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Flames Fall in Close Contest at Winthrop
With the loss, the Flames record falls to 8-9 and 0-2 in Big South play. The victory improved Winthrop to 10-7 and 1-1 in Big South play.
The Flames took an early 7-2 advantage at 15:13, on the heels of back-to-back three-point buckets by Rell Porter and Anthony Smith. Then, the Eagles the reeled off eight-straight points, taking a 10-7 lead. Charles Corbin finished the surge with a bucket in the paint at 10:30.
Liberty regained the lead, 13-10, after Jeremy Anderson and pair of back-to-back three-point buckets, his second coming at 8:52.
The Flames extended the lead to five, 17-12, after Alex McLean made both his attempts from the charity stripe at 6:40.
The Eagles then closed out the half on a 16-7 run, capped by a three-point bucket at the buzzer by Michael Jenkins. During the spurt, Winthrop received seven points from Jenkins and a three-point play by Mantoris Robinson.
It appeared as if Liberty would enter the intermission down one point when Smith grabbed Jenkins' pass with 15 seconds left. Smith pushed the ball up to TeeJay Bannister, dishing it back to Smith, who buried the three-point bucket from the wing with 13.2 seconds remaining.
Chris Gaynor pushed the ball up the court and was unable to find an open man in the closing seconds. He passed it to Jenkins on the wing, who nailed the three-point bucket as he was falling out of bounds and had the hands of B.J. Jenkins and Justin Holland in his face.
Liberty finished the first stanza hitting 47.1 percent (8-of-17) of its shots from the floor, including 45.5 percent (5-of-11) from three-point range.
Winthrop hit 44.4 percent (12-of-27) of its shots from the floor during the first 20 minutes of play, including 28.6 percent (2-of-7) from three-point range.
The Eagles outrebounded the Flames, 20-10, in the opening half.
The Flames cut the Eagles' lead to one point, 31-30, after a Smith dunk in transition at 16:18. Winthrop was able to increase its lead to seven, 40-33, when Robinson tallied a bucket at 11:45.
Liberty then cut the lead back down to three, 40-37, on a McLean dunk with 9:54 left in the game. The Flames managed to trim the lead to two, 42-40, when Smith connected on a three-point basket from the wing at 8:43.
But that would be as close as Liberty would get, as Winthrop extended the lead up to eight, 51-43, when Jenkins knocked down a three-point bucket with 1:23 remaining in the contest. The Flames were able cut it back to a three-point deficit, 51-48, with 48 seconds left, when Bannister knocked down a three-point bucket and two free throws.
However, Taj McCullough solidified the victory with two transition buckets, sending the Eagles to the 55-48 triumph.
The Flames finished shooting 44.4 percent (16-of-36) shooting, topping the Eagles 38.6 percent (22-of-57). Winthrop won the rebound war, 37-29, and forced Liberty to turnover the ball 15 times.
Liberty got a solid performance from Smith, who led all scorers with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. McLean chipped in 10 points and nine rebounds, while Bannister dished out a game-high nine assists.
Winthrop was led by Jenkins who tallied 12 points, while McCullough chipped in 10 points for the winning cause.
Liberty returns home on Saturday when the Charleston Southern Buccaneers invade the Vines Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.