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Flames Rally Falls Short As Panthers Claim Big South Victory
Birmingham-Southern started the second half on a 17-4 run, but allowed Liberty back into the game as the Flames trimmed the lead back to just four points; however, the Panthers were able to hold on for a 61-51 Big South victory over Liberty, Saturday evening, at the Vines Center.
With the victory, Birmingham-Southern jumps to 5-1 in Big South action (12-5 overall) which places them in second place in the league, while Liberty drops its fourth-straight league game and falls to 1-4 in the conference (4-13 overall).
The first half was a close back-and-forth battle with the largest lead being four points until the final seconds of the opening period. Both teams started the game on fire from the field as Liberty connected on six of its first 10 attempts, while the Panthers knocked down five of their first eight tries from the floor.
Liberty took a three-point lead, 10-7, on a Larry Blair (Jr., G, Charlotte, N.C.) lay-up at the 15:50 mark, but the Panthers scored seven-straight points as a three-pointer by Ed Horton gave Birmingham-Southern a four-point lead just three minutes later, 14-10.
The two teams traded the lead six times over the next nine minutes with the Flames taking their last lead of the game on a jumper by Blair with 4:19 left in the first, 20-19. Birmingham-Southern scored eight of the game's next 10 points to take a five-point lead, 27-22, on a tip-in by Dwayne Paul at the 1:17 mark, but Blair trimmed the lead back to three points, 27-24, with a basket with 41 ticks left to go in the opening period.
Anthony Smith (Fr., G, Plano, Texas) tied the game at 27-27 just 90 seconds into the second period on a three-pointer, but the Panthers answered back as Thomas Viglianco nailed a three-pointer of his own at the 16:44 mark to start 10-straight points by Birmingham-Southern.
Liberty halted the run as Smith knocked down a jumper with 11:37 left to play to pull Liberty within nine points, 38-29, but the Panthers continued their run as Paul converted on an old fashion three-point play with a lay-up and a free throw to give Birmingham-Southern its largest lead of the game at 13 points, 44-31, with 10:02 left in the game.
The Flames slowly chipped away at the lead and were able to pull within four points, 49-45, on another jumper by Blair at the 2:49, but Paul followed with a jumper on the ensuing possession to quickly push the lead back to six points.
After Blair missed a jumper on the Flames next trip down the court, Srederick Powe pulled down an offensive rebound on a missed Panthers lay-up, stuck it back for a basket and was fouled on the play, while he converted on the ensuing free throw to give Birmingham-Southern a solid nine-point cushion, 54-45, which they were never relinquish.
Paul led the way for the Panthers as he netted 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 shooting at the line, while tying for team-high rebounding honors with seven boards. Powe followed with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor and seven rebounds, while Horton rounded out Birmingham-Southern's double-figurer scores with 10 points.
Blair paced the way for the Flames as the junior scored 26 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the field, while also leading the team with six rebounds and two steals. Smith followed with his most productive conference game of the year by netting 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, while adding three assists.
The Flames will begin a three-game road swing on Wednesday when they travel to Asheville, N.C. to face off with the Bulldogs of UNC Asheville at 7 p.m. in the Justice Center, while the Panthers return to Big South play on Monday when they travel to High Point, N.C. to square off with High Point at the Millis Center for a 7 p.m. contest.