Nov 17, 2009

Flames blow out Southern Virginia

by Jake Peterson

The Liberty Flames opened their 2009-2010 season with a 76-72 road loss at George Mason on Friday night before following up the narrow loss with a 89-53 blowout of Southern Virginia on Saturday.

Senior Kyle Ohman got hot from long distance early to put the Flames ahead 6-0 with back-to-back three-pointers, but the Patriots stormed back and, took a 40-27 lead going into halftime.

Coming out in the second half, sophomore point guard Jesse Sanders knocked down a jumper to bring the score to 40-29. The Patriots countered with a trey from Andre Cornelius, which quickly upped the home team’s advantage to 43-29. The Flames offense stalled, however, which allowed George Mason to take a 19-point lead after Sherrod Wright’s free throw at the 14:19 mark.

The Flames mounted a furious comeback, slicing the lead to three with 2:31 left to play after Carter McMasters two free throws. However, clutch free throw shooting from the Patriots down the stretch enabled the home team to scurry away with a 76-72 victory.

The Flames returned to the hardwood the following night on Saturday inside the Vines Center for a match up with Southern Virginia. Despite playing two games within a 24-hour span, the Flames overpowered the Knights and ran away with an 89-53 victory.

It did not look good from the beginning, however, as Southern Virginia raced out to an eight-point lead behind a pair of treys from Bryce Pendleton and Cory Evans and a layup from Ade Swan.

“We came out and rushed a little bit on offense and that allowed them to do what they do best which is getting out on the fast break and get some open shots,” Ohman said. “We weren’t necessarily too worried about it at the beginning because we knew if we played our game we would put ourselves right back in it.”

Ohman finally got the Flames on the scoreboard at the 15:05 mark as the senior drove through the lane for two of his 13 first-half points. After the first two points were put up, it seemed as if the Flames offense sprung to life. Liberty tied things up at eight following a pair of Ohman free throws and a baseline pull-up jumper from McMasters. Freshman Evan Gordon’s layup at the 12:16 mark jumpstarted a 15-0 run for the Flames that saw the lead balloon to 25-10 before Pendleton knocked down a deep three to end the spurt.

The Flames generated another run before the end of the half, as Patrick Konan’s layup with 1:29 left capped a 14-3 run that saw the Flames jump ahead 39-16. The Knights headed into the locker room down 20 as Derek Cutler knocked down a three-pointer from the corner as time expired.

The beginning of the second half was the Tyler Baker Show, as the fifth-year senior scored the first six points of the half to put the Flames up 45-19. Redshirt sophomore David Minaya got the Flames faithful out of their seats with a rim rocking follow-up slam off Gordon’s missed layup, which extended the lead to 26.

After shooting a respectable 14-of-32 from the field in the first half, the Flames poured it on in the second half, making 22-of-36 shots (61.1 percent) and three-of-five three-pointers. Their stellar performance from the field enabled the Flames, who led by as much as 37 at one point, to run away with an 89-53 victory, the first of new head coach Dale Layer’s career.

“We settled for quick shots early in the game that were not shots that we create for each other.

When that happens they can get easy run outs and open looks,” Layer said.

“I thought we corrected that. We were much more selective and we attacked the rim much better. That’s the way we’ve got to play,” Layer said.

“Our defense I thought was much better in the second half, which
fueled our offense.”

With their first win under their belts, the Flames will face a tough test on Tuesday morning as the nationally ranked Clemson Tigers (No. 24) invade the Vines Center. In last year’s meeting at Clemson, the Flames narrowly missed a shot at an upset, falling 80-75. The game will be featured as part of ESPN’s annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, and will begin at an unusual 10 a.m. starting time.

Despite having confidence following their first win of the season, Layer feels that his young team will have their hands full against an experienced Tiger squad.

“To say we’ll have our hands full would be a gross understatement. They’re a nationally ranked team deservedly so. They’ve got experience and a very, very good coach in Oliver Purnell. It will take every ounce of everybody all morning to have a chance but it’s an exciting opportunity to have them come to the Vines Center and we’re looking forward to it and to give it our best shot,” Layer said.

Contact Jake Petersen at
jtpetersen@liberty.edu. 


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