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Liberty Falls At High Point, 67-53
Liberty drops its second-straight contest, and falls to 12-11 and 4-4 in Big South Conference play. High Point wins its third-straight game to take sole possession of third place in the conference standings, upping its record to 13-9 and 5-3 in Big South play.
The Panthers jumped out to a quick advantage with an 8-2 run, which included five-straight points by Arizona Reid to start the game. Eugene Harris capped the opening stretch with a three-point bucket at 17:15.
Liberty cut the High Point lead with an 8-4 spurt. A bucket by Alex McLean capped by a bucket in the paint sliced the Panthers' edge to 12-10 at 13:20.
High Point quickly pushed its lead to eight points, 21-13, over the next 2:32. The Panthers' surge consisted of a Harris three-point bucket, followed by six-straight points by Reid, including two free throws at 10:48.
Liberty fought back to take its only lead of the game, 22-21, reeling off nine-straight points. The spurt was finished off by an Anthony Smith three-point bucket at 6:55. The jaunt started off with a Kyle Ohman trey at 10:20, before TeeJay Bannister brought Liberty to within two points, 21-19, by hitting a trey with 7:45 left in the first stanza.
High Point pulled away over the remaining 6:55 to cruise into the intermission with a 36-28 advantage, outscoring the Flames 15-6. After McLean tallied four-straight points, his second bucket coming with 21.4 seconds left in the first half, Mike Jefferson hit a three-point basket with 2.2 seconds on the clock to send High Point into the break with the eight point advantage.
Liberty struggled to find its shooting touch from the floor in the opening period, hitting only 39.3 percent (11-of-28) of its shot attempts, despite connecting on 50 percent (5-of-10) of its attempts from three-point range.
High Point hit 51.9 percent (14-of-27) of its shots from the floor, including 50 percent (6-of-12) from three-point range. Liberty edged High Point on the boards, 17-14, but turned the ball over seven times, while High Point gave the ball away four times.
The second half started off with a three-point bonanza, as the Panthers and Flames traded three point baskets through the opening eight minutes of the second. High Point extended its lead during the exchange to 51-40. Six three-point buckets were made, three by each squad during the barge. Reid ended the trey exchange by grabbing a Harris miss, and laying it in with 11:44 left.
Liberty was able cut their deficit to seven points a couple times during the second half, the last coming at 7:35. McLean grabbed a Bannister miss, and put it back for a bucket, cutting the Panthers' advantage to 55-48.
It was as close as Liberty would get the rest of the way, as High Point went on a 12-1 run for a 67-49 advantage with 1:59 left. Russell Monroe scored in the lane with 43 seconds left, Liberty's first field goal in nearly seven minutes. Monroe added two more points from the charity stripe in the closing second, as the Panthers closed out the 76-53 victory.
Liberty struggled throughout from the field, finishing with a 35.8 shooting percentage (19-of-53). The Flames shot 37.5 percent (9-of-24) from three-point range. High Point continued its hot hand from the floor, and finished with a 52.0 shooting percentage (26-of-50), including 45.0 percent (9-of-20) from behind the arc.
The Flames were led by McLean's 10th double-double of the season. The senior tallied a team-high 19 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Smith added 13 points and four rebounds in the losing effort.
High Point's charge was led by Reid, the reigning Big South Player of the Year. The senior tallied his league-leading 18th double-double of the season, posting a game-high 23 points and grabbing a team-high 11 caroms. Jefferson chipped in 16 points and dished out a game-high eight assists, while Harris added 13 points for the victors.
Liberty returns to action on Saturday, when the first-place UNC Asheville Bulldogs enter the Vines Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., and will be broadcast on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and the Flames Television Network.