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Risher's Last-Second Jumper Lifts Liberty To Big South Win Over VMI
For the second-straight game, the Flames had a contest decided in the final seconds and this time Liberty came out on top as Evan Risher's jumper in the lane with 1.7 seconds left gave Liberty the lead for good in a 71-67 Big South victory over VMI, Thursday evening, in the Vines Center.
With the win, Liberty snaps its seven-game conference losing streak and improves to 2-7 in league action (5-16 overall), while VMI drops its fifth-straight conference game and falls to 2-7 in conference play (7-13 overall).
The contest was truly a back-and-forth battle with seven lead changes and 12 times when the game was tied. Liberty's largest lead in the contest was a six-point edge late in the second half (7:08 and 6:27), while VMI's largest advantage was five points midway through the first (11:05, 9:08, 7:25 and 6:57).
The Keydets held the lead for the first five minutes of play until Liberty scored five-straight points to take a three-point edge, 13-10, on a Russell Monroe (So., C, Alma, Mich.) jumper in the lane at the 13:51 mark, while VMI tied the contest just 30 seconds later as Reggie Williams knocked down a three-pointer.
Williams' trey started a 7-0 run for the Keydets that gave VMI the lead for over 10 minutes until Liberty scored six-consecutive points to take a one-point lead, 27-26, on a lay-up by Risher (So., G, Fort Worth, Texas) with 3:59 left to play in the half.
The two teams traded the lead three more times until Damien Hubbard (Jr., G/F, Boyce, Va.) took a pass from Risher with 35 seconds left for a successful jumper to knot the score at 31-31 at the intermission.
More lead changes and ties occurred over the first eight minutes of the second half as Larry Blair (Jr., G, Charlotte, N.C.) converted on one of two free throw attempts to give Liberty a 43-42 edge with 14:07 left, while VMI responded with a Williams' jumper and a pair of Travis Holmes free throws to take a three-point lead, 46-43, at the 12:25.
However, back-to-back baskets by Eric Bigby (Jr., F, Meade, Md.) and Blair gave Liberty a lead it would not relinquish until the final three-plus minutes of the contest, while the Flames pushed their lead to as much as six points over the nine-minute stretch.
Liberty maintained the lead until Preston Beverly grabbed an offensive rebound and stuck it back for two with 3:26 left to play to tie the game at 62-62. Two minutes later the game was tied again at 64-64 until Risher knocked down a three-pointer in the corner, giving Liberty a three-point lead with 1:18 left to play.
But VMI quickly answered back as Chavis Holmes nailed a trey from the top of the key to tie the game at 67-67 with 53 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Blair missed a three-pointer as time was expiring on the shot clock, but the guard got his own rebound to give the Flames another possession.
After a timeout, Risher took the inbounds pass and waited until the clock was winding down and unlike the rest of the night that saw him finish with a career-high eight assists, the guard kept the ball and knocked down a jumper in the lane with 1.7 seconds left. VMI tried a full-court pass but it sailed out the other end of the court, giving Liberty the ball back where Blair was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to seal the contest.
Blair posted his fifth-straight 20-point game to lead Liberty with 23 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, marking his second career double-double, while Rell Porter (So., F, Pittsburg, Texas) netted 12 points and pulled down eight boards. Risher finished the game with nine points and the previously mentioned eight assists.
Williams paced the way for the Keydets as he scored 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field, including 3-of-6 from three-point range, while Matt Murrer added 12 points and a team-best nine rebounds.
The Flames will have the weekend off as they return to action next Monday when they host UNC Asheville in the Vines Center at 7 p.m., while host Birmingham-Southern on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.