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Sanders Records Fourth Triple-Double in Win at High Point
Jesse Sanders became the first player in Division I history to have a triple double in each of his four seasons, posting 14 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds en route to an 84-78 win for Liberty over High Point, Saturday night.
The victory inside the Millis Center marks Liberty's first conference road win of the season, and the fifth against High Point since the series began during the 1998-99 season.
Prior to Sanders' history making triple-double, only three other players had posted at least one triple double in three collegiate seasons – Shaquille O'Neal (LSU, 1989-92), Adonal Foyle (Colgate, 1994-97) and Shawn James (Northeastern/Duquesne, 2004-08).
A trio of Flames led Liberty with 15 points apiece – John Caleb Sanders, Antwan Burrus and David Minaya. Tavares Speaks chipped in 11 tallies to round out Liberty's double digit scorers.
The Big South's leading scorer Nick Barbour, who entered the contest averaging 19.5 ppg, finished the contest with a game-high 33, followed by Shay Shine who finished with 17.
The matchup marked the two squads first meeting since the Panthers upset the Flames in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big South Championship on March 1, 2011. Emotions were high for the rematch inside a raucous Millis Center. The Flames led for all but 39 seconds in the contest, despite going scoreless from the field for the final 3:34. Liberty relied on its free throw shooting during the stretch, connecting on 13-of-18 shots from the charity stripe.
The Flames looked rejuvenated from their week-long break, coming out to the tune of a 9-2 run. Tomasz Gielo single handedly gave Liberty a 5-0 in the first 1:36, knocking down a three-pointer and two free throws. After a thunderous dunk by Xavier Martin, Liberty received back-to-back baskets from Burrus, giving the Flames a seven-point lead.
Shine made it a five-point game, 11-6, with a jumper at 14:44. The Flames looked to pull away during the ensuing 2:19, outpointing the Panthers, 6-2, during the span. A Minaya jumper with 12:25 remaining in the half allowed Liberty to take a 17-8 advantage.
Liberty stretched its lead to 13 points at the 9:23 mark thanks to a Gielo jumper off a Jesse Sanders assist. The Panthers clawed back, receiving a pair of three-pointers from Branimir Mikulic and Barbour. The dual treys cut Liberty's lead to seven, 23-16, with 8:08 on the clock.
With five minutes left in the half, Barbour connected on another three-point basket to pull the Panthers within three. Ethan Layer countered on the other end 19 ticks later with a three-pointer of his own to put Liberty back up by six.
During the final minute of the period, Barbour made it a four-point game with a jumper. With five seconds left in the half, John Caleb Sanders drained a three-pointer to carry the Flames into the locker room with a seven-point lead, 41-34.
Liberty finished the first half with 55.2 shooting from the flood (16-of-29), including 42.9 percent (3-of-7) from downtown. High Point shot 45.2 percent (14-of-31) during the opening period. Both teams were even in the paint, scoring 14 points apiece.
John Caleb Sanders and Gielo led Liberty at the half with nine points each. Barbour paced the Panthers with 14 first-half points.
Due to technical fouls assessed to each team at the end of the first period, both the Panthers and the Flames opened the second half with free throws. Barbour went 2-for-2 from the line followed by Jesse Sanders, who also connected on both of his shots, making it 43-26 before the clock started.
Speaks gave the Flames a nine-point advantage 20 seconds into the period, laying it in off Jesse Sanders' 11th assist of the ball game. The Panthers responded with 7-0 burst during the next 2:29 to close the gap to two. John Caleb Sanders halted High Point's hot streak with a free throw at 15:55, making it 46-43 in Liberty's favor.
Elliott made it a one-point game 25 seconds later with a layup. Liberty enlarged its cushion during the ensuing 4:15. A feed from John Caleb Sanders to Joel Vander Pol resulted in an open layup at 11:15, giving the blue-clad Flames a six-point edge, 53-47.
Barbour continued to display a hot hand, scoring six of the Panthers next eight points. A two-point jumper by the Danville, Va., native pull the Panthers within two with 7:43 left on the clock.
The Flames began to take advantage of a span of 5:08 during which the Panthers went scoreless from the field. During the stretch, Liberty received a three-pointer from John Caleb Sanders, along with buckets from Jesse Sanders, Minaya, Speaks and Burrus. A jumper by Jesse Sanders at 3:34 gave the Flames a 12-point lead, 69-57.
Following two Barbour free throws, Elliott posted the Panthers first field goal since the 7:43 mark, making it an eight-point contest with 2:35 on the clock. A Shay Shine jumper pulled the Panthers within five, 71-66, with 1:30 left.
The contest soon became a game of free throws, with Liberty hitting 13-of-18 down the stretch at the charity stripe to secure the 84-78 victory.
Liberty finished the contest shooting 52.2 percent (24-of-46) from the field and went 32-of-41 from the free throw line. The Panthers concluded the game with 47.6 percent shooting (30-of-63).
High Point won the rebounding battle, 33-30, and controlled the paint, 38-26. Free throws proved to be a considerable factor on the night, with the Flames outscoring the Panthers from the charity stripe, 32-13.
Liberty remains on the road, Thursday, squaring off against Winthrop. The Flames are looking to avenge last Saturday's 64-61 overtime loss to the Eagles. Tipoff for the rematch inside the Winthrop Coliseum is slated for 7 p.m.