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Blair Bests Panthers With Career High Effort To Lift Liberty Over High Point
Larry Blair netted a career best 38 points, but none were any bigger than a pair of consecutive three-pointers, the last coming with 21 seconds to lift Liberty to an 83-80 Big South victory over High Point, Tuesday evening, in the Vines Center.
The win ups Liberty's record to 4-8 on the season and gives the Flames a 1-0 record in the conference, marking the program's second conference opening victory in the last nine years, while High Point falls to 7-4 on the season and 0-1 in league action.
The game was a ping-pong battle throughout the entire match as the contest saw 21 lead changes and eight ties, with the largest lead of the game reaching six points by High Point early in the first half as the Panthers jumped out to an 8-2 lead on a lay-up by Issa Konare at the 16:50 mark. However, the Flames responded and outscored the Panthers 12-3 over the next five minutes as a jumper by Blair (Jr., G, Charlotte, N.C.) gave Liberty a 14-11 edge. The Flames maintained the lead over most of the remainder of the first half and took a 37-33 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
High Point quickly erased the four-point lead halftime lead as the Panthers scored the first 10 points of the second half to take a 43-37 lead on a lay-up by Arizona Reid. The Panthers maintained the lead until a jumper by Anthony Smith (Fr., G, Plano, Texas) gave Liberty a one-point lead, 50-49, at the 12:48 mark.
The Panthers took a seemingly large five-point lead, 71-66, on a tip-in by Konare with 4:34 left to play, but the Flames knotted the game at 76-76 just two minutes later as Eric Bigby (Jr., F, Mead, Md.). Landon Quick gave the Panthers the lead back on a put-back with 1:43 left to play, while Blair connected on his first key three-pointer 30 seconds later to give Liberty a one-point edge, 79-78.
High Point regained the lead on the next possession as Akeem Scott connected on a lay-up with 30 second left to play to give High Point an 80-79 lead, but Evan Risher (So., G, Fort Worth, Texas) found Blair open in the corner to nail the game sealing trey with 21 seconds left.
Scott missed a three-pointer attempt on the following possession, while Damien Hubbard (Jr., F, Boyce, Md.) collected the rebound, was fouled and connected on 1-of-2 free throw attempts with five seconds left. The Panthers were able to get the ball down the court and give Mike Jefferson a last second three-point attempt, but the ball rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
Blair, who scored the second most points ever in a game played in the Vines Center, finished the contest 12-of-20 from the field, including 5-of-7 from three-point range and 9-of-12 from the line. Rell Porter (So., F, Pittsburg, Texas) followed with his third double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Konare led the Panthers with 25 points as he was 8-of-13 from the field and 9-of-11 from the free throw line, while collecting a game-high 13 rebounds. Reid followed with 21 points, while Scott added 13 points and three steals.
The Flames return to action on Saturday as they host in-state rival Radford for a Big South Conference game in the Vines Center with a 7 p.m. tip, while High Point returns home to host Charleston Southern on Saturday in High Point at 7 p.m.