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Catamounts Edge Flames with Tankelewicz's 23-point Effort
|John Caleb Sanders|
Looking to bounce back from a road loss at William & Mary, the Liberty men's basketball team welcomed Western Carolina into the Vines Center, Saturday night. A 23-point performance by Charleston Southern transfer Tom Tankelewicz proved instrumental in allowing the Catamounts to avenge last year's 63-62 loss to the Flames, as Western Carolina took the contest, 68-63.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 1-2 on the year, while the Catamounts, playing in their fourth game of the week, improve to 3-2.
Davon Marshall paced the Flames with 13 points, followed by John Caleb Sanders, who concluded the night with his second straight 12-point effort. Antwan Burrus posted 10 points, surpassing the 800-point mark for his Liberty career. The redshirt senior now has 802 career tallies.
Western Carolina shot 36.8 percent (21-of-57) from the field, compared to 36.7 percent (22-of-60) for the Flames. Liberty held the advantage beyond the three-point arc (21-9) and in the paint (32-26), but the Catamounts capitalized on points off turnovers (21-5) and bench points (39-15).
The contest began as seesaw battle, with eight lead changes taking place in the opening 9:15. Western Carolina went back on top at the 10:45 mark thanks to a Tankelewicz three-pointer, which kick-started a 12-1 Catamount run. Justin Browning capped the spurt with a layup at the 7:55 mark, giving the visitors a 22-12 edge.
Tankelewicz gave the Catamounts a 12-point advantage, their largest of the half, connecting on a layup with 3:32 left on the clock. With Western Carolina still up by 12, the Flames began to chip away at the deficit in the remaining 1:53. An Ethan Layer three-pointer, along with buckets from Burrus and Sanders, allowed Liberty to outscore the Catamounts, 7-2, during the span, cutting Western Carolina's lead to 33-26 at halftime.
Liberty managed to make it a four-point contest in the early minutes of the second half, but a Tawaski King free throw and Sumler layup put the Catamounts back up by seven at 17:25. Liberty countered with five unanswered points off a traditional three-point play by Marshall and an Andrew Smith dunk to climb within two points.
Tankelewicz widened the gap with another trey at 14:22, giving the Catamounts a 41-36 cushion.
Tankelewicz continued to find the mark for the Catamounts. After the redshirt senior's third trey extended the Western Carolina edge to seven at 7:27, Liberty began to close the distance once again. A Burrus jumper put Liberty within a pair of the Catamounts, closing the distance to 59-57 with 3:55 remaining. However, the Flames were unable to get over the hump, as Western Carolina stayed out of reach in the closing minutes to earn the 68-63 decision.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Monday, to play host to UNCW. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m., with the contest airing live on ESPN3, the Liberty Channel and the Big South Network.