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Presbyterian College Edges Liberty, 63-56

January 2, 2012
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Looking to halt a two-game losing skid, the Liberty men's basketball team hosted Presbyterian College inside the Vines Center, Monday evening. Unfortunately for the Flames, they experienced their fourth setback in Big South action thanks to a late push by the visitors, falling to the Blue Hose, 63-56.

The loss drops Liberty to 5-11 on the year and 0-4 in conference play, marking the first time the Flames have started 0-4 in the Big South since the 1998-99 season. Presbyterian College improves to 8-6 overall and 2-2 in conference action.

Entering the game averaging 16 points, Alonzo Coleman finished with a game-high 18 points.

David Minaya led the Flames with 15 points, while Jesse Sanders concluded the night one assist shy of his fourth career triple-double, posting 10 points, 12 boards and nine assists. The Sugar Land, Texas native now has 603 career assists, needing two more to surpass Radford's Amir Johnson (604) for the Big South all-time assist record.

Game time breezed by during the first 10 minutes, with just one stoppage for a foul during the initial 9:39. The contest remained a one possession game during the opening 4:33 until David Minaya bucked the trend, giving Liberty a four-point lead with a layup at 15:27. Eric Washington quickly made it a one-point game, sinking a three-pointer 24 ticks later. After a layup by Antwan Burrus, Josh Johnson nailed a trey to knot the game, 10-10, with 14:08 left in the contest.

Liberty regained the lead off a Burrus jumper at 13:43. The Flames jumped out to a six-point advantage 5:08 later, courtesy of a Joel Vander Pol layup. Once again, the Blue Hose made it a one possession game, when Johnson hit another three-point basket to cut Liberty's lead to three, 21-18, at 8:02.

Presbyterian College continued to stay within striking distance of the Flames. A Jesse Sanders three-point basket put Liberty up by five. Coleman, the visitors leading scorer, answered at the other end with a spin move to the basket to cut the deficit to three. Washington then followed up with a jumper to make it a one-point contest. John Caleb Sanders prevented the Blue Hose from taking the lead, however, knocking down a three-pointer to give Liberty a 31-27 lead at 2:32.

With Liberty holding a similar three-point lead during the closing seconds of the half, Josh Johnson tied the contest two seconds before the buzzer with his third three-pointer of the game. Johnson's bucket sent both teams into the locker room at halftime knotted at 35.

Liberty closed out the first half shooting 63.6 percent, hitting 14-of-22 shots from the field. Presbyterian College shot 53.8 percent during the period, connecting on 14-of-26 attempts. The Blue Hose held a slight edge in the paint (16-14) and outscored Liberty from three-point land, 15-6.

Jesse Sanders led the Flames at halftime with eight points, six rebounds and five assists. Johnson paced all scorers with 11 points.

The Flames opened the second half scoring the first four points. Presbyterian College countered with four points of its own to knot the contest at 39. With the game tied at 41, the Blue Hose took the lead at the 15:19 mark, courtesy of a layup by Khalid Mutakabbir. The bucket put Presbyterian College ahead, 43-41.

The Blue Hose took advantage of an eight-minute span during which the Flames only scored two points to take a six-point lead with 9:36 left in the contest. Tavares Speaks responded at the other end with a jumper to cut the deficit to four, 49-45, at 9:01.

The Flames grabbed the lead with 3:51 remaining in the contest. Speaks ignited the crowd, intercepting a pass near midcourt and taking it to the rack to put Liberty ahead one, 54-53.

Presbyterian College regained the lead with 2:22 left and did not look back. After the Blue Hose took a five-point lead, Jesse Sanders cut it to three with 44 ticks left. However, the Flames were forced to foul and the Blue Hose were able to seal the victory at the free throw line.

Liberty shot at least 50 percent from the field in for the fourth time in six games, posting 52.2 percent (24-of-46). The Blue Hose shot 44.4 percent (24-of-54). Despite Liberty averaging just above 12 turnovers per game as opposed to 13 for the Blue Hose coming into the contest, Presbyterian College took advantage of the turnover battle, committing just four turnovers to the Flames' 10. The Blue Hose capitalized on the Flames' miscues, outscoring Liberty off turnovers, 13-2.

Along with Minaya and Jesse Sanders, Speaks finished in double figures, garnering 12 tallies. Washington and Johnson recorded 14 and 11 points for PC, respectively.

Presbyterian College returns home on Thursday, hosting High Point at 7 p.m.

Liberty heads to Asheville, N.C. on Saturday, to take on the Asheville Bulldogs inside the newly built Kimmel Arena. During Liberty's final game inside the Justice Center, last season, the Flames edged the Bulldogs, 59-55, defeating Asheville on the road for the first time in nearly six years. Game time for Saturday's contest is slated for 4:30 p.m.