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VMI's 13 Treys Help the Keydets Move Past Liberty

February 26, 2013
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Flames guard Tavares Speaks
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Playing its final home game of the 2012-13 season, the Liberty men's basketball team hosted Commonwealth and fellow Big South North Division competitor VMI, Tuesday night. Unfortunately for the Flames, the Keydets took the role of spoiler on Senior Night, coming away with an 83-66 victory.
John Caleb Sanders paced Liberty with 20 points, surpassing the 900-point mark for his Liberty career. Sanders how has 908 markers.

Needing just four points to reach 700 career tallies, Liberty's lone graduating senior Tavares Speaks posted 19 points in his final game in the Vines Center. The Raleigh, N.C., native now has 715 as a Flame.

Stan Okoye led the Keydets' charge with a game-high 32 points and 11 rebounds, followed by point guard Rodney Glasgow, who had 18 tallies. D.J. Covington also finished with seven blocks, the most by Liberty opponent, this season.

Despite Liberty leading the conference in three-point field goal defense, the Keydets knocked down a total of 13 treys, the second most by a Liberty opponent, this season. VMI also capitalized on second chance points, outscoring the Flames, 26-9.

VMI shot 45.6 percent (31-of-68) from the field, including 38.2 percent from three-point range (13-of-34). The Keydet defense held Liberty to 35.5 percent shooting (22-of-62) and 21.1 percent (4-of-19) from behind the three-point arc.

Liberty falls to 10-20 overall and 5-10 in Big South play, while VMI moves to 12-16 on the year and 7-8 in conference action. The Keydets now hold the advantage in the all-time series, 15-14, sweeping Liberty during the regular season for the first time since joining the Big South. VMI's win also snaps a six-game losing skid for the Keydets.

The Flames led in the opening minutes of the game, until a three-pointer by Glasgow gave the Keydets a two-point edge at the 16:48 mark. VMI remained in control for the next 3:06, when a pair of free throws by Joel Vander Pol put Liberty ahead by one. The contest remained within a single digit until a Brian Brown layup gave the Keydets a 19-16 cushion at 12:41

With less than nine minutes remaining in the half, VMI stretched its lead to seven thanks to a Tim Marshall layup. The Flames closed the gap with a traditional three-point play by Sanders and a Vander Pol layup. Okoye countered on the other end with a three-pointer to put VMI back up by five, 32-27, at 6:00.

VMI took its largest lead of the half at the 3:26 mark. Okoye capitalized on an old fashion three-pointer, giving the Keydets an 11-point advantage. With the Keydets still holding an 11-point lead in the final seconds of the half, Sanders made it to the free throw line just before the halftime buzzer. The junior sank both free throws needed to reach 900 points for his Liberty career, making it 45-36, in favor of VMI at halftime.

The Keydets made nine three-pointers in the opening stanza, outscoring Liberty from long distance, 27-6. The Flames made up some of the difference at the foul line, hitting 12-of-16 foul shots compared to 4-of-6 for the Keydets. Okoye led all scorers at halftime with 18 points, hitting 6-of-9 shots from the field and 5-of-7 from the three-point arc.

Liberty tried to close the distance in the second half, trimming the deficit to seven with a Sanders three-pointer at 17:15. However, the Keydets prevented the Flames from getting any closer, outscoring Liberty 18-5 over the next 5:13.

The surge included a 13-1 featuring three-pointers from Okoye, Brown and Glasgow. Following an Okoye jumper, Marshall answered on the other end with a layup to make it 70-52, at 11:53.

VMI took its largest lead of the contest, 24, thanks to a Joe Carr layup with six minutes left. Liberty shaved off a few points in the closing minutes, but it was not enough en route to the 83-66 final.

The Keydets close out their regular season on the road, squaring off with Longwood on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Liberty will also conclude its regular season away from home, as it remains in the Commonwealth for a clash with Radford, Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 4:30 p.m.