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Flames Win Buzzer Beater Over Barton, 77-75
Barton, the defending NCAA Division II national champions, playing it third exhibition game in five days, falls to 0-3 in the preseason.
Many times, the exhibition season pits top-flight NCAA Division II programs against NCAA Division I squads. On Saturday, No. 8 Michigan State fell to Division II Grand Valley State, 85-82, in double overtime. That same Grand Valley State team lost to Barton in the Elite Eight last season, during the Bulldogs' run to the national championship.
On Monday night, the Bulldogs jumped out quickly to 3-0 lead on a bucket beyond the arc by Aaron Suggs at 19:27. After an Anthony Smith basked on the ensuing possession to cut it to 3-2, Jeff Dalce hit the front end of a two free throw foul, staking the Bulldogs to a 4-2 lead. But, that would be the last time Barton would lead in the contest.
An ally-oop to Smith off a Bannister pass tied the game at 4-4 with 17:31 remaining in the first. The bucket started a run for the Flames, as they reached their largest lead of the game, 35-21, at the 6:52 mark, on a Bannister jumper from the right elbow.
Barton cut the 14-point lead down to five after a Greg Mammel jumper at the 1:50 mark slashed the Flames' lead, 38-33. Liberty went into the intermission with a nine-point advantage after a bucket by Bannister, followed by a mirror image of the game-winning basket, Bannister to Porter at the buzzer, staking Liberty to the 42-33 lead.
Liberty jumped out of the gates in the second half, extending its lead to 13 points, 50-37, after eight-straight points by Smith, capped by a three-point bucket with 17:16 remaining.
Barton cut Liberty's lead to 53-51, thanks to an 11-3 run, capped by a dunk from Brian Leggett with 12:45 remaining. Liberty pushed the lead back up to 12, 63-51, after a pair of free throws from B.J. Jenkins with 10:43 remaining.
The Bulldogs slowly chipped away at the lead and tied the contest, 75-75, on a three-point bucket by Bobby Buffaloe, with 36 seconds remaining in the contest, setting the stage for the game winner. The knotted score marked the first time game score was tied since 17:31 mark of the first half.
With the shot clock off, Liberty held for the final shot. With the game clock winding down, Bannister penetrated at the top of the key, causing the Bulldogs to close in on the guard, as well as, Alex McLean at the low block. Bannister slipped the ball past two defenders into the waiting hands of Porter, who dumped the ball into the hoop to seal the victory.
Barton tried to go the length of the court to force up one last attempt, but Liberty's defense kept the Bulldogs from being back to get a shot off before the final buzzer.
The Flames hit 56 percent from the field on 28-of-50 shooting, including 13-of-24 from three-point range, good for 54.2 percent.
Liberty was led by Smith who tallied 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting, followed by Bannister, who collected a double-double with 10 points and 14 assists. Kyle Ohman came off the bench for the Flames, scoring 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc. McLean scored 14 points and collected eight rebounds, while Porter tallied seven points, including the game winner.
Barton's shooting wasn't quite a sharp as Liberty's, but the Bulldogs still managed to connect on 46.8 percent from the floor (29-of-62), including 11-of-27 from behind the arc.
Buffaloe led the way for the Bulldogs, scoring 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting off the bench. Mammel tallied 16 points, and Aaron Suggs chipped in 12 points in the losing effort.
The Flames kick off the regular season on Friday, against San Diego State, in Fresno, Calif., as part of the World Vision Classic. Tip is set for 8:30 p.m. EST.
Ritchie McKay's Quotes
Tonight was a really good win. I really like this Barton squad. They are use to winning and are tremendously coached. They have good players and did a great job of coming back from double-digit deficits. I was encouraged by the fact we were able to win the game and happy with how we were able to come down the court at the end of the game without using a timeout, execute a play and get back on defense to prevent a shot at the buzzer.
Barton created a hard match up for us, as they essentially had five guards on the floor. We had to go small, but I was pleased with the win.
The great thing about playing an exhibition game against a team like Barton is that we learned what our weaknesses are, as we were exposed by some things tonight.