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RedHawks Use Second-Half Surge to Defeat Flames
The Liberty men's basketball team continued stateside play in the Cancun Challenge, Saturday afternoon, taking on Miami University (Ohio). Despite the Flames leading early in the second half, the RedHawks found some momentum midway through the stanza to pick up the 63-52 decision.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 2-2 on the season. Miami moves to 2-1, leading the all-time series with the Flames, 3-0.
After averaging 3.7 ppg the first three games, Andrew Smith led the Flames with a season-high 13 tallies and seven rebounds in a game that was tightly contested for the majority of the matchup. The Flames also had three players finish with nine points – Tomasz Gielo, Joe Retic and James Johnson. Retic also dished out a career-high seven assists.
Geovonie McKnight led Miami with 19 points, including 15 in the second half. Will Sullivan followed up with 12 tallies.
Miami shot 40.0 percent (20-of-50) for the contest, compared to 38.6 percent for the Flames.
The RedHawks jumped out to an early 10-4 lead in the opening period. Following an Evan Maxwell free throw and a Smith layup, Miami boosted the advantage back to six with a traditional three-point play. The Flames then took the lead with an 8-0 run, highlighted by a pair of James Johnson baskets. Miami countered with a bucket on the other end, but a Gielo three-pointer put the Flames ahead again. After a pair of Retic free throws, Smith capped the 7-0 burst with a jumper in the paint, making it 22-16 at 3:59.
Miami tied the contest at 24 with 1:11 on the clock. However, a James Johnson layup and a Smith free throw gave the Flames a 27-24 advantage heading into the locker room at halftime.
Smith led all scorers at the half with 11 points, hitting all five of his shots from the field. Gielo added seven points, while James Johnson had six points on 3-for-3 shooting. Kalif Wright led Miami with seven points and four rebounds.
The Flames shot 47.8 percent (11-of-23) in the opening period, while holding the RedHawks to 35.7 percent (10-of-28). Both teams finished the half with nine turnovers, but Liberty held the edge on points off turnovers, outscoring Miami, 9-4.
Liberty led by as much as five in the early minutes of the second half, thanks in part to a Peter Moller three-pointer at 18:19. The Flames remained in control until Miami's Will Sullivan drained a three-pointer at 14:03 to put the RedHawks up, 37-35.
The Flames regained the lead with a Theo Johnson jumper at 10:34. The RedHawks then went on an 8-0 run, finding success at the foul line and in the paint. Retic halted Miami's hot streak with a free throw at 5:16 to make it, 48-42, Miami.
With the RedHawks up by six, Moller cut the deficit in half with a three-pointer at 3:12. The Flames were unable to climb any closer, as the RedHawks pulled away in the final minutes for the 63-52 final.
The Flames now head to Cancun, Mexico for its final two games of the Cancun Challenge. Playing in the Mayan Division, Liberty will take on North Florida on Tuesday. Tipoff is slate for 4 p.m. (EST), with the contest streaming on College Sports Live.