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Flames Cruise Past Randolph College in Home Opener

November 11, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Jesse Sanders finished with a near triple-double, Saturday night, posting 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
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The Liberty men's basketball team did not disappoint in its 2011-12 home opener, defeating Randolph College, Friday night, 81-58.

With the win, the Flames move to 1-1 on the season. Liberty is now 31-9 all-time in home openers and 18-4 when playing its first contest of the season in the Vines Center.

Tavares Speaks led the Flames with a game-high 18 points in his Vines Center debut, followed by John Caleb Sanders, who finished with 17. Mike Ehilegbu and Zach Desgain paced the Wildcats with 15 points apiece.

Speaks' point total came on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor and 4-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe. John Caleb Sanders hit 6-of-9 shots, including 4-of-6 from three-point range and went 1-for-2 at the foul line.

The Wildcats lit up the scoreboard first, but the Flames answered with an Antwan Burrus jumper and a fast break layup by Jesse Sanders to take the lead. After Randolph College's Dylan Shifflett knotted the contest with a layup, Liberty went on a 7-0 run, to take a 13-4 advantage at 14:59. John Caleb Sanders benefited the most from the burst, scoring five points off a fast break layup and a three-point jumper.

The Flames took an 11-point lead at the 11:59 mark thanks to a tip-in by Joel Vander Pol. Randolph College responded with a jumper by Mike Ehliegbu and a Zach Desgain three-pointer to cut the margin to six. Liberty then went on an 8-0 run, with buckets from Speaks, Burrus, David Minaya and Jesse Sanders. The Wildcats' Chris Battaglia halted the scoring streak at 8:13 with a layup, making it 25-13, Liberty.

Randolph College climbed within seven points of the Flames, 30-23, thanks to an Ehilegbu jumper at the 4:15 mark. John Caleb Sanders gave Liberty a 10-point lead with a trey, but Egilegbu nullified the shot 19 ticks later with one of his own. Sanders continued to find nylon from behind the three-point arc, draining two more in the final two minutes of the period. The Sugar Land, Texas native's sharp shooting helped give the Flames a 44-23 lead at halftime.

Liberty hit 19-of-32 shots (59.4 percent) from the field in the first half, holding the Wildcats to 42.9 percent shooting (9-of-21). John Caleb Sanders' four first-half three-pointers helped the sophomore garner 14 points in the period. Jesse Sanders and Speaks finished with seven first-half points, while Burrus chipped in six. Ehliegbu paced the Wildcats with nine points.

Defensively, the Flames forced Randolph College to commit 13 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

Burrus kick started Liberty's offense in the second half with a jumper at 19:05. Just over two and a half minutes later, Randolph College climbed within 18 points of the Flames, courtesy of a traditional three-point play by Zach Desgain. Liberty then went on a 14-1 run during a 4:04 span to hold a 61-29 advantage at 12:19. Speaks led the Flames during the burst, racking up seven points.

With Liberty holding a 35-point advantage, Battaglia knocked down a three-pointer with 8:37 left on the clock. A minute and half later, Ethan Layer regained the 35-point cushion for Liberty, sinking a three-pointer at 7:05. Randolph College responded by outscoring the Flames 12-2 over the next 2:07 to cut it to 74-46 with 4:58 remaining.

The Wildcats continued to sink buckets, outpointing the Flames 12-5 in the closing minutes. The surge was not enough in the end, as Liberty went on to take the contest, 81-58.

The Flames hit 13-of-27 shots (48.1 percent) from the field in the second half, finishing with 54.2 percent shooting (32-of-59) for the game. Liberty shot over 50 percent for the first time since a 100-82 victory over VMI on Jan. 20, 2011. The Flames defense held the Wildcats to 34.5 percent shooting (10-of-29) in the second half and 38.0 percent shooting (19-of-50) for the contest.

Jesse Sanders and Antwan Burrus concluded the contest as Liberty's other two double-digit scorers, finishing with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Jesse Sanders nearly had his fourth career triple-double, leading the Flames with a game-high nine rebounds and eight assists.

Liberty heads to Williamsburg, Va. on Monday to take on William & Mary. Game time against the Tribe is slated for 7 p.m.