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Flames Fall To Lancers In First Meetings Since 1988
Liberty and Longwood renewed an old rivalry on Wednesday evening and the Lancers picked up right where they left off as Longwood used a key first half stretch to open up a lead it would never relinquish en route to an 88-75 victory over Liberty at Willett Hall.
The contest marked the 20th meeting between the two programs, but the first since February 8, 1988, with Longwood leading the overall series 14-5 in the previous 19 meetings, including a 9-1 mark in Willett Hall.
The contest was a tight one over the first several minutes of action as Larry Blair (So., G, Charlotte, N.C.) stole a pass at mid-court and broke free for a fast break dunk to give the Flames (1-3) an 8-6 edge at the 16:46 mark.
However, a lay-up by Lamar Barrett just 17 seconds later started an 11-0 run for Longwood (2-4), while the Lancers held the Flames to just two field goals and a pair of free throws over a 10-minute stretch, outscoring the Flames 26-6 during the run as a lay-up by Kirk Williams capped off the run and gave Longwood a 32-14 lead with 5:12 left to play in the first half.
Russell Monroe (So., C, Alma, Mich.) scored back-to-back baskets, including a dunk off a feed from Damien Hubbard (Jr., F, Boyce, Va.) at the 4:20 mark to trim the lead back to 14 points, 32-18, but that would be as close as the Flames would get over the rest of the half as the Lancers headed into the locker room with a 44-25 lead.
Longwood slightly extended its lead over the first several minutes of the second half to open up a 20-point edge and led by as much as 25 points, 72-47, on a lay-up by Maurice Sumter with 7:34 left to play in the game.
Blair was able to connect on a jumper on the following possession but suffered an injury on the play as his head hit the ground after the basket, leaving the team's leading scorer to sit on the sidelines the rest of the contest.
The Flames attempted to rally around their fallen leader as a three-pointer by Evan Risher (So., G, Fort Worth, Texas) cut the lead to 13 points, 78-65, with 2:33 left to play, but the Lancers sank 15-of-16 free throws over the final five minutes of the contest to seal the victory.
The Flames shot 53.4 percent from the field (31-of-58); however, the team committed 21 turnovers and allowed the Lancers nearly three times as many trips to the charity stripe on the evening as Longwood converted on 27-of-35 free throw attempts to aid in the win.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Longwood this evening and the effort that they gave in the first half," stated head coach Randy Dunton. "Obviously, the things that stand out in my mind are our turnovers and their rebounding."
"There is so much inexperience in our group and Longwood is just the opposite as they are a group that has been together for quite a while and is battle tested. We can certainly learn a lot from this contest."
"On a positive note, I thought there was some good effort by our younger players this evening in the second half," continued Dunton. "Tonight was a typical road game in Division I basketball and it proved that it is difficult to win on the road."
The Flames placed four players in double figures as Blair led the squad for the fourth-straight game with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting, while Eric Bigby netted a season-high 13 points on a 6-of-7 performance from the floor. Risher came off the bench to score a season-high 12 points, while Monroe posted his second double-figure performance with 10 points.
The Flames return to action on Friday evening when they host cross-town opponent Lynchburg College in the first-ever meeting between the two programs. The contest is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. in the Vines Center.