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Liberty Advances Past Tournament Host Coastal Carolina
On a day in which three of the four lower-seeded teams in the 2013 VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Championship were victorious, the Liberty men's basketball team decided to add to the upsets.
Despite an early lead by No. 4 South seed Coastal Carolina, No. 5 North seed Liberty capitalized on the Chanticleers' 11:36 second-half field goal drought, which included a decisive 23-3 run, to defeat the host team, 78-61, Tuesday evening.
The Flames' tournament victory is their first since defeating Gardner-Webb in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Big South Championship, 88-77 (March 3, 2009). Liberty is now 4-0 all-time in postseason play against Coastal Carolina.
Davon Marshall paced the Flames with a game-high 28 points, going 7-of-12 from the field, including 5-of-7 from three-point land and 9-of-10 at the charity stripe. The junior's five three-pointers allowed him to surpass Anthony Smith for third place all-time on Liberty's single-season three-point field goal list. Marshall now has 89 three-pointers this season.
Tomasz Gielo chipped in 14 points, while John Caleb Sanders had 10 tallies.
Anthony Raffa led the Chanticleers with 23 points, followed by Kierre Greenwood, who had 19.
Liberty shot 41.5 percent (22-of-53) from the field, including 45.0 percent (9-of-20) from the three-point arc. Coastal Carolina finished the night with 38.6 percent shooting (22-of-57). The Liberty defense held the Chanticleers to a season low 6.3 percent (1-of-16) from three-point range. Coastal Carolina's previous season low from downtown occurred on Jan. 12, when the Flames held the Chanticleers to 2-of-20 (10.0 percent) during Liberty's 64-56 victory inside the Vines Center.
Much like the regular-season meeting between the two squads, Coastal Carolina struck first with an 8-0 run off baskets by Raffa and Greenwood. Sanders broke up the burst with a layup at 15:44. After two more Coastal baskets and a Davon Marshall free throw at the other end, Raffa took it to the rack for a fast break layup, giving the Chanticleers a 14-3 advantage at 13:29.
With Coastal Carolina holding a 10-point advantage (20-10) with 9:17 left in the half, Liberty proceeded to go on a 14-0 run over the ensuing 3:03. Marshall highlighted the burst with 10 tallies, including eight consecutive to cap the surge. The junior's first three-pointer at 6:59 allowed him to surpass Smith in the record books. After posting two free throws, Marshall's second trey put Liberty ahead, 24-20, with 6:14 remaining in the period.
A Greenwood layup at 4:09 reclaimed the lead for the Chanticleers. A minute later, an authoritative dunk by Andrew Smith off a Marshall lob knotted the contest at 30. The Flames went back on top 15 ticks later and did not look back in the remaining minutes of the period. A pair of Marshall free throws in final nine seconds put the Flames ahead at halftime, 38-35.
The Chanticleers shot 48.3 percent (14-of-29) from the floor in the first half, but struggled from three-point range, shooting 12.5 percent (1-of-8).
Coastal Carolina outscored the Flames in the paint in the opening period, 24-12. However, the Flames answered from beyond the three-point arc, holding a 12-3 advantage. Liberty also knocked down 14-of-16 free throws (87.5 percent) compared to 6-of-7 for the tournament host.
The Chanticleers lit up the scoreboard first in the second half, but the Flames countered with an 8-0 burst off a Marshall three-pointer and a Gielo jumper and trey to put Liberty up by nine. Coastal Carolina retaliated with an 8-0 run of their own, thanks to baskets by Greenwood and Raffa, to pull back within one. Sanders halted the spurt with a layup at 13:33, giving the Flames a three-point cushion, 48-45.
Liberty began to distance itself further from the Chanticleers. After three made free throws by Raffa, the Flames outscored Coastal Carolina 14-1 over the next 10 minutes. Marshall cemented the surge with back-to-back three-pointers to put Liberty ahead, 67-52, with 3:37 on the clock.
The Flames took their largest lead of the contest (76-54) with 1:32 remaining in the game, courtesy of two Gielo free throws, ultimately leading to the 78-61 final.
Liberty returns to action on Thursday, taking on No. 1 North seed High Point in the quarterfinals of the 2013 VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Championship. The Panthers swept the Flames during the regular season. Tipoff for the third meeting between the two squads is slated for 8 p.m. inside The HTC Center.