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Blair And Stewart Efforts Not Good Enough To Lift Flames To Victory
Larry Blair netted a game high 30 points and Doug Stewart scored a career best 21 points, but the extraordinary efforts weren't enough to propel the Flames to a victory as McNeese State picked up an 85-72 non-conference win over Liberty, Thursday evening, at Burton Coliseum in both team's first games since the Christmas break.
The contest remained close over the first several minutes of action as a three-pointer by Rell Porter (So., F, Pittsburg, Texas) gave Liberty (3-8) a two-point lead, 7-5, while Troy Aaron followed with a lay-up on the next possession to knot the score at 7-7 with 16:47 left to play in the first half. However, Troy's lay-up started a 13-4 run as five minutes later as Aldryan Wardell nailed a jumper in the lane to give McNeese State (4-5) a nine-point advantage, 20-11, at the 11:23 mark.
The Flames answered back with a run of their own as Liberty scored seven of the game's next nine points as Doug Stewart (So., F, Sanford, N.C.) connected on a three-pointer to pull the Flames within four points, 22-18, with 9:12 left to play before intermission.
But the Cowboys stepped up their defense over the remainder of the period and held the Flames to just three more baskets and a pair of Larry Blair (Jr., G, Charlotte, N.C.) free throws, while outscoring Liberty 20-8 over the final nine minutes to take a commanding 15-point edge, 42-27, at the intermission, which was aided by McNeese State shooting 55.2 percent from the field (16-of-29) in the first period.
Back-to-back treys by Stewart followed by Anthony Smith (Fr., G, Plano, Texas) converting on 1-of-2 free throws enabled the Flames to cut the lead to 12 points, 56-44, with 12:29 left in the contest, but that would be as close as Liberty would get over the rest of the contest as the Cowboys were able to maintain a double-digit lead the entire second half to cruise to the 13-point victory.
McNeese State placed five players in double figures as J.T. Williams led the team with 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-9 from three-point range, while Ryan Price came off the bench to score 15 points. Wardell followed with 12 points, while John Ford and Dwight Boatner rounded out the double-figure scorers with 11 and 10, respectively.
Blair led the Flames with 30 points as the junior was 10-of-21 from the field and 8-of-12 from the free throw line, while Stewart came off the bench to net 21 points on a career-best 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including 5-of-6 from three-point range.
The contest marked the final tune-up for the Flames before Liberty begins Big South Conference play as the Flames open league action against High Point next Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Vines Center.