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Sanders' Career-High 24 Points Highlights Liberty's Victory
The Liberty men's basketball team returned to the win column, Friday night, defeating Milligan inside the Vines Center, 81-63.
The evening marked a career-high night for John Caleb Sanders, as the junior finished with 24 points. Needing just seven points to reach 600 for his Liberty career, he did so four and a half minutes into the contest and did not look back en route to his career-best scoring performance. Sanders' 24 tallies is also the second-highest point total by a Flame this season.
Along with Sanders, Davon Marshall and Tavares Speaks each chipped in 13 points for Liberty.
Ignas Palaima led the Buffaloes with 15 points and seven rebounds. Torian Sitton and Scott Blake added 12 and 11 tallies, respectively, for Milligan.
With the victory, Liberty moves to 2-10 on the year, while Milligan is now 8-7, this season. The Flames are now 23-8 all-time against members of the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
The Buffaloes lit up the scoreboard first, but the Flames countered with a 10-0 run in the early minutes. Sanders highlighted the burst with six points. After a bucket by Sitton halted the run, Sanders answered with his second three-pointer of the contest at 15:31, making it 13-4. The shooting guard's three-point bucket put him over the 600-point mark for his collegiate career.
With the Flames holding a 10-point lead at the 12:42 mark, the Buffaloes proceeded to score eight of the game's next 11 points during a 2:32 span to close the gap to five. Blake made it a two possession game with a trey, but the Flames responded with six unanswered points off a pair of fast break layups by
Sanders and two Tomasz Gielo free throws. The six-point surge gave Liberty a 24-14 lead at 8:27.
In the remaining minutes of the half, the Buffaloes got within eight of the Flames thanks to a Cartee Pettis three-pointer with 4:32 left on the clock. However, Milligan could not close the distance before halftime. A
Speaks' jumper capped the Flames first half scoring, giving Liberty a 38-27 advantage at halftime.
Liberty concluded the first half shooting 37.5 percent (12-of-32) from the field, while holding the Buffaloes to 27.3 percent (9-of-33). The Flames' 32 rebounds in the opening period were the most in a single half, this season by Liberty.
Sanders led all scorers in the first half with 15 tallies. JR Coronado was strong on the glass with seven boards. Sitton paced the Buffaloes with seven points.
Liberty turned up the heat in the second half, outscoring the Buffaloes, 17-6, in the opening six minutes. Marshall shined bright during the span, posting eight points off a pair of treys and a fast break layup. The junior's second three-pointer at 14:02 put Liberty up by 22, 55-33.
Sanders surpassed his previous career-high of 20 with 8:59 left in the contest. After a defensive rebound and a pass from Chad Donley, Sanders raced to the basket on the other end, connecting on a layup to give the Flames a 62-44 lead.
The Buffaloes made it a 15-point game with just over four minutes left, but could not climb any closer, giving way to the 81-63 final.
Liberty shot 41.5 percent (27-of-65) for the contest, including 38.1 percent (8-of-21) from three-point land. The Flames finished with season highs in points, rebounds (54) and blocks (7). Milligan finished the night shooting 36.1 percent (22-of-61).
Liberty returns to the Vines Center next Friday, playing host to Union College. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.