:45 left in the first half.

The Flames quickly combated any plan of the Cavaliers to come back in the game, ending the first half with a 9-5 run which put the score at 48-29 after the first 20 minutes of play. The Flames shot 42.9 percent in the first half, making 18-of-42 shots, including five three-pointers.

Curry was a major scoring factor in the first half as he recorded 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting. The freshman also notched three assists and four steals in the first half. Fellow freshman Brolin Floyd scored 10 points in the first half, while Preseason Big South Player of the Year Anthony Smith recorded nine points for the Flames.

“We just came in focused and were ready to defend early. We came out executing our offense and got easy shots,” Curry said.

It was Montreat, not Liberty, who came out firing in the second half as the Cavaliers went on an 11-5 run, which cut the Flames advantage to 13. After a Smith bucket plus a free throw pushed the Flames lead up to 16, two free throws from freshman Jesse Sanders and Ohman put the Flames back up comfortably by 20.  Liberty put the game out of reach at 5:24 with an Ohman three-pointer, making the score 88-58. Led by back-to-back jumpers from MJ Njoku and Terrell Mosley, Montreat powered some points on the board in the final minutes and eventually cut the lead to a 20-point differential.

Njoku turned in a solid performance in the loss, scoring 26 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.

Smith got hot in the second half and led the Flames with 25 points and nine boards while Curry kicked off his Liberty career in style, scoring 23 points and tying a Vines Center record with seven steals. Floyd knocked down a trio of three-pointers and finished with 15 points while Ohman finished with 14.

Smith, who is the only senior on Head Coach Ritchie McKay’s squad, feels good about this year’s team and the home-opening win.

“The game plan was to stick to what we do best. We try to execute on offense, stick to our defensive principles no matter what they do, and just execute what we do well,” Smith said. “I feel good about this team. All the guys want to get better because they’re students of the game.”

McKay was also pleased with his team’s performance.

“Everything started off well. We wanted to take advantage of our depth and get a lot of people to play to see if we could play hard,” McKay said.

The Flames will return to the hardwood this afternoon as they travel to UNC-Asheville for an early season conference game in ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. ESPN will televise the contest, which is set for 2 p.m.


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