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Liberty's Big Men Post Big Performances in Flames' Victory
|Flames forward JR Coronado|
The Liberty men's basketball team's post players shined inside the Vines Center, Friday night, guiding the Flames to a 104-67 victory over Union College.
Liberty's point total is its highest of the season, marking the first time the Flames have reached the century mark since defeating VMI, 100-82, on Jan. 20, 2011.
Four players led Liberty's offense with 14 points – JR Coronado, Davon Marshall, Andrew Smith and Tavares Speaks. Along with his career-high scoring performance, Coronado posted a career-high 16 rebounds. Smith's 14 tallies were also a career-high for the sophomore forward. Marshall added a career-high nine assists to accompany his point total.
Playing in his fifth contest since returning to the Flames' lineup, Joel Vander Pol closed out the night with a season-high 12 points and a career-high 11 boards. Chad Donley rounded out Liberty's double-digit scorers, posting a career-high 10 points.
Deante Johnson paced the Bulldogs with a game-high 17 points, followed by Tyler Wagner, who chipped in 15.
With the victory, Liberty moves to 3-10 on the year, while Union College falls to 7-7. Liberty is now 2-0 all-time against the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs led by as much as three in the opening minutes, but the Flames gained the lead thanks to a Marshall three-pointer at 17:25. Tyrell Hall tied the contest at seven 30 ticks later. Liberty then responded with five unanswered points from Marshall and Vander Pol to take a 12-7 advantage at 15:38.
With the Flames holding a three-point edge under the 13-minute mark, Smith wowed the Vines Center with a one-handed jam. Donley fed the ball to the 6-9 sophomore, who proceeded to cut toward the basket and flush the high percentage shot, giving Liberty a 19-14 lead at 12:25.
The Bulldogs made it a four-point game courtesy of Johnson jumper at 9:30. The Flames proceeded to outscore Union College, 10-1, over the next 3:27 to expand their advantage to 13, 35-22, at 6:03.
The visitors began to find their range in the closing minutes of the half, knocking down a pair of three-pointers to climb within nine of the Flames. However, Liberty managed to pull away again before halftime to carry a 47-32 lead into the locker room.
The Flames concluded the first half shooting 50.0 percent from the field (14-of-28). Liberty also capitalized at the free throw line in the opening stanza, knocking down 16-of-22 shots (72.7 percent) from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs closed out the half shooting 40.7 percent (11-of-27) from the field.
Marshall paced the Flames during the first half with 14 points and four assists, while Vander Pol and Speaks chipped in eight apiece off the bench. Johnson led the Bulldogs with eight points.
During the opening minutes of the second half, the Bulldogs pulled within eight points of the Flames thanks to a Tarik Smith three-pointer at 16:29. With Liberty still owning a nine-point lead at the 15:20 mark, the Flames went on an 8-2 run over the next 1:40, holding the Bulldogs scoreless from the field during the span.
Smith kick started the burst with an authoritative two-handed jam, followed by two fast break layups by Speaks off a pair of steals. Vander Pol capped the surge off with a layup, making it 64-48 at 13:40.
With Liberty up by 17 with 8:31 left, the Flames began their march toward the 100-point mark, outscoring the Bulldogs, 29-9 during the remaining minutes.
Coronado paced the Flames offense during the closing minutes, scoring nine of the Flames final 20 points. Smith put Liberty over the triple-digit hump with 1:21 remaining, finishing a thunderous alley-oop off a Casey Roberts pass. Smith closed out Liberty's scoring with another dunk with 38 ticks left, setting up the 104-67 final.
The Flames finished the night shooting 53.8 percent from the floor, its second-highest percentage of the season. Liberty had its best night of the season from the charity stripe, hitting 25-of-32 foul shots (78.1 percent). The Flames also posted season highs in steals (12), bench points (54) and points in the paint (48). Union College ended the evening shooting 39.7 percent (23-of-58).
Liberty heads to Cullowhee, N.C. to take on Western Carolina on Monday. Tipoff for the New Year's Eve matchup with the Catamounts is slated for 2 p.m.