Feb 6, 2007

Men stretch Big South win-streak to four games

by Eric Brown, Sports Reporter
The Liberty Flames men’s basketball team continued to have success as it picked up two conference wins at the Vines Center last week.

After this week’s action, the Flames are now riding a four-game winning streak.

Liberty kicked off the week with an 80-65 victory Tuesday night over UNC-Asheville.
The Flames hit 10 of their first 12 shots, giving them an early 9-1 lead over the Bulldogs. 

Excitement came in the form of senior Larry Blair when he hit a layup and scored his 2,000th career point just three-and-a-half minutes into the game.

“Larry has been a special player for us,” said Coach Randy Dunton. “He is barely a 6’0” guard and yet he finds dynamic ways to put the ball in the basket.

“He has been the heart and soul of the program for the past four years. We appreciate the work he puts in and the dedication to the team.”

Liberty continued to make plays on both ends of the court as it led by 19 with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.

The Bulldogs tried hard to keep themselves in the game, but by the end of the first half the Flames had a 38-24 advantage.

Excellent shooting and great defense contributed to Liberty’s first-half success as they hit 16 of 27 from the floor and held the Bulldogs to just 34.6 percent shooting.

The Flames remained consistent in the second half as they outscored the Bulldogs 29-24.

As a result, they went on to pick up another conference victory, extending their record to 4-4 in the Big South.

Although Larry Blair’s milestone gave fans something to cheer about, it was junior Dwight Brewington who led the team with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

“He brought a lot of energy off the bench in the first half,” said Dunton. “He continues to hit the offensive glass and cause his opponents problems. He was very solid defensively and also rebounded well on both ends.”

Strong bench scoring from Brewington, junior Russell Monroe, redshirt-freshman Tyler Baker and freshman B.J. Jenkins played a huge role in the Flames’ victory over the Bulldogs.

The team’s ability to create shots opened up scoring opportunities all night long.

“We’re getting easy shots because of defense, but we are back at home too,” said Dunton.
“It is always easier to eat mama’s cooking than to live on the road. It is a comfort zone for the guys.” 

The Flames remained in that comfort zone as they battled the High Point Panthers on Saturday.
Dunton knew going into the game that the Panthers’ guards Arizona Reid and Mike Jefferson would present some problems for the Flames defense.

A seesaw battle took place the first 10 minutes of the game as Liberty and High Point matched one another, score for score.

Blair, the Flames’ leading scorer, picked up two early fouls, causing him to sit out the majority of the game.

However, Liberty stood its ground as Baker and Brewington hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
A foul from High Point guard Tim Burns sent Jenkins to the foul line where he capitalized on a 3-point play of his own, giving the Flames a 23-15 lead over the Panthers.

The Panthers answered the Flames’ 9-0 run with a 15-5 run of their own, which was led by Reid.
“They came back, but we still came at them,” said Brewington. “We did not take a step back. We just kept on going forward.”

Liberty came out of halftime with a 33-32 lead over the Panthers. The defense played a huge role in the second half as they held High Point to only 39 percent shooting in the period.
The opening minutes mirrored the first period as both teams traded points. The Flames decided to turn things up a notch minutes later as Brewington scored six straight points, giving Liberty a 47-42 lead.

Blair would later cap off a 10-0 run with a jumper of his own as the Flames looked to pull away from the Panthers.

“We knew we had to put them away,” said junior Rell Porter. “We had to shut them down, get a stop, get out and run.”

The Panthers stayed within striking distance in the first part of the second half.
However, Liberty went on a 13-0 point run and took an 84-63 lead with just 2:32 remaining in the game.

During this run, Blair made two key free throws, becoming the number two all-time scorer in Big South history.

With time winding down, the Panthers could not contain the Flames’ explosive offense, which scored 63 points in the second half, giving Liberty a 96-79 victory and extending its winning streak to four games.

Brewington once again led the team with 28 points followed by Blair with 20 and Junior Alex Mclean with 16.

“Tonight was Brewington at the best that I have seen him on the floor,” said Dunton.

“(He was) athletically blocking shots, getting putbacks and rebounds and doing the things I believe he can do night in and night out.”

The Flames (12-13, 5-4 Big South) now leave home and carry their four-game win streak on the road against the Winthrop Eagles tonight in Rock Hill, S.C., in the Winthrop Coliseum at 7 p.m.

Contact Eric Brown at eqbrown@liberty.edu.

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