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No. 19 Texas A&M Defeats Liberty, 81-59

November 9, 2011
|  College Station, Texas
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John Caleb Sanders (right) led Liberty with a career-high 18 points against No. 19 Texas A&M, Wednesday night.

No. 19 Texas A&M proved why it is nationally ranked, Wednesday night, defeating the Liberty men's basketball team inside Reed Arena, 81-59. The contest was part of the regional round in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.

The Aggies were led by Ray Turner, who finished the contest with 20 points and six
rebounds. John Caleb Sanders paced the Flames with a career-high 18 points.

With the defeat, Liberty begins the season 0-1, while the Aggies open the year 1-0.

David Minaya put Liberty on the board first, sinking a jumper just after the opening minute for the 2-0 lead. The Flames held the lead until the 15:45 mark, until Khris Middleton knocked down a jump shot of his own following a free throw, putting the Aggies up, 3-2.

The Aggies posted two more buckets before John Caleb Sanders hit a two-point shot to cut the deficit to three. Texas A&M responded to the bucket with a 8-0 run, receiving buckets from Elston Turner, Ray Turner and Middleton. Minaya halted the Aggies' burst with a long-range jumper, but Middleton answered with a fast break jump shot in the paint, making it 19-6, at 8:02.

Texas A&M continued to execute, tacking on two more buckets from Ray Turner and Jordan Green. After two Antwan Burrus free throws, the Aggies went on another 8-0 run, taking a 31-8 lead with 3:56 left in the half.

The Aggies and the Flames matched each other in points during the remaining minutes of the half, 6-6, resulting in a halftime score of 37-14.

Texas A&M went 16-of-27 (59.3 percent) from the field in the first half, while holding Liberty to 16.7 percent (4-of-24). The Flames were a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the opening 20 minutes.

Three Aggies had six points apiece in the first half – Middleton, Elston Turner and Ray Turner. Minaya paced the Flames with six tallies.

The home team opened the second half with four straight points from David Loubeau and Elston Turner. Texas A&M outscored the Flames, 8-3, in the first 2:43, capped off by a thunderous alley-oop dunk by Ray Turner. The two-handed jam gave the Aggies a 45-17 lead at the 17:17 mark.

Liberty outpointed Texas A&M, 7-2, over the next 2:05. John Caleb Sanders cut the deficit to 25, nailing a three-pointer to make it 49-24, at 15:12.

Recent history repeated itself over the next 2:30. After another alley-oop dunk by Ray Turner, John Caleb Sanders hit his second trey at the other end. The three-pointer once again cut the Aggies lead to 25, 54-29, with 11:42 remaining.

Burrus cut it to 24 with a layup at 10:19. Texas A&M responded with four unanswered points to increase the bulge back to 28. At the other end, Minaya knocked down a jumper and Jesse Sanders hit a pair of free throws to cancel out the quartet of tallies. Following a Ray Turner fast break layup, Jesse Sanders responded with one of his own, making it a 24-point game once again, 63-39, at 6:52.

Minaya diced the deficit to 21 with 5:16 left, hitting a three-point jumper. The Aggies pushed the lead back to 27 nearly two minutes later, capped off by an Elston Turner jumper. The Flames came within 18 thanks to a three-pointer by John Caleb Sanders and a Tavares Speaks layup. However, the Aggies prevented the Flames from getting any closer en route to the 81-59 victory.

Texas A&M hit 18-of-25 (72.0 percent) shots from the field in the latter period, finishing at 65.4 percent (34-of-52) for the contest. Liberty hit 17-of-39 attempts (43.6 percent) in the second half to finish with 33.3 percent shooting (21-of-63) for the game.

Along with John Caleb Sanders' 18-point performance, the Flames had two other double digit scorers – Minaya (14) and Burrus (10). For the Aggies, Elston Turner and Loubeau finished with 16 and 14 points, respectively, following Ray Turner's 20.

Texas A&M outscored the Flames in the paint (48-18) and on the fast break (16-2), but Liberty held the advantage on second-chance points (13-6) and off the bench (27-22).

Liberty makes its 2011-12 Vines Center debut, Friday, playing host to Randolph College. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.