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Liberty Posts Win in Front of 7,000-plus Fans
Playing in front of a Vines Center crowd of 7,043, the Liberty men's basketball team christened the 2013-14 season with a 21-point win, defeating Randolph College, 74-53.
The attendance mark is the highest at the Vines Center since the Flames squared off with Clemson in front of 8,143 spectators on Nov. 17, 2009.
Junior Tomasz Gielo paced Liberty with 14 points, followed by Andrew Smith, who had 10 tallies and set a career high with eight rebounds. In his first game back since missing the entire 2012-13 season, redshirt senior forward Antwan Burrus had eight points and five rebounds in 26 minutes of action.
Zach Desgain led Randolph with 14 points, while Jason Eddie chipped in 10.
With the win, Liberty (1-0) moves to 32-10 all-time in home openers and 19-5 win playing its first game of the season in the Vines Center.
The Flames finished the contest shooting 50.9 percent (27-of-53) from the field, while holding the WildCats to 37.5 percent (21-of-56). Liberty capitalized at the free throw line (16-of-20, 80.0 percent) and held the advantage in the paint (40-26), off turnovers (19-9) and on second chance points (14-6).
Randolph led 7-4 early in the contest thanks to a Desgain three-pointer at 17:17. The Flames answered with a 10-0 run over the next 2:08. Casey Roberts and Gielo kick-started the burst with back-to-back treys. Following a Joel Vander Pol layup, Gielo cemented the run with one of his own, giving the Flames a 14-7 advantage at the 15:08 mark.
With Liberty up by 10 points at 12:32, the WildCats began to chip away at the deficit, countering with seven straight points. A Mike Ehilegbu jumper made it a three-point game, 18-15, with 9:37 left in the half.
Randolph trailed by as few as two points in the closing minutes of the period, but the Flames managed to widen the gap before halftime. A thunderous putback dunk from Smith ignited a roar from the Vines Center crowd with under three minutes remaining in the half.
Desgain led all scorers in the opening stanza with 12 points. Gielo paced the Flames offense with 10 tallies, followed by Burrus, who had six.
Liberty shot 54.4 percent (12-of-22) from the field in the half, including 50.0 percent (3-of-6) from behind the arc. The WildCats concluded the period with 40.4 percent shooting (11-of-27), knocking down 4-of-9 three-pointers (44.4 percent).
In the second half, the WildCats remained within two possessions of the Flames for the majority of the opening six minutes, but Liberty enlarged the cushion once again. With Randolph College trailing, 42-38, with 14:46 remaining, the Flames proceeded to outscore the visitors, 19-3 over the ensuing 7:16. A tip-in by Gielo at the 7:41 gave Liberty a commanding 61-41 lead.
Randolph cut the contest to 15 with just under six minutes left off a Josh Martin basket. However, the WildCats could not climb any closer, as the Flames stretched their lead out to 21 to set up the 74-53 final.
Liberty heads to Williamsburg, Va., Tuesday, to take on William & Mary. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.