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Liberty Falls in Double Overtime at High Point, 77-72
|Flames guard Tavares Speaks|
The Liberty men's basketball team experienced its first double overtime contest in nearly four years, going down to the wire with High Point inside the Millis Center, Wednesday night. After a High Point tip-in at the end of the first overtime was waved off, the Panthers took the lead in the second extra period and did not look back en route to the 77-72 decision over the Flames.
Liberty's double overtime tilt was its first since Feb. 4, 2009, when the Flames fell at Gardner-Webb, 95-90. The contest also marked Liberty's first overtime game of the 2012-13 season and first since Jan. 14, 2012 against Winthrop.
Tavares Speaks led Liberty (5-13, 1-3 Big South) with a career-high 20 points, followed by John Caleb Sanders who finished with 19. Davon Marshall added 11 tallies and JR Coronado paced Liberty in rebounds with 12.
Allan Chaney paced High Point (8-8, 3-1 Big South) with a game-high 22 points, while adding 12 rebounds. Panthers leading scorer John Brown also had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Liberty shot 33.3 percent (23-of-69) from the field, while the Panthers shot 38.2 percent (26-of-68). The Flames held a 16-7 advantage in points off turnovers, but the Panthers outpointed Liberty from the bench, 23-8.
Speaks kick-started the Liberty offense, posting the Flames' first seven points. A three-pointer by the senior put Liberty up by one, but five unanswered tallies from the Panthers gave the home team a four-point advantage at 15:08. Marshall countered with another trey at 14:47, cutting the deficit to one, 11-10.
High Point took its largest lead of the half (21-14) at 11:34, thanks to a pair of Allan Chaney free throws. Liberty answered with an 11-2 run, highlighted by seven points from Sanders. The burst put Liberty ahead by two until Branimir Mikulic's third three-pointer of the game reclaimed the lead for the Panthers.
Lorenzo Cugini connected on a layup at 1:42 to extend High Point's lead to three. Sanders then evened the odds with a three-pointer, closing the half with 12 points. The basket ultimately knotted the contest at halftime, 28-28.
Liberty began the second half with five unanswered points off baskets by Coronado and Tomasz Gielo. High Point cut its deficit to one with four straight tallies, but an acrobatic layup by Sanders and another Gielo bucket put Liberty back up by five, 37-32, at 16:59.
The Flames remained in control of the lead until a Justin Cheek jumper knotted the contest at 41. After a short jumper by Joel Vander Pol, Cheek tied the contest again with a jumper. Brown then gave the Panthers the lead. Following a pair of Speaks free throws, Marshall put the Flames back on top with a three-pointer, making it 48-45, with 8:57 left.
Liberty led by as much as five down the stretch, but the contest remained neck-and-neck. With the Flames up by two after a Marshall layup at 1:15, Cheeks sank one of his own 26 ticks later, eventually setting up the overtime with a score of 58-58 at the end of regulation.
In the first extra period, High Point jumped out to a three-point advantage, but solid free throw shooting by the Flames kept the visitors in the contest. Marshall connected on two clutch shots at the charity stripe to tie the game with 14 seconds left in the extra period. High Point nearly walked away with the win at the buzzer, but a tip-in attempt by Brown was reviewed and waved off by the officials, setting up double overtime.
The Panthers led for all but 48 seconds of the second five-minute period. Two foul shots by Chaney gave High Point a six-point lead with 17 seconds left. Gielo answered with a three-pointer at the other end to cut the deficit in half. Another pair of free throws by Chaney sealed the contest, resulting in the 77-72 final.
The Panthers head to Charleston, S.C., for a clash with the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, Saturday, at 5:30 p.m.
Liberty remains on the road Saturday, paying a visit to Presbyterian College. Tipoff between the Flames and the Blue Hose is slated for 7 p.m.