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Smith Elevates LU Over Gardner-Webb, 68-59
Anthony Smith poured in a game-high 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting, lifting the Liberty Flames (6-1, 1-1 BSC) over the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs (2-5, 1-1) in Big South Conference action, 68-59, Saturday afternoon, inside the Vines Center.
A Grayson Flittner three-point tally at 15:00 broke a 7-7 tie, pushing the Bulldogs ahead, 10-7, giving Gardner-Webb the advantage, something they would enjoy most of the first half.
Answering a Seth Curry trey at 13:51, Jonathan Moore hit a three-point bucket at 13:30, extending the Gardner-Webb advantage to six points, 18-12. Liberty managed to cut the Gardner-Webb lead down to two points, 20-18, via a 6-2 spurt, capped by a Smith bucket in the lane after Brolin Floyd picked off Aaron Linn's pass.
Gardner-Webb quickly answered, using a 9-2 run to extend its lead to a game-high nine points, 29-20. Joshua Henley scored a bucket in transition, capping the run. Henley was fouled on the play by Kyle Ohman, but missed the ensuing free throw attempt.
The Flames followed by scoring six straight points, cutting the Gardner-Webb advantage to three points, 29-26. Bill Weaver scored a bucket in the paint, followed by a Johnny Stephene layup and a basket by Smith capped the run at 5:34.
Flittner hit a three-pointer at 2:07, extending the Bulldog's lead back to seven points, 35-28, finishing off a 6-2 Gardner-Webb spurt.
Liberty surged into the intermission, cutting the deficit to two points, 35-33, with five unanswered points. The Flames attempted to tie the game on the half's final play, but stout Gardner-Webb defense didn't allow Liberty to attempt a shot.
The Flames connected on 52.0 percent (13-of-25) from the floor in the opening stanza, including 27.3 percent (3-of-11) from beyond the arc.
Gardner-Webb tallied a 48.1 percent (13-of-27) success rate from the floor in the opening period, including a 29.0 percent (9-of-31) from three-point range.
Two minutes passed in the second half, before any points were tallied on the scoreboard. Floyd was the first to score, netting a field goal for Liberty in transition off an Ohman pass, tying the game at 35 all with 18:08 remaining.
For the next eight minutes each team went back-and-forth, registering four lead changes and four ties. A Linn make from the charity stripe at 10:23, broke a tie, giving Gardner-Webb a one point advantage, 49-48.
A Smith bucket at 7:33 gave Liberty a 52-49 lead, capping four straight Liberty points. Smith was fouled on the play by Anton Silver, but missed the ensuing free throw attempt, giving Liberty a three point lead.
Gardner-Webb out-scored Liberty over the next two minutes, 6-2, taking a one point lead, 55-54, as the run was capped by a Linn jumper at 5:04. That would be the last time the Bulldogs would lead.
Smith tallied a bucket at 4:34, giving Liberty lead for good, 56-55. While Liberty would never trail again, the suspense was heavy. Gardner-Webb had three chances to score on their next possession, but Curry pulled down a board at 3:27 to eliminate the threat.
Smith added a free throw at 2:49 to give the Flames a two point lead, 57-55. Nate Blank missed a three-point attempt at 2:26, which Smith made him pay for with a defensive rebound and a trifecta at the other end, via an Ohman pass. The trey extended Liberty's lead to five points, 60-55, with 2:08 to play.
The Bulldogs continued to charge, getting within three points, 60-57, courtesy of a Moore layup on a Blank pass at 1:09. Smith connected on his second three-pointer, via a Curry pass at 1:22, pushing Liberty's lead to six points, 63-57.
The Flames would secure their fifth straight victory with a 5-2 run, sealed by a Curry free throw with two seconds remaining.
Liberty finished the game shooting 45.3 percent (24-of-53) from the floor, including 31.8 percent (7-of-22) from beyond the arc.
Smith pulled down seven rebounds to go with his game-high 27 points, while Ohman pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds, while chipping in seven points. Curry added 15 points, while grabbing six caroms and dishing out five assists. Jesse Sanders and Floyd grabbed four and three steals respectively, as Liberty had 10 steals and forcing 20 Gardner-Webb turnovers.
Gardner-Webb finished the contest, hitting 37.9 percent (22-of-58) from the floor, including 34.6 percent (9-of-26) from three-point range.
Flittner tallied a team-high 15 points, while Moore added 14 markers. Linn chipped in 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
Liberty has a quick turnaround on the hardwood, traveling to Clemson tomorrow. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m., inside Littlejohn Coliseum.