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Liberty Escapes Kaplan Arena with Win
Despite a late rally by William & Mary, the Liberty men's basketball team escaped with a 75-72 win, Monday night inside Kaplan Arena.
Liberty led by as many 15 points in the contest, but a late charge by the Tribe transformed the contest into a nail biter during the closing minutes. Despite an 11-1 William & Mary run with just over three minutes remaining, the Flames managed to sink clutch free throws in the final minute to walk away with the victory.
David Minaya led the Flames with a game-high 20 points and seven rebounds. Marcus Thorton paced the Tribe with 19 points.
With the win, Liberty improves to 2-1 on the season, while William & Mary falls to 0-3 overall.
The Tribe struck first in the contest with a three-pointer by Kendrix Brown. Liberty answered on the other end with an Antwan Burrus layup, but Brandon Britt regained the three-point advantage with a layup of his own. After Minaya made it a one-point game with a jumper, Marcus Thorton connected on another layup to increase the home team's advantage to 7-4, at 13:40.
Liberty countered with a 7-0 run over the next minute to take it first lead of the contest, 11-7. Tavares Speaks highlighted the burst, picking the pocket of Julian Boatner and scoring, following a traditional three-point play by Joel Vander Pol.
Still holding a four-point cushion just under the 10-minute mark, John Caleb Sanders extended the Flames' lead with five-straight points. The Sugar Land, Texas native made it a nine-point game, knocking down a two-point jumper and a trey, making it, 20-11 at 8:50.
The Tribe responded over the next 6:09, outscoring the Flames 16-6 during the span. William & Mary displayed sharp shooting over the span, receiving two three-pointers from Matt Rum and one from Boatner. The triple from Boatner gave William & Mary a 27-26 lead at 2:47.
Liberty immediately answered the Tribe's run with six unanswered points on buckets from John Caleb Sanders and Minaya to take a five-point lead. After a Tribe free throw by Quinn McDowell, Jesse Sanders sunk a three-pointer with 13 ticks left, leading to a 35-28 halftime lead for the Flames.
Liberty hit 15-of-30 shots (50.0 percent) from the field in the opening period. William & Mary shot 43.8 percent, hitting 10-of-23 shots. The Tribe outscored the visiting Flames from three-point land, 15-6.
The Flames held the advantage in the paint, outpointing the Tribe, 20-8. Liberty also capitalized off turnovers, outscoring William & Mary, 15-6, and on second chance points, 14-3.
Minaya led Liberty with 10 first-half points, followed by John Caleb Sanders, who chipped in nine. Rum paced the Tribe with nine points on 3-for-3 shooting from behind the three-point arc.
Burrus scored the first points for the Flames of the second half, giving Liberty a nine-point lead. After Thorton chipped away at the Tribe deficit with a three-pointer, the Flames went on an 8-0 run. During the span, Minaya posted five points off a three-point bucket and a jumper. John Caleb Sanders capped off the burst with a trey of his own, putting Liberty ahead, 45-31, with 16:13 left.
Liberty took a 15-point lead nearly three-minutes later. Chene Phillips dished a pass to an open Speaks, who knocked down a jumper up the Flames' advantage to 51-36. William & Mary posted seven straight points to cut the Liberty lead to seven, but the Flames responded with six unanswered points of their own to hold a 57-42 lead at 8:16.
With the Flames holding a 13-point lead at the 3:18 mark, the Tribe began to whittle at Liberty's advantage, outscoring the visiting team, 11-1, over the next 2:04. Thorton came up big for William & Mary during the stretch, netting eight of the home team's 11 tallies to put the Tribe within three, 71-68.
William & Mary made it a one-point game in the final four seconds, but Liberty managed to hold off the relentless Tribe for the 75-72 final.
Along with Minaya, three other Flames finished in double scoring figures – Burrus (14), John Caleb Sanders (12) and Jesse Sanders (11). Jesse Sanders also finished the contest with seven boards and eight assists. Rum and McDowell concluded the contest with 14 and 10 tallies for the Tribe, respectively.
The Flames hit 29-of-59 shots (49.2 percent) from the field, while William & Mary concluded the contest shooting 46.3 percent (25-of-54). Liberty outscored the Tribe in the paint, 32-24, and off turnovers, 22-10. The Tribe held the advantage on bench points, 47-10.
Liberty returns to the Vines on Thursday to host the Lynchburg Subregional of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. The invitational consists of three days of games for the Flames, beginning with Eastern Kentucky. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. The Tribe will kick off the event at 4:30 p.m. against Lehigh.