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Liberty Holds Off Relentless Radford Squad, 75-70
The Liberty men's basketball picked up its fifth straight win over the Radford Highlanders, Tuesday night, squeaking by with a 75-70 victory inside the Vines Center. Despite Radford controlling the contest for the first half of the Big South North Division matchup, the Flames answered late in the period to take lead and hold the advantage in all but 17 seconds of the second stanza.
John Caleb Sanders led the Flames with 19 points. The Sugar Land, Texas native needs just 18 more tallies to reach the 800-point mark for his Liberty career. Tavares Speaks chipped in 16 points for Liberty, increasing his double-digit scoring streak to 13 games. Davon Marshall closed out Liberty's trio of double digit scorers, finishing with 11 points. JR Coronado garnered double digit rebounds for the third time in four contests, recording 11.
Radford's sophomore tandem of Javonte Green and R.J. Price did not disappoint. Green paced the Highlanders with a game-high 23 points and 13 boards, while Price added 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Liberty shot 41.1 percent (23-of-56) from the field, while Radford ended the night on 43.3 percent shooting (26-of-60). Although Liberty entered the contest 25th in the country in three-point defense (29.2) and 62nd in three-point percentage (36.8), the Highlanders outscored the Flames from downtown, 27-15. However, the home team capitalized at the free throw line, besting the Highlanders, 24-9.
Radford came into the contest 16th in the country in steals (9.3 per game), but that did not stop the Flames from eclipsing Radford in thefts, 10-5.
With the win, Liberty moves to 8-16 overall and 4-6 in conference play. Radford falls to 10-14 on the year and 4-6 in Big South action. While the Highlanders still lead the all-time series, 32-29, Liberty improves its home record against Radford to 22-10.
Radford began the game with five unanswered points, highlighted by a Kyle Noreen three-pointer. The Highlanders knocked down two more three-pointers in the ensuing 4:20 to increase its advantage to seven. After a Ya Ya Anderson trey and a Marshall free throw, Juwan Wells connected on a layup to give Radford an early eight-point lead, its largest of the contest. Tomasz Gielo countered on the other end, knocking down a three-point basket of his own to pull the Flames within five, 15-10, at 11:18.
The Flames continued to chip away at the deficit. Casey Roberts evened things up with 6:16 left in the half, sinking a three-pointer to knot the contest at 19. After a Marshall free throw tied the game again two minutes later, Sommy Ogukwe gave the Flames their first lead with a layup to make it 26-24. Liberty prevented the Highlanders from regaining control in the remaining minutes of the opening period, taking a 35-31 lead into the locker room at halftime.
With Radford down by six early in the second half, the Highlanders answered quickly with back-to-back three-pointers from Green and Anderson to knot the game at 37. Following two more ties, the Flames created a small cushion courtesy of a Joel Vander Pol layup and a Marshall three-pointer. The junior's trey put the Flames ahead, 46-42, at 15:16.
Liberty held a five-point lead with less than 13 minutes remaining until a Rashum Davis three-point put the Highlanders within two. Sanders responded for the Flames with six straight points off a traditional three-point play and a trey to bolster the lead to eight. Radford retaliated with a 6-0 burst of their own to close the gap to two at 8:37, 58-56.
Radford regained control of the lead at 3:27 with a Price layup, but the advantage was short lived. Gielo swished a three-pointer 17 ticks later to put the Flames back up by two. On the next Radford possession, Speaks picked the Price's pocket and threw down a fast break dunk, giving the Flames a four-point cushion.
The Highlanders had a chance to tie with 33 seconds remaining, but Green missed two missed free throws, leading to a Coronado board and a pair of made free throws at the other end, setting up the 75-70 final.
Radford remains on the road, Saturday, squaring off with Presbyterian College at 2 p.m.
Liberty heads to Boiling Springs, N.C. to take on Gardner-Webb, Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.