Jan 20, 2009

Curry’s 35 points lead Flames to 2-0 week

by Jake Petersen and Chris McNair

A jam-packed crowd was on hand Monday Night at the Vines Center as the Liberty Flames took on the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina University. The Flames secured a 68-55 victory in a game in which they trailed for most of the first half.

The Flames trailed up until 1:26 left in the first half as a result of a jumper by freshman Brolin Floyd, which gave the Flames a lead they would not relinquish.

The last two minutes of the first half brought about a shift of momentum for the Flames as they capped it off with a Kyle Ohman steal leading to an electrifying dunk by Floyd at the buzzer going into halftime.
The Chanticleers were paltry from beyond the arc in the first half as they attempted 11 field goals but sank just three for 27 percent. Liberty was not much better, connecting on just 4-of-12, but connected on 52 percent from the field in overcoming a slow start to lead 35-29.

Liberty came into the second half with two goals in mind: cause turnovers and limit leading scorer Joseph Harris. Although Harris scored 19 points in the game, Head Coach Ritchie McKay felt his team did a good job stopping Harris in the second half after he torched the defense for 12 points in the first half.

“We have lots of athletes on the perimeter and they were able to deny [Joseph] Harris the ball with their long arms,” said McKay.

The Flames’ defensive pressure provided a big boost for them, as Harris managed just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in the second half. Defensive stops were key in the victory and proved to be just the medicine Liberty needed to earn its 12th win of the year. The Flames caused 14 turnovers throughout the second half, not allowing the Chanticleers to establish any offensive momentum.

“Defensive stops are something that’s haunted us all year, so me and my teammates were able to make stops when we needed them the most,” Curry said following the game.

Floyd, along with freshman Seth Curry, scored a team-high with 15 points, followed by Anthony Smith, who contributed 14 points, including eight in the second half. Jesse Sanders and Johnny Stephene rounded out a balanced Flames attack with nine and eight points, respectively.
On Saturday afternoon, the Flames used a 20-3 first half run and a career high 35 points from Curry to earn a 91-80 road victory over Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in front of a Cameron Hall record crowd of 5,029, including several hundred Liberty fans.

Liberty held the high-flying VMI offense, which entered the contest tops in the nation in scoring, in check throughout the contest. A pesky Flames defense forced 16 turnovers and limited the Keydets to just 40 percent shooting, including 9-of-30 from beyond the three-point line, while the offense was led by the tremendous tandem of Curry and Smith, both of whom rank in the top-20 in the nation in scoring.

However, the Flames were careless with the ball in the opening minutes, as they committed three turnovers, which led to an early 7-2 VMI lead capped by a Keith Gabriel trey at the 17:34 mark.
Curry matched Gabriel’s three with a three of his own, bringing the Flames to within two at 7-5 with just over 15 minutes left in the opening stanza. Liberty’s 20-3 run was highlighted by a barrage of Curry jumpers, including three three-pointers over a seven-minute span and an emphatic Anthony Smith jam at the 2:13 mark.

Curry’s jumpers carried the Flames in the first half on the offensive end, as the nation’s No. 8 scorer (20.8 ppg) shot 7-of-10 from the field (4-of-5 from behind the arc) en route to 20 first half points as the Flames raced out to a 39-30 lead.

Smith made his presence known on both ends of the floor, as the senior corralled eight of his 11 first half rebounds on the defensive end and tallied 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Despite not having one starter over 6’6’’, Liberty dominated the glass in the first half, 26-15, which including eight offensive rebounds that helped the Flames build a nine-point cushion after the first 20 minutes of action.

An Ohman three and two more buckets from Smith to start the second half brought the Liberty advantage to 46-33. On the next possession, Brolin Floyd took a Jesse Sanders feed and slammed home two of his seven points to put the Flames up 48-36.

Liberty hit its largest lead of the game, 75-55, at the 6:04 mark following a pair of Ohman free throws, putting the game out of reach. VMI tried to come back, getting to within 12 with 2:13 left, but Ohman nailed a three and put home a layup to send the Flames to an 11-point victory.

Curry was unconscious from the field, missing just five of his 15 shots, and drilled all 11 of his free throw attempts during his career afternoon. Smith followed with 21 points and 17 rebounds while Ohman chipped in 16 points. Sanders, who played 37 minutes, collected 12 points and dished out eight assists.

Austin Kenon paced the Keydets with 21 points, while Chavis Holmes contributed 17 in the losing effort. Despite forcing 25 Liberty turnovers, including 15 steals, VMI was outworked on the boards as the Flames out rebounded the Keydets 48-30.

Liberty hits the road again tonight for a matchup against the last place Panthers of High Point tonight at 7 p.m.

Contact Chris McNair at cjmcnair@liberty.edu.
Contact Jake Petersen at jtpetersen@liberty.edu.


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