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Runnin' Bulldogs Move Past Flames, Tuesday
Despite Liberty and Gardner-Webb playing close basketball games in recent years, Tuesday night inside the Vines Center was an exception. The Runnin' Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead against the Flames and did not look back en route to a 68-52 decision.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 9-17 overall and 3-8 in conference play. Gardner-Webb improves to 14-11 on the year and 7-4 in league action. The Runnin' Bulldogs secure their first-ever victory inside the Vines Center after entering the night 0-4 in the facility dating back to the 2008-09 season.
Garnder-Webb's Jerome Hill finished with a game-high 13 points and nine rebounds. Donta Harper and Naji Hibbert added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Tomasz Gielo led Liberty with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Andrew Smith and John Caleb Sanders each had 10 points.
Liberty shot 37.5 percent (18-of-48) on the night. The Runnin' Bulldogs closed out the evening with 45.0 percent shooting (27-of-60) and moved to 5-0 on the road in conference play this year.
Gardner-Webb went on an early 7-0 run capped by a Hill layup to take a 9-2 lead at the 15:42 mark. Hill later gave the Runnin' Bulldogs a double-digit lead with another basket in the paint, making it 19-8 with 9:06 remaining in the period.
Liberty posted five unanswered points, including a Gielo tip-in to climb within six at 7:22. However, the visitors outscored the Flames, 19-6, during the remainder of the period to carry a 38-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Liberty shot 26.7 percent (7-of-26) during the first half, compared to 46.7 percent (14-of-30) for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Hill led all scorers at halftime with 11 points. Smith paced the Flames with five tallies.
Although both teams were even in the paint (14-14), Gardner-Webb took advantage of Liberty's 12 turnovers, outscoring the Flames off miscues, 16-0.
During the second half, the Runnin' Bulldogs continued to pull away. An Onzie Branch dunk at the 10:37 mark gave the visitors a 55-31 lead, its largest of the night (24 points). Liberty climbed within 16 points of Gardner-Webb with a three-pointer in the final four seconds, ultimately setting up the 68-52 final.
Liberty returns to action on Saturday, squaring off with VMI. The Flames took the first meeting this season inside Cameron Hall on Jan. 11, 85-80. The meeting marks the last regular-season matchup between the two squads before the Keydets leave the Big South, with the series tied, 15-15. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m., with the contest airing live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network, MASN, ESPN3 and the Big South Network.