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Host Fresno State Hands Flames Second Setback of the Year
Liberty falls to 0-2 early in the season, and the host Bulldogs move to 2-0. Liberty's streak of two-straight road victories, dating back to last year, falls at the hands of Fresno State, a 2007 NIT participant.
Liberty started the evening hot, as they jumped out to a seven-point advantage, 15-8, courtesy of an Alex McLean bucket at the 10:36 mark. Fresno State regained the lead, 16-15, after a Hector Hernandez bucket off a Kevin Bell pass with 6:53 remaining, capping a 7-0 run.
The Bulldogs extended their narrow lead to four points, 21-17, after a Bryan Harvey three-point basket with 5:43 remaining. Liberty pulled back within one point after an Anthony Smith jumper and a Rell Porter bucket at the 3:25 mark, cutting the lead, 22-21.
Fresno State exploded and ended the half on an 8-2 run, including two three-point baskets by Eddie Miller, going into the intermission with a 30-23 lead.
Liberty, for the second-straight game, struggled in the opening period, hitting on 38.5 percent of its shots as they were 10-of-26 from the floor. The Flames only connected on 11.1 percent of their three-point attempts on 1-of-9 shooting, with four of the eight misses going in and out of the bucket.
The Bulldogs started out even colder then the Flames, but eventually found their shooting touch to hit 40.0 percent of their attempts in the first (12-of-30).
Fresno State came out of the break and extended its lead to 12, courtesy of a Dwight O'Neil lay-up with 17:25 left in the contest, giving the Bulldogs the 37-25 advantage.
Liberty then rolled off an 11-5 run, cutting the lead to six, 42-36. Smith completed the scoring burst with a three-point basket at the 11:38 mark.
Following a timeout, Fresno State preceded to push the lead back to 1, courtesy of a 5-0 spurt. The run was capped by a Harvey three-point bucket, at 8:09, extending the lead to 53-42.
Liberty continued to keep the game close, cutting the lead back down to five, 55-50, in front of the home standing crowd, when B.J. Jenkins hit the front end of a two-shot free throw. The made shot from the charity strip capped an 8-2 run with 3:44 remaining in the game.
Fresno State bounced right back, thanks in part to the free throw shooting of Bell and Harvey. The duo went 11-of-12 from the line to close out the game on 16-7 run, giving Fresno Stats the 71-62 win.
Liberty improved on its shooting in the second half, hitting at a 43.3 percent mark on 13-of-30 shooting. The second half improvement allowed Liberty to finish the night shooting 41.1 percent (23-of-56).
Smith led the Flames with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, and Jenkins added 16 points and a team-high four assists. McLean collected his first double-double of the season and 13th of his career, scoring 10 points and grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds.
Fresno State was hot from the floor in the second half, hitting at a 52.2 percent clip, to finish the game at 45.3 percent on 24-of-53 shooting.
Bell led all scorers with 21 points, netting 11 of his tallies via the charity strip. O'Neil scored 11 markers before fouling out and Harvey chipped in 14 points in the winning cause.
Liberty concludes its appearance in Fresno State's World Vision Classic tomorrow when they clash with Portland. Tip is set for 4 p.m. EST inside the Save Mart Center.
Ritchie McKay's Quotes
Just like last night for Fresno, Miller's threes at the end of the half made it really difficult on our team. We were contesting his shot and he was making buckets over at about 25 feet. It seemed all the work we did to keep it close against a team that is so explosive and so dangerous was all for naught.
I was proud of our group. I thought we fought hard. Fresno is very difficult match-up. There is a reason they won a lot of games last year and will do the same this year.