Feb 27, 2007

Blair breaks record as Flames take third place in Big South

by Eric Brown, Sports Reporter
The Liberty University men’s basketball team traveled away from the Hill City this week to play its final two regular season games.

By the end of the week, the Flames clinched the third spot in the Big South with key road wins.

On Wednesday, the Flames battled the Keydets of the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., in what proved to be another high-scoring affair for both teams.

The Flames appeared to heat up early as they took a 5-0 lead in the first 32 seconds of the half.
Less than two minutes later, the Keydets tied the contest, making it a 9-9 ball game. 

Liberty began to steadily pull away from VMI, going on a 17-0 run with 11:19 remaining in the period.

The run ended with senior guard Larry Blair surpassing Coastal Carolina’s Tony Dunkin for the Big South All-time scoring title.

“It’s rewarding,” said Blair.  “It was a blessing to do such a thing and have the record.”

By the end of the first half, the Flames held a 58-49 lead over the Keydets.

In the first half, Junior Alex McLean picked up his 11th double-double of the year, with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Liberty continued to maintain control early in the second half pulling out to a 66-50 lead. 

VMI climbed its way back into the game, cutting Liberty’s lead to seven with 15:11 remaining in the period.

The Keydets trailed the Flames by only six with less than 10 minutes to go in the game.

Nevertheless, Liberty pulled away once again with a 41-27 run, picking up a 118-108 victory.
McLean finished the game with a career high 40 points and 19 rebounds.

“I knew I wanted to give 100 percent,” said McLean. “We had been struggling on the road. I just wanted to help my team out the best I could.”

Blair scored 28 points of his own, followed by junior Dwight Brewington’s 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Liberty continued its road trip Saturday as it faced off against the Radford Highlanders at the Dedmon Center.

Turnovers plagued the Flames early as the Highlanders took an 8-5 lead at the 15:21 mark of the first half.

After several lead changes throughout the period, Liberty commanded a 31-25 lead over Radford by halftime.

In the second half, the Flames extended their lead to 10 points with 15:14 remaining in the game.
However, the Highlanders rallied back with a 9-0 run, slicing the Liberty lead to only one.

“We took a time out,” said Coach Randy Dunton. “We came up with a couple of quick stops and pushed the thing back to 49-40.”

The Flames maintained a solid lead throughout the final eight-and-a-half minutes of the game and were able to secure the 64-48 win.

The victory proved monumental as Liberty earned its first win in over 10 years in the Dedmon Center.

Blair led the way with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists.

McLean, with 16 points and 11 rebounds, garnered his 12th double-double of the season, and second in a row. Sophomore guard Anthony Smith had 11 points and eight rebounds.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Flames held Radford’s star player Chris Oliver to just 6-of-19 shooting from the field.

“I was really excited about our team’s composure,” said Smith. “It’s going along as planned.”

Liberty finishes out the regular season with an 8-6 conference record and a 14-16 record overall.

The Flames play host to VMI this Tuesday at the Vines Center in the first round of the Big South Tournament.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. Liberty looks to extend its season with another victory over the sixth seeded Keydets.

Contact Eric Brown at eqbrown@liberty.edu.
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