Mar 24, 2009

Men's Basketball (2)

by Axel Cerny

As the Liberty men’s basketball team continued their postseason action last night in the Vines Center against James Madison, they participated as part of an elite group of 40 college basketball teams still playing this late in March. As senior guard Anthony Smith put it after last Tuesday night’s victory over Rider (19-13) in the opening round of the CIT, “At the end of the year, only four teams will finish their season with a win and we have the chance to be one of those teams.”

The Flames (23-11) kept their hopes of winning the postseason tournament alive on Tuesday evening against Rider by opening up on fire from the field and riding a 25 point, nine rebound effort from a senior who doesn’t want his season to end. Smith had some help from the outset, though, in the form of some sweet shooting from fellow guards Kyle Ohman and Seth Curry, both of who knocked down shots to give Liberty a 13-3 advantage by the 15-minute mark.
Though the Rider Broncos battled to score four straight points near the end of the half, they found themselves overmatched to the tune of a 47-27 deficit at the intermission. The Flames were assisted by a 69.2 percent (18-of-26) field goal percentage including shooting 66.7 percent (6-of-9) from the three-point line in the half. As a result of some solid defense from Liberty, the Broncos only made good on 31.3 percent (10-of-32) of their shots from the floor in the first stanza.

With a 20-point mountain to climb, Rider was determined coming out of the break cutting the lead to 15 after a basket from Novar Gadson with 16:48 remaining. Liberty held strong, however, and proved too much for the Broncos to handle as freshman scorer Seth Curry nailed a three-point basket as the shot clock expired with 6:49 remaining in the contest.

Rider would make one more surge cutting the lead down to 11 with just over two minutes remaining, but a couple free throws from Curry and a layup by Smith would seal the deal. As time expired, it would be the Flames advancing with a 79-64 victory over the Broncs from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Association.

As mentioned, Smith led all scorers with 25 points. Curry added 19 points and five rebounds, while Ohman contributed 13 points and tossed out four assists.

Coach Ritchie McKay was also very grateful to get freshman point guard Jessie Sanders back as he put it, “as close to 100 percent as he’s been in awhile.” Sanders tallied 10 points, four rebounds and three assists in a typical balanced effort from the Texas native.

On the other side of the court, Gadson had a noteworthy night, scoring a career high 24 points off the bench in a losing effort. Rider’s coach Tommy Dempsey had nothing but praise from the Flames, saying, “We were outplayed tonight. Coach McKay prepares his guys well, and Liberty deserved to win.” He had special praise for Anthony Smith, whom he said was “a terrific player” and a “very tough matchup” throughout the night.

Coach McKay said that his squad was particularly motivated “because this is the postseason and if we lose, our season is over.” He added that, “The team showed great character, as we had great practices all week leading up to the game.”

With the Flames hosting James Madison on Monday night in the quarterfinals of the CIT, Liberty hoped to knock off a team that has controlled their all time series 6-2. JMU advanced to the quarterfinal round after a 69-58 triumph over visiting Mount St. Mary’s.
Results of the JMU game were not in for press time. For updated game story, check out

Contact Axel Cerny at


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