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Second Half Burst Puts Delaware over Flames
The Liberty men's basketball team attempted to ring in the new year with a win, Wednesday afternoon, at Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center. After the Flames held the Blue Hens, who entered contest averaging over 81 points per game, to just 25 in the first half, Delaware responded with a second half surge to take the contest, 77-64.
With the defeat in its first-ever meeting with the Blue Hens, Liberty falls to 6-8 on the year, while Delaware improves to 7-7. The Flames are now 0-4 all-time in New Year's Day games.
Tomasz Gielo paced Liberty in scoring, tying his season-high with 16 points, followed by John Caleb Sanders, who had 11 points.
Jarvis Threatt led the Blue Hens with a game-high 19 points. Three other players concluded the night with double-digit scoring figures for Delaware – Kyle Anderson (14), Davon Usher (13) and Devon Saddler (13).
Delaware shot 45.6 percent (26-of-57), hitting eight shots from the perimeter. Liberty ended the afternoon on 38.3 percent shooting, falling below 40.0 percent for the first time since its 54-52 defeat at Missouri State on Nov. 26. Although the Flames won the battle in the paint, 38-32, Liberty struggled from beyond the three-point arc, shooting 14.3 percent (2-of-14). Liberty outrebounded the Blue Hens, 42-33, marking the ninth straight game the Flames have outrebounded their opponent.
Liberty took the early advantage, jumping out to a five-point lead thanks to a John Caleb Sanders three-pointer at the 15:37 mark. Delaware later went on a 9-0 run, capped by an Anderson trey to take a 15-11 lead at 10:35.
With Delaware still ahead by four, Antwan Burrus found his rhythm inside, scoring six straight points. The forward's trio of layups put the Flames back on top, but another Anderson trey made it 20-19 in favor of the Blue Hens with 7:44 remaining in the stanza.
Liberty closed out the half with a 9-0 run, kick started by an Ethan Layer jumper at 3:51. A pair of Sanders free throws cemented the burst, giving the Flames a 33-25 halftime lead.
Dale Layer's squad shot 48.3 percent in the first period, hitting 14-of-29 shots from the field. Entering the contest shooting 45.0 percent on the season, Delaware ended the half at 30.3 percent (10-of-33).
Liberty's advantage in the paint made the difference, as the Flames outscored the Blue Hens inside, 22-14.
Delaware's Kyle Anderson led all scorers with nine points, while Burrus and Gielo each had eight tallies for the Flames.
In what proved to be a tale of two halves, the Blue Hens began the second period with a 10-2 run to knot the contest at 35 courtesy of a traditional three-point play by Saddler. Andrew Smith put the Flames back on top with a layup, while Joe Retic followed with a jumper to give Liberty a 39-35 edge at 14:13.
With the contest knotted at 46, Delaware proceeded to go on a 12-1 run. The Blue Hens received a pair of three-pointers from Devonne Pinkard and Usher. Saddler tacked on a fast break layup to make it 56-47 with 7:51 remaining. The Blue Hens widened the gap further, leading by as much as 14 points in the contest before walking away with the 77-64 victory.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Saturday, playing host to Princeton. The contest marks the first-ever meeting with the Tigers. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m., with the contest airing live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network, MASN2, ESPN3 and the Big South Network.