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Smith's Career Night Lifts LU Past Radford
On Senior night inside the Vines Center, it wasn't Liberty's elder statesmen who shined in the Flames 78-71 victory over the Radford Highlanders on Saturday night, but a sophomore and a junior. The Liberty duo of junior Anthony Smith and sophomore B.J. Jenkins paced the Flames combining to score 47 points, pull down 11 rebounds, dish out five assists and make six steals, while connecting on 17-of-29 shot attempts from the floor in the victory.
The win pushes Liberty's record back to .500, 15-15 overall and 7-7 in league play. The 15 wins marks only the second time since 1997 the Flames have won 15 contests. The only other Liberty team to win 15 games in the last 11 seasons was the 2004 squad (18) who claimed the Big South Championship.
Radford jumped out to the quick 9-0 lead to begin the contest. Amir Johnson capped the spurt, hitting a trey from the wing at 17:20.
B.J. Jenkins ended the run when he responded with a three-point bucket of his own on Liberty's next offensive possession to get the Flames on the score board with 17:56 remaining in the first half.
Liberty managed to cut its deficit down to two points, 14-12, on an Anthony Smith bucket in the paint at the 12:51 mark. The Flames then took their first lead of the game when Jeremy Anderson hit his first trey of the evening from the wing at 9:03, giving Liberty a 15-14 advantage.
The Highlanders quickly countered by taking a 22-17 lead, as Cole Wilder hit a three-point bucket with 5:55 remaining. However, back-to-back three-point buckets by Smith helped Liberty retake the lead, 23-22, at 5:02.
On Radford's next possession, off-setting technical fouls were called on Jenkins and the Highlander's Martell McDuffy. The double-technical at 4:47 seemed to energize the Flames, as host Liberty finished the half on a 10-5 burst. The Flames took a five point lead, 33-28, into the intermission. A Jenkins' layup with 58 seconds left capped the surge.
Liberty finished the first half by connecting on 40 percent (12-of-30) of its attempts from the floor, including 33.3 percent (6-of-18) from three-point range. Radford hit 45.8 percent (11-of-24) of its first half shots, including 37.5 percent (3-of-8) from beyond the arc.
A Jenkins layup 51 seconds into the second period extended the Flames advantage to nine points, 37-28, as Liberty scored the first four points of the half. Liberty then moved its lead into double figures for the first time in the contest, 46-35, when Jenkins penetrated the lane again for two points at the 16:09 mark, capping an 11-6 spurt.
A foul by Highlander Joey Lynch-Flohr at 13:49 was followed by a technical foul on teammate Phillip Martin, sending Liberty's Kyle Ohman to the charity stripe for four attempts. Ohman made all four attempts, to up Liberty's lead to a game-high 12 points, 52-40.
Radford quickly responded with a 10-4 run, capped by an Eric Hall dunk at 10:48. Hall's bucket cut the Liberty lead to six points, 56-50. A Lynch-Flohr bucket at 8:28 sliced Liberty's advantage to five at 59-54, but it was as close as Radford would get the rest of the night.
Back-to-back three-point buckets by TeeJay Bannister and Smith pushed the Liberty advantage back to 11 points, 65-54, with 7:14 remaining.
Liberty continued to maintain a double-digit lead until the Highlanders Johnson scored five-straight points to trim the Flames lead to six points, 73-67, with 53 seconds left.
Liberty closed out the game, hitting 5-of-6 at the free throw line in the final 53 seconds, to seal the victory and home court advantage in Tuesday's Big South Championship Quarterfinals.
The Flames finished the game hitting 43.3 percent (26-of-60) from the field and 35.5 percent (11-of-31) from beyond the three-point arc. Radford finished the contest by hitting 51.0 percent (26-of-51) from the floor, including 33.3 percent (5-of-15) from three-point land. For the first time this season, Liberty defeated a team which hit over 50 percent of shot attempts. Coming into the contest, the Flames were 0-6 when their opponents shot over 50 percent.
Smith led all scorers with his career-high 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Smith also collected six rebounds. Jenkins added 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go with five rebounds, five steals and four assists. Ohman chipped in 13 points in the win.
Five Highlanders reached double figures in scoring, led by Lynch-Flohr's 19 points and six rebounds. Johnson added 15 points before fouling out, while Hall chipped in 14 points and grabbed five caroms.
Liberty returns to action on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the Big South Championship. The Flames will be the No. 4 seed, hosting the No. 5 seed VMI Keydets at 7 p.m. This game is a rematch of last year's No. 3 versus No. 6 quarterfinal matchup between the Flames and Keydets. Radford, the No. 7 seed, will travel to Rock Hill, S.C., to take on the Winthrop Eagles at 7 p.m.