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Flames Pick Up Home Opening Victory Over Cincinnati Christian
The Flames netted 12-unanswered points midway through the second half to put away a pesky Cincinnati Christian team as Liberty picked up its first victory of the season in an 88-54 win over the visiting Golden Eagles, Monday evening, at the Vines Center.
Liberty (1-1) jumped out to a quick seven-point lead in the opening minutes as a jumper by Eric Bigby (Jr., F, Meade, Md.) put the Flames up 15-7 at the 14:55 mark. However, Cincinnati Christian (4-4) was able to keep things close over the next five minutes as Donnie Fishburn pulled down an offensive board and got the stick back to pull Cincinnati Christian to within three, 21-18, with 9:31 left to play before the half.
The Flames quickly answered back as a jumper by Russell Monroe (So., C, Alma, Mich.) capped off a 7-0 run to give Liberty its first double digit lead of the evening at 28-18 with 5:15 left play before the intermission, while the Flames pushed it to as much as 14 points before a three-pointer with 30 seconds remaining in the half trimmed the lead back to the 11-point halftime lead, 36-25.
The Flames seemed like they were going to roll to the victory as a three-pointer by Evan Risher (So., G, Fort Worth, Texas) gave Liberty an 18-point lead, 53-35, with 13:44 left to play. But the Golden Eagles didn't quit as Cincinnati Christian scored nine of the game's next 12 points and trimmed the lead back to 12 points, 56-44, on a lay-up by Piotr Poprocki at the 9:41 mark.
The margin remained the same over the next two minutes as the two teams traded three-pointers back and forth with Poprocki knocking down one from the top of the arc to cut the lead back to 12 points, 62-50, with 7:43 left to play.
However, the Flames scored the game's next 12 points and opened up a 24-point lead as Rell Porter (So., F, Pittsburg, Texas) picked off a pass and feed it to Anthony Smith (Fr., G, Plano, Texas) for a fast break lay-up to cap the game-sealing run. The Flames continued to dominate over the remainder of the contest, holding the Golden Eagles to just four points over the last seven minutes of the game to seal the team's first victory of the season.
"We have the pieces as we showed tonight, but we lack the experience," stated head coach Randy Dunton. "We lack so much chemistry and focus, so we really have to execute."
"I am glad for a kid like Russell Monroe to have evenings like tonight. He needs to get experience and tonight he showed what he can do at this level. This is a group of great kids. They need to get some experience and some competitiveness going. But they want to succeed and they showed that tonight."
Larry Blair (Jr., G, Charlotte, N.C.) paced the Flames with 23 points and a career-best 10 assists, while Damien Hubbard (Jr., F, Boyce, Va.) recorded his first double-double at Liberty with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Monroe turned in a career night with career highs in points (15), rebounds (8) and blocked shots (3), while Jeremy Eck (Jr., C, Stafford, Va.) came off the bench to score 10 points to help the Flames shot 56.7 percent from the field (38-of-67)
Cincinnati Christian finished the game with two double-figure scorers as Justin Bilyeu led the team with 14 points, while Poprocki added 13 points and five rebounds.
The Flames will begin a brief two-game road swing on Friday as they travel to Lexington, Ky., to face sixth-ranked Kentucky in hollowed Rupp Arena with the tip-off set for 7 p.m.