Jan 26, 2010

Men’s basketball wins big over Radford

by Daniel Martinez

It is said in team sports, that championships cannot be won at the beginning of a long season, but they can be lost. So it is with a single basketball game. You cannot win the game in the first few minutes, but you can lose it.

The Liberty University men’s basketball team found that to be true on Thursday in a game against the High Point Panthers in North Carolina, but followed the loss with an impressive victory over 2009 NCAA tournament participant, Radford.

After the opening exchange found the Flames down 3-2, the Panthers took off, running the score up to 13-2, and never looked back. As a result, the Flames were forced to play catch-up in front of a hostile crowd, and fell short in an 81-53 defeat.

“We weren’t as locked in defensively as we needed to be,” sophomore guard Jeremy Anderson said. “I don’t think we quite matched their intensity out of the gate. That let them off to a hot start, and we could never really recover from that.”

The Flames fought back, refusing to give up, but despite putting 50 points on the board, they were beaten soundly, the slow start proving to be their Achilles heel.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” sophomore guard David Minaya said. “So (if) they have a big run, and we have a big run, chances are it’s going to be kind of tough for us to get out of that hole.”

It was also the Flames’ first game entirely without the services of senior guard Kyle Ohman, the team’s leading scorer this season. Ohman fractured the scaphoid bone in his left wrist in the Jan. 14 game against Gardner-Webb. He came off the bench in the Flames’ Saturday game against UNC-Asheville, but was unable to play against High Point after having surgery on the wrist earlier on Thursday.

“We miss him out there,” Anderson said. “He’s our senior leader, our leading scorer and he brings a lot of toughness.”

Ohman has averaged 14.8 points per game this season.
“(This is) the first Flames team that has played without him in three years,” head coach Dale Layer said. “(Kyle) plays three different positions, helps us with ball handling, rebounding, scoring and defense.”

Now wearing a cast on his left arm, Ohman may miss up to six weeks.

“I’m not trying to get anybody to feel sorry for us,” Layer added.
Even without Ohman, the Flames fought back, making it a four-point game (23-19) at one juncture. But they just could not stop the bleeding. High Point guard Nick Barbour dropped 24 points on them, with forward Corey Law adding 12. As a team, High Point made 45.2 percent (28-of-62) of their shots, compared to 33.3 percent (15-of-43) for Liberty. Anderson led the Flames in scoring with 11 points.

“We’re not where we want to be, and we’re not satisfied,” Layer said. “But you move forward, you overcome adversity, and when you fight everyday, you get better, and this is a team that has consistently done that.”

Following Thursday’s loss, the Flames ended a two-game losing streak by shocking Radford at home on Saturday, 60-55.

Playing in a close contest that rarely saw deficits of more than five points, the Flames played from behind most of the game until sealing the deal late in their win.

After Thursday’s loss to High Point, the Flames were 9-11 on the season and just 4-4 in conference play. That made the 10-7 Highlanders an imposing opponent, even with the Flames’ streak of recent success at the Dedmon Center.

Following the opening tip at 6 p.m., the Flames raced to a 10-6 lead. But Radford, following the lead of 6-foot-11 center Art Parakhouski, fought back, tied the game and took the lead. Both teams took their turns at the foul line and the three-point line, passing and shooting, and the Flames crept to within three points, 31-28, at halftime.

The Flames came out of halftime and immediately went to work chipping away. With just under 10 minutes remaining in the game, sophomore guard Jeremy Anderson sunk a three-pointer to give the Flames their first lead in almost 20 minutes of play. Radford then hit a bucket to make it 41-40, but they could not hold the slim lead. The Flames cruised with seven unanswered points to build a 47-41 lead, and despite furious charges from Parakhouski and the Highlanders, held it for the victory.

Liberty made 46 percent of its shots in the win, with 23 of its 50 attempted shots finding net. Freshman guard Evan Gordon and sophomore guard Jesse Sanders each finished with 16 points.
This solid team effort held off a strong effort from Parakhouski (28 points and 15 rebounds) and held Radford as a team to 32.8 percent shooting (20-of-61).

The win boosted Liberty to 10-11 on the season, and 5-4 in conference play, going into their Thursday night game against VMI at the Vines Center. They have now won three of their last four on Radford’s home court.

Contact Daniel Martinez
at dpmartinez@liberty.edu.

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