Mar 2, 2010

Flames finish regular season with win at Charleston Southern

by Ryan Carr

With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Liberty men’s basketball team headed down to South Carolina last weekend to face off against conference rivals Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern.

The Flames started the weekend early against Coastal Carolina on Thursday. The Chanticleers, looking to clinch the No. 1 overall seed for the upcoming Big South Tournament, took control of the game early with a 7-0 lead and never looked back, winning 71-48.

The Flames fought back early to pull within five points with the score at 11-6, but Coastal Carolina quickly responded and went on a 15-1 run. The Chanticleers held the Flames scoreless for almost 10 minutes and built a 28-10 lead with five minutes left in the first half. The first half ended with Coastal Carolina on top with a commanding 34-15 lead.

“Coastal did a good job of pressuring the ball, they scattered us well and did a really good job of taking us out of our sets. We on the other hand didn’t counter their defense well at all. We had some quick shots and we obviously didn’t take care of the ball,” Jesse Sanders said.

The second half was not any kinder to the Flames as Coastal Carolina continued to stay in control of the game. Logan Johnson opened the half with a three-pointer for the Chanticleers but sophomore guard Jeremy Anderson quickly responded with a three of his own. With the score at 43-18 in favor of the Chanticleers, the Flames went on a run of their own.

In a span of 4:35, the Flames went on a 14-3 run with contributions from freshman Evan Gordon, Patrick Konan, Sanders and senior Kyle Ohman to pull the score to 46-32 with a little over 10 minutes remaining. Liberty was unable to get any closer as the Chanticleers went on to finish off the Flames 71-48.

“We finally started turning things around in the second half but it was too late. They took us out of what we normally do and we didn’t respond well. We tried to beat them ourselves individually,” said Sanders.

The Flames were able to respond with a much more impressive performance against Charleston Southern on Saturday at the CSU Field House with a 74-61 victory over the Buccaneers.

Sanders and Gordon, who each tied their career-highs with 16 and 24 points respectively, led the Flames in the scoring department. Gordon wasted no time in getting his name on the score sheet as he opened up the game with a three-pointer to give the Flames the early lead. Jeremy Sexton responded for the Buccaneers with five of the next seven points as Charleston Southern took a 7-3 lead.

With 11:24 remaining in the first half freshman Chris Perez knocked down a three-pointer to pull the Flames within one point, 13-12. A Kenny Mitchell dunk gave the Buccaneers the 21-18 lead before Sanders tied it up with his first three of the game.

Sanders tied the game up again with another three-pointer to put the score at 28-28 and the Flames end the half on a 6-0 run to go into the break with a slim 31-28 lead.

“We were doing what coach had asked of us and we needed to clean up the glass a little bit. They were rebounding hard on us, but we stayed the course and be intentional about coming out with more fight than they did coming out in the second half,” said Sanders.

The Buccaneers came out fast and retook the lead with a 7-0 run to put the score at 35-31. Sanders trimmed the lead down to two by hitting two free throws. Gordon then tied the game up at 35 with a steal off of Jamarco Warren and a layup.

“We just really stuck together and played together. We executed on defense and had a lot of stops,” said Gordon.

Both teams traded scores for a few minutes until 10:56 when Liberty grabbed a 49-44 lead after free throws from freshman center Carter McMasters and another three from Gordon. The Flames went on to a 14-3 scoring run to take the lead 58-47. With a little over three minutes remaining the Buccaneers were able to cut the lead down to 10 off of a Warren three-pointer.

Liberty continued to pull away and finished off the Buccaneers and the 2009-2010 regular season with a solid 74-61 victory. The Flames finish the season with a 15-15 overall record and a 10-8 conference mark. Liberty enters the 2010 Advance Auto Parts Big South Men’s Basketball Championship as the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 Winthrop on Tuesday night on the road.

“We have got to be the tougher and scrappier team and that’s going to be tough because Winthrop does a very good job of both of those things. That’s our focus going into Winthrop, we have got to be the team that outworks them outhustles them and plays as a team. The regular season doesn’t matter,” said Sanders.

Contact Ryan Carr

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