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Sanders Sets Big South Assist Record, Saturday
The Liberty men's basketball team suffered its fourth straight setback, on Saturday, falling at UNC Asheville in Big South Conference action, 98-75.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 5-12 on the season and 0-5 in Big South play. UNC Asheville improves to 10-6 on the year and 5-0 in the conference.
Needing just two assists to pass Radford's Amir Johnson (604 assists) as the Big South's all-time assist leader, Jesse Sanders garnered his record-breaking dime at the 13:11 mark of the first half, dishing it to Tavares Speaks for the jumper. Sanders concluded the night with 10 assists, giving him 613 for his career. The Sugar Land, Texas native now needs 36 helpers to surpass Karl Hess (1977-80, 648 assists) for Liberty's all-time assist record.
J.P. Primm paced the Bulldogs with 21 points, followed by Jaron Lane with 15 tallies. John Caleb Sanders led Liberty with 18 points, while older brother Jesse finished with 12.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 5-0 lead with baskets from Jeremy Atkinson and Chris Stephenson. After David Minaya cut the Asheville advantage to three, Primm knocked down a second three for the Bulldogs. Jesse Sanders matched the trey on the other end, but the home team answered with buckets from Quinard Jackson and Stephenson to take a 12-5 lead at 16:54.
Speaks came off the bench for the Flames, providing a boost with four straight points. Following a Stephenson layup, John Caleb Sanders countered with one of his own to make it a one-possession game again. The Bulldogs then went on another 5-0 burst to stretch the lead back to seven. Liberty chipped away at the bulge once again with four unanswered points. After another Asheville three-pointer, Liberty received an Antwan Burrus layup and a Jesse Sanders trey to cut the deficit to two, 22-20, at 11:00.
Liberty remained within one possession of the Bulldogs until the 6:58 mark, when an Atkinson layup gave the home team a five-point lead. Keith Hornsby added a fastbreak layup 19 ticks later off a Jaron Lane steal, upping Asheville's advantage to 32-25, at 6:39.
The Bulldogs continued to hold the Flames at bay. With the home team holding an eight-point lead, Matt Dickey made it an 11-point cushion with a three-pointer at 2:33. Dickey added two more free throws to stretch the lead out to 13.
Three seconds before the halftime buzzer, Jesse Sanders connected on a layup, cutting the Asheville lead to 10, 44-34.
The Bulldogs shot 50.0 percent from the floor in the first half, hitting 16-of-32 shots. The Flames finished the half with 43.8 percent shooting, connecting on 14-of-32 attempts. Three-pointers made the difference in the opening half, with the home team outscoring Liberty from three-point land, 18-9.
Stephenson led the Bulldogs at halftime with 10 points followed by Atkinson with eight. Jesse Sanders and Speaks paced the Flames with eight points, apiece.
In the second half, Asheville continued to pull away. Tomasz Gielo opened the half with a jumper to cut the deficit to eight. Primm answered on the other end with a three-pointer to extend the Bulldogs' lead back to double digits, at 19:23.
Stephenson gave Asheville a 14-point lead, 54-40, with 16:37 left in the contest. The Bulldogs continued to hold off the Flames, extending the advantage to 16 at 12:49, thanks to a traditional three-point play by Lane. Vander Pol made it a 14-point contest, 67-53, 16 seconds later.
With 11:00 to go in the contest, Speaks put the Flames within 13 with a jumper off a Chene Phillips assist. Dickey then answered with a layup to increase the Bulldogs' lead back to 15 at 10:37. Asheville outscored the Flames 14-2 over the next 4:51. A three-pointer by John Caleb Sanders halted the Bulldogs' surge, leaving the Flames with a 26-point deficit, 88-62, at 5:46.
Asheville went up by as much as 29 down the stretch, but Liberty managed to cut it to 23 en route to the 98-75 final.
The Bulldogs shot 76.9 percent (20-of-26) in the second half, finishing with 62.1 percent (36-of-58) for the contest. Liberty shot 45.3 percent (29-of-64) from the field for the game. Asheville hit 15 three-pointers on the night, outpointing Liberty from downtown, 45-21.
The Bulldogs hit the road next Thursday, taking on Campbell at 7 p.m.
Liberty remains away from the Vines Center on Tuesday, squaring off with VMI inside Cameron Hall at 7 p.m.