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Big Men Come Up Big for Liberty in Victory Over VMI
Recently returning from a back injury, the pressure was on redshirt senior Antwan Burrus in the final seconds of Liberty's meeting with VMI, Saturday afternoon. With the Keydets, the nation's top scoring offense, looking to chip away at the Flames' narrow lead, the 6-6 forward knocked down four crucial free throws in the final 18 seconds to secure an 85-80 win inside Cameron Hall. The victory is Liberty's first in the facility since a 110-102 win on Jan. 2, 2010.
JR Coronado was instrumental in putting Burrus in the position to seal the deal, finishing with a career-high 20 points and a season-high 13 rebounds. Davon Marshall also played a huge role for the Flames, hitting four key three-pointers to conclude the afternoon with 16 tallies. John Caleb Sanders tacked on 15 points, while Andrew Smith had a season-high 13 points. Tomasz Gielo posted eight points, while tying a career-high with 11 rebounds.
VMI's Rodney Glasgow led all scorers with 27 points, followed by Big South leading scorer QJ Peterson, who chipped in 15.
Liberty moves to 7-10 on the year and 1-1 in the Big South, tying the all-time series, 15-15. VMI falls to 8-7 on the year and 1-1 in conference play.
Coming into the contest holding opponents to 30 boards per game, Liberty outrebounded the Big South's rebounding leader, 52-31. The Flames 52 rebounds are the most since grabbing 54 versus Milligan on Dec. 21, 2012.
Liberty shot 48.5 percent (32-of-66) from the field, while VMI shot 44.1 percent (30-of-68). The Flames held the advantage in the paint, 46-32, while the Keydets hit 12 three-pointers compared to five for Liberty.
Lead changes themed the contest, with 14 occurring on the afternoon. Liberty came out with a 6-0 run early, highlighted by a pair of layups from Coronado. The Keydets answered with a 10-1 burst, which included three-pointers by Glasgow and Brown. Phillip Anglade capped things off with a layup at 16:06, giving VMI a 10-7 advantage.
The contest turned into a seesaw battle, with multiple ties and lead changes taking place throughout the period. Liberty reclaimed the lead thanks to a Joe Retic free throw at 11:14. After a Glasgow layup gave the Keydets the edge, a Smith basket put the Flames back on top. Marshall later swished a three-ball to extend the Liberty lead to four, 27-23, at 9:09.
With the Keydets up by one, another Marshall trey at 3:41 swung the needle back in Liberty's favor. About a minute and a half later, a Jordan Weethee three-pointer continued the roller coaster trend, giving VMI the lead once again. Neither team scored again until the final seconds of the half, as Marshall hit an off balance layup before the shot clock expired to put Liberty ahead at halftime, 38-37.
The Flames concluded the half shooting 43.2 percent (16-of-37), compared to 38.9 percent (14-of-36) for the Keydets. Liberty outscored VMI in the paint, 22-12, but the Keydets held the advantage beyond the perimeter, 21-6.
Coronado led the Flames in the first half, surpassing his previous season-high (eight) with 12 tallies, followed by Marshall who had 10. Glasgow and Anglade paced VMI with eight points, apiece.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the second half, with Liberty and VMI trading the lead twice in the opening 1:31. The Flames ended the trend momentarily, going on a 7-0 run cemented by Marshall's third three-pointer to take a 47-41 lead at 17:17.
VMI regained control with a Covington layup at 11:50. A Sanders three-pointer 30 ticks later put Liberty back on top, 57-55.
A thunderous two-handed jam by Smith, followed later by a Coronado layup gave Liberty its largest lead of the contest (nine points) with 1:44 remaining. The Keydets clawed their way back, making it a one-point game with 19 seconds remaining, which led to Burrus' quartet of free throws and the 85-80 win.
Liberty returns to action, Tuesday, playing host to Campbell. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. with the contest airing live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network, ESPN3 and MASN.