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Liberty Falls to Radford in Big South Quarterfinals
|Photo Credit: Carlos Morales|
In the Big South Championship quarterfinals, three seed Liberty faced the number six seed, Radford, Thursday afternoon. The Flames fell behind early in the game and after a late second half comeback, the Highlanders would prevail, 56-52.
"It was another Radford-Liberty game that went down to the wire," head coach Ritchie McKay said. "Our guys did a good job in coming back. I told our guys before the game that the team that is usually more urgent and desperate has victory and Radford was really urgent for the first 20 minutes. Give them credit for executing their game plan."
Myo Baxter-Bell scored a game-high 18 points to go along with four rebounds and an assist to lead the Flames. Radford had three players score in double figures led by Justin Cousin and Ed Polite Jr. with 12 points each.
It was a slow start to the game as neither team made a bucket until two minutes and twenty-one seconds into the game. Both teams combined to shoot 21.4 percent (3-of-14) during the first five minutes of the game. After Brock Gardner hit a three-pointer for Liberty's first points of the game at the 17:12 mark, the Flames went on a 4:38 scoring draught which allowed Radford to jump out to an 11-3 lead.
Liberty continued to struggle from the floor as the Flames made two of their first 16 shot attempts. Looking to stop the bleeding, Baxter-Bell took control in the paint, scoring eight straight points to cut into Radford's lead (22-11) with six and a half minutes left in the first half. That sparked a 7-0 run for Liberty, cutting Radford's lead to six, 22-16, with four minutes remaining in the half.
The Flames were able to keep Radford's lead to single digits at the end of the half as the Highlanders led Liberty by eight, 29-21, at the break.
Radford ended the first half shooting 60.0 percent from the floor (12-of-20), while limiting the Flames to just nine field goals (9-of-30/30.0 percent). Radford's bench made an impact during the first half, outscoring Liberty's bench 12-3. Liberty was able to stay within single digits thanks to its defense forcing eight turnovers, while committing just one turnover.
Starting off quick in the second half was Liberty's John Dawson, hitting a pair of three-pointers in the first five minutes to get within seven points (35-28) of Radford's lead. Liberty finally made its push midway through the second half as the Flames went on a 9-0 run to come within one point of Radford's lead with 9:17 remaining, 42-41. During the run, Liberty forced four turnovers and the Highlanders went 0-of-6 from the floor.
Liberty was unable to score for 5:22 and Radford extended its lead to 45-41 with just under six minutes left in the game (5:24).
Scoring continued to be at a premium with Liberty taking the lead (49-47) for the first time in the second half with 1:50 left in the game off a three-pointer by Dawson. However, Radford was quick to respond and would close the game on a 9-3 run to pull out the victory.
Despite the loss, Liberty still remains in play for to receive an invitation to one of the men's basketball postseason tournament. During the campaign, Liberty (19-13) posted a 14-4 record in Big South, setting a new program record for conference victories in a season.
With the victory, the sixth-seeded Highlanders advance to tomorrow's semifinal matchup against seventh-seeded Campbell. The Camels upset second-seeded UNC Asheville, 81-79, during the first quarterfinal game on Thursday inside the Winthrop Coliseum.