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VMI Tops Liberty at the Line
VMI connected on 18-of-25 free throw attempts, compared to Liberty's 3-of-5 night, a difference of 20 for the victors. Liberty finished the game ahead in field goals, three-point field goals, rebounds and assists, but the Keydets won the game at the line, moving to 14-13 on the season and 6-7 in league play. Liberty falls to 14-15 and 6-7 in conference play. The loss, Liberty's third-straight, marks the first time since the season's opening three games that the Flames lost that many in a row.
The Keydets capitalized on three missed lay-ups by Liberty's Anthony Smith in the game's opening two minutes, staking them to an early 6-0 lead. Reggie Williams tallied four-straight points before Travis Holmes capped the run with an uncontested lay-up at 17:57.
After Liberty scored four-straight points, cutting its deficit to two points, 6-4, VMI cruised on to a 13-2 spurt, capped by a Quinn Brownfield trey from the corner at 12:24. Brownfield's bucket gave the Keydets a 19-6 lead.
Liberty battled back, cutting the deficit back down to three points, 26-23, via a 17-7 run. During the spurt, the Flames received treys from Anthony Smith, TeeJay Bannister, Kyle Ohman and Jeremy Anderson. The three-point bucket by Anderson at 5:41 capped the run.
The Flames continued to persevere, tying the game at 34, when Anderson hit his second three-point bucket of the opening stanza at 1:54. The Keydets quickly answered, scoring five-straight points when Christian Hunter hit a trey and Williams tallied a jumper. Williams bucket with 57.6 seconds left in the first half gave VMI the 39-34 advantage.
Liberty narrowed the VMI lead back to three points, 39-36, with an Alex McLean dunk with 12.6 seconds left in the opening stanza. VMI would not be outdone, going with Williams at the buzzer, as the Big South all-time leading scorer tallied a bucket with one-tenth of a second left, sending the Keydets into the intermission with the five-point lead, 41-36.
Liberty was one for its first nine from the floor to start the game, but managed to finish the first half shooting 45.5 percent (15-of-33), including 33.3 percent (5-of-15) from three-point range. VMI was on point the entire first half, connecting on 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the floor, including 50.0 percent (5-of-10) from three-point land.
Reggie Williams was the most viable threat for the Keydets in the opening frame, scoring 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. VMI held a narrow lead in the rebound comparison, 17-15, while Liberty forced VMI to eight turnovers to its six.
The Flames opened up the second stanza on a 10-4 run, taking its first lead of the contest, 46-45, via a Bannister jumper from the left elbow, capping the spurt at 16:09. Smith and Ohman hit back-to-back treys before Bannister's field goal.
Liberty extended its lead to four points, 53-49, scoring seven out of the next 11 points, ending with a McLean bucket at 13:56. However, VMI tallied four-straight points by Chavis Holmes, tying the game at 53 with 13:50 remaining.
Back-to-back Smith treys capped a 10-5 Liberty run, extending the lead up to five points, 63-58, with 11:22 remaining in the contest.
The game remained nearly even over the next eight minutes, as Liberty held the narrow 10-9 advantage, 73-69. Chavis Holmes cut the Liberty lead down to four points with his bucket at 4:19.
At this time, VMI stormed out to a 10-4 run, taking a 79-77 lead. Williams free throw with 45.3 seconds left capped the run. An Anderson three-point bucket missed its target with 14.4 seconds left. Brownfield came down with the rebound, as Bannister fouled him. VMI sat in the double bonus, earning two free throws from the charity stripe. Brownfield nailed them both to extend the VMI lead to four points, 81-77.
Smith hit a bucket with 4.0 seconds left, cutting the VMI lead back down to two points, 81-79. James Spencer fouled Hunter on the in-bounds play, sending the Keydets to the line to shoot two more free throws.
Hunter missed both free throw attempts and Rell Porter came down with the rebound on the second miss. A clock malfunction halted play, prompting an official's visit with the timeout coordinator to determine how much time needed to be on the clock. The summit determined that the clock was to be set at 2.0 for the game's final play.
Smith inbounded the ball to Bannister who heaved a desperation shot from half court on the game's final play. The ball fell short, allowing VMI to hold on for the 81-79 victory.
Liberty finished the game connecting on 47.1 percent (32-of-68) from the floor, including 35.3 percent (12-of-34) from three-point range. VMI connected at a 50.0 percent (29-of-58) clip from the floor. Liberty managed to hold VMI to 0-of-9 from three-point land in the second stanza, as the Keydets finished connecting at 26.3 percent (5-of-19) from beyond the arc.
Smith led the Flames with 23 points and 11 rebounds, marking his second double-double of the season. Smith's 11 rebounds also matched a career high, which he set against Coker this season on Nov. 13.
McLean tallied his 14th double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Anderson added 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Bannister added seven points and nine assists, pushing the senior over 200 assists for the season, becoming the first player in the Big South Conference to do so since 1994. Dan Pogue from Campbell was the last player in league history to reach the 200 assist plateau. Bannister also became the fifth all time to accomplish the feat in conference history.
Williams led all scorers with 34 points on 15-of-26 shooting, while Chavis Holmes added 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting in the win.
Liberty concludes the regular season on Saturday when Radford invades the Vines Center at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Flames Television Network and will be simulcast on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). VMI will host High Point on Saturday at 1 p.m.