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Late Run Allows Panthers to Hold off Flames

November 26, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Joel Vander Pol finished with five points and four rebounds in Liberty's game against Georgia Southern.

The Liberty men's basketball team experienced its fourth-straight defeat, Saturday night, falling to Georgia State inside Sports Arena, 72-50.

Despite the Flames making it a two-point game with 8:34 remaining, a late 12-1 Panthers' run helped seal the contest for the home team.

With the defeat, Liberty falls to 2-5 on the season, while Georgia State improves to 3-3 overall. Liberty's point total on the night was the team's lowest since scoring 43 against South Florida on Nov. 23, 2010.

Jihad Ali paced the Panthers with 16 points, netting 14 in the second half. Tavares Speaks led Liberty with 16 tallies, followed by Jesse Sanders, who had 14.

The Panthers pounced first in the contest, taking the early lead off a Brandon McGee layup. After a David Minaya jumper knotted the game, Georgia State proceeded to post seven unanswered points. Tavares Speaks halted the burst with a jump shot at 14:21, to make it, 9-4, in favor for the home team.

Georgia State enlarged its cushion during the next 1:19, taking a 10-point lead at 13:02 thanks to two free throws by James Vincent. Speaks continued to find the basket for the Flames, posting Liberty's next six points. The junior's jumper at 11:29 pulled the Flames within eight. Joel Vander Pol followed up Speak's effort with a traditional three-point play to cut the deficit to five, 20-15, with 10:51 remaining in the half.

The Flames kept the margin within single digits during the next 5:19. Georgia State reclaimed a double-digit advantage at the 5:30 mark, as McGee knocked down a three-pointer off a fast break to put the Panthers up by 12, 34-22.

Liberty scored six of the game's next nine points during the closing minutes to make it a three-possession game before halftime. After a Vander Pol layup in the paint, McGee closed out the period with a fast break layup, to send the Panthers into the locker room with a 37-28 lead at the intermission.

Georgia State shot 53.8 percent from the field during the first half, sinking 14-of-26 shots. Liberty finished the period on 10-of-29 shooting (34.5 percent). The Panthers held the advantage in the paint, 20-16, and off the fast break, 11-4.

Speaks paced the Flames' offense with 10 first half points, followed by Jesse Sanders with six. McGee led the Panthers' attack during the opening 20 minutes with eight points, while Josh Micheaux chipped in seven rebounds.

Following a made free throw by the Panthers to open the second half, Liberty began to chip away at the deficit. The Flames went on a 6-0 run, receiving buckets from Minaya, Speaks and John Caleb Sanders. After two more Panther free throws, Burrus made it a two-possession game, 40-36, with a layup in the paint at 13:11.

The Panthers reclaimed a nine-point lead thanks to a Jihad Ali three-pointer and a Devonta White jumper. Liberty countered with a trey and two free throws from Jesse Sanders to cut it back to four, 45-41, at 10:57.

John Caleb Sanders made it a two-point game with a jumper in the paint at 8:34. McGee answered on the other end with a three-pointer to push the bulge back to five. After a Speaks jumper, the Panthers went on a 12-1 run. Ali highlighted the burst with four three-pointers, helping Georgia State take a 62-47 lead with 3:29 left on the clock.

The Panthers continued to pull away down the stretch, outscoring Liberty, 10-3, in the final minutes en route to the 72-50 victory.

Georgia State shot 41.7 percent (10-of-24) during the second period to finish with 48.0 percent shooting for the contest. The Flames went 9-for-30 (30.0 percent) during the second half to close out the game with 32.2 percent shooting (19-of-59). The Panthers bench played a factor in the latter half, outscoring the Flames, 15-4.

Liberty opens Big South Conference play on the road, Thursday night, as the Flames square off with Campbell. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.