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Blair's Career Milestone Not Good Enough To Lift Flames Over Bulls
Larry Blair scored his 1,000th career point early on and then got a good start on his next 1,000 points with a season-best 30 points, but the effort wasn't good enough as Buffalo used a key stretch in the second half to fend off Liberty and pick up a 66-53 victory over the Flames, Tuesday evening, at the Vines Center.
The contest remained close over the first several minutes of the game as Blair (Jr., G, Charlotte, N.C.) knocked down a jumper at the 13:59 mark to propel the junior over the 1,000 career point mark and pull the Flames within one point, 10-9.
However, Buffalo (7-1) scored seven-straight points and opened up an eight-point lead, 17-9, on a jumper by Roderick Middleton at the 11:15 mark. The Bulls continued to stretch their lead over the next seven minutes of play as a pair of free throws by Yassin Idbihi gave the visitors a 12-point lead, 30-18, with 4:36 left before halftime.
Liberty (2-4) started to pull things together and cut the lead in half as another jumper by Blair trimmed the lead back to six points, 30-24, just two minutes later. But Mario Jordan scored the final four points of the half on a pair of free throws at the 1:43 mark and a jumper with 40 seconds left in the half to give the visitors a 10-point lead at the break, 34-24.
The Flames slowly chipped away at the lead as a lay-up by Rell Porter (So., F, Pittsburg, Texas) cut the lead to three points, 39-36, at the 13:45 mark of the second half. Over the next several possessions, the two teams traded three-point field goals as Calvin Cage knocked down a trey with 12:19 left to play, while Anthony Smith (Fr., G, Plano, Texas) responded with a three-pointer just nine seconds later. However, the Bulls scored eight-unanswered points to open up an 11-point lead, 50-39, on a jumper by Cage at the 9:39 mark.
The Flames attempted to string together one final run as a pair of free throws by Evan Risher (So., G, Fort Worth, Texas) capped off a 6-0 run to cut the lead back to five points, 58-53, with 2:44 left on the game clock, but the Bulls held the Flames scoreless over the remainder of the contest and scored eight unanswered to seal the 13-point victory.
"I was very pleased with our performance tonight and proud of the way our team played," commented head coach Randy Dunton after the contest. "We played with great intensity during the first half and over the first 10 minutes of the second half, but they were a more experienced team and they were able to come away with a victory."
"Our team will learn a lot from this game tonight and we certainly will grow after a performance like this evening," continued Dunton. "Buffalo was a very determined team and their experience gave them the edge in the end."
Buffalo placed four players in double figures as Parnell Smith led the team with 16 points, while Cage followed with 13 points, which was aided by a 3-of-6 outing from behind the arc. Idbihi and Jordan added 12 points each, while Idbihi led the squad with six boards.
Blair led the squad with his 30-point outing on 13-of-25 shooting from the field, tying a career-high for field goals in a game, while the junior became the 19th player in school history to join the 1,000 career point club and the first since former standout Larry Jackson did in 1997.
Blair was followed by Risher, who scored eight points, while Porter led the team with eight rebounds and Russell Monroe (So., C, Alma, Mich.) recorded four blocked shots.
The contest marked the final home game for the team during the calendar year as Liberty will begin a five-game road stretch on Saturday as they travel to Nashville, Tenn., to face Lipscomb. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. (CST) at Allen Arena.