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Flames' Rally Falls Short at Longwood
Playing inside a raucous Willett Hall, Tuesday night, the Liberty men's basketball team squared off with first-year Big South squad Longwood. Down by 11 with 1:20 left in the contest, the Flames nearly pulled off the comeback, outscoring the Lancers, 18-8, with a quartet of three-pointers during the span.
Unfortunately for the Flames, the home team managed to survive the late surge en route to the 102-101 decision.
Tristan Carey led Longwood with a game-high 40 points after posting 23 points, with the help of five three-pointers, in the first half.
Davon Marshall finished with a career-high 31 points, including 29 in the second half, marking the first time a Liberty player has scored 30 points or more since Kyle Ohman recorded 39 in a 76-67 win over High Point on Feb. 20, 2010. Marshall's point total included six three-pointers, moving him ahead of Matt Hildebrand for fifth in program history for three-point field goals made in a single season, with 74.
John Caleb Sanders followed up with 24 points, while Tavares Speaks rounded out Liberty's double-digit scoring with 17 tallies.
Liberty shot 54.4 percent (37-of-68) from the field, while Longwood finished the night on 50.0 percent shooting (31-of-62). The Flames tied a season high with 12 three-pointers, while Longwood knocked down nine treys on the evening, including seven from Carey.
With the loss, Liberty falls to 9-19 overall and 5-9 in the Big South. The Lancers move to 6-22 on the season and 3-11 in conference play. The Flames are now 0-11 all-time against Longwood inside Willett Hall.
The Flames 101 points is the most scored by Liberty in a loss since a 105-101 defeat to Mount St. Mary's on March 4, 1988, in the Mason-Dixon Conference Tournament, the school's final game before becoming an NCAA Division I program. The point total also represents the fourth time Liberty has posted 100 points or more in a defeat.
Liberty led 5-2 in the early going, thanks to two Sanders buckets and an Andrew Smith free throw. The Lancers answered with a 7-0 burst highlighted by a Carey three-pointer, giving the home team a 9-5 advantage at 16:03.
The contest turned into a back-and-forth affair, with five lead changes taking place over the ensuing 3:41. After regaining the lead at 12:22, the Flames tacked on five more points courtesy of a Tomasz Gielo jumper and a Casey Roberts three-pointer. Jeylani Dublin answered on the other end with a jump shot, putting the Lancers within four, 21-17, at 10:24.
Liberty remained in the lead until two Carey free throws knotted the contest at 28 with six minutes left in the half. The Lancers did not look back in the opening stanza, outscoring the Flames, 19-10, for the remainder of the period. Carey knocked down three of his five first-half three-pointers in the closing 2:43, helping Longwood take a 47-39 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Longwood continued to find success from three-point range early in the second half. Davon Marshall made it a seven-point game with a three-pointer at 17:46, but an 8-0 Lancers' run upped Longwood's lead to 15 with 15:19 remaining. Liberty then went on a 9-0 burst of its own off baskets by Speaks, Marshall and Sommy Ogukwe to cut the deficit to six, 60-54, at 12:09.
With Liberty trailing by six points (66-60) with 9:41 left on the clock, Longwood outscored the Flames, 9-2, over the next three minutes. Carey's seventh three-pointer of the game put Longwood up by 13, 75-62, with 6:39 remaining.
The Flames' rally with 80 seconds on the clock began with a Marshall three-pointer, making it 94-86. After a dunk by Michael Kessens on the other end, Marshall answered with another trey. Chad Donley stole the ball on the inbound pass and immediately kicked it back out to Marshall who sank his sixth three-pointer of the contest and third in a 38-second span, trimming the deficit to four.
Sanders nailed another downtown bucket with 24 seconds left and Liberty continued to take advantage of missed free throws on the other end. Sanders made it a one-point game with two free throws with one second remaining, but the Flames were unable to garner the game-winning basket, leading to the 102-101 final.
Longwood travels to Tennessee Martin for its Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters contest, Saturday, at 1 p.m.
Liberty will host Austin Peay in its BracketBusters matchup. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m. on Saturday.