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Sanders Sets New Liberty Assist Record, Thursday

January 26, 2012
|  Rock Hill, S.C.
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Jesse Sanders finsihed the contest with 10 assists, surpassing Karl Hess as Liberty's all-time assist leader with 652 dimes.
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After narrowly falling to the Winthrop Eagles in overtime at the Vines Center on Jan. 14, the Liberty men's basketball team went down to the wire with the conference foe again. This time, the Eagles were able to prevent the contest from going to an extra period, picking up the 65-63 decision inside the Winthrop Coliseum, Thursday night.

Following his history making fourth career triple-double on Saturday at High Point, Jesse Sanders cemented his name in the Liberty record books, becoming the program's all-time assist leader during the evening's contest.

Needing just seven assists to surpass Karl Hess (1977-80, 648), Sanders concluded the first half with that exact number to claim the record. Sanders concluded the night with 10 assists, giving him 652 for his career. The Sugar Land, Texas native also finished two rebounds shy of a second straight triple-double, posting 10 points and eight boards.

Reggie Middleton paced the Eagles with a game-high 20 points, followed by George Valentine, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. David Minaya and Antwan Burrus led Liberty with 13 points, apiece.

The defeat drops the Flames to 7-15 on the year and 2-8 in Big South play. Winthrop moves to 9-13 overall and 6-5 in conference action.

Liberty jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, receiving buckets from Burrus and Tavares Speaks. After a Speaks steal and a fast break layup put the Flames ahead by five, the Eagles responded with four straight points from Matt Morgan and Reggie Middleton to pull within one.

An acrobatic layup by Jesse Sanders gave Liberty a three-point cushion, but a Middleton three-pointer off a screen knotted the contest at nine. Tomasz Gielo countered on the other end with a trey of his own to regain the lead for the Flames. Burrus added to the bulge at 14:01 with a two-handed jam, making it 14-9 in the Flames' favor.

Winthrop rallied during the next 1:46, stringing together a 7-0 run to take a one-point lead. Gideon Gamble capped off the burst at 12:15, sinking a three-point basket to put the Eagles ahead. Once again, the Flames answered the trey, as Minaya sunk a three-pointer to reclaim the Liberty lead. John Caleb Sanders tacked on a jumper at 10:53, making it 19-15 in favor of the visitors.

Morgan tied the contest at 19 with a jumper at the 8:08 mark. A Burrus jumper and two Jesse Sanders free throws gave Liberty a four-point advantage. After a dunk by George Valentine, Liberty received back-to-back three-point baskets from John Caleb Sanders to extend the lead to eight, 29-21, at 4:10.

With Liberty holding a seven-point advantage with 1:20 left in the opening period, the Eagles posted five unanswered points off a Middleton three-pointer and a layup by Andre Jones to cut the Flames' lead to two at halftime, 35-33.

Liberty shot 56.0 percent in the first half, hitting 14-of-25 shots in the half, including 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) from three-point land. Winthrop hit on 14-of-34 attempts (41.2 percent) during the opening period.
John Caleb Sanders paced the Flames with eight points in the first half, followed by Burrus with seven. Middleton led all scorers at halftime with nine points.

The Eagles began the second half with a 15-2 run. Middleton capped off the Eagles' hot streak with a jumper at 15:48, putting the home team ahead by 11. Liberty closed the gap with four straight points from Joel Vander Pol and Burrus to make it a seven-point game at 14:53, 48-41.

Still holding a seven-point lead with 12:35 left, the Eagles added to their advantage with a James Bourne free throw and a Gideon Gamble three-pointer.

Liberty responded with 10-0 run during a span of 3:17. During the burst, the Flames received buckets from Minaya, John Caleb Sanders, Speaks and Burrus. A tip-in by Burrus at 6:46 pulled the Flames within one. Following another Middleton three-pointer, Liberty posted four unanswered points from Jesse

Sanders and Minaya to tie the game at 59, with 4:53 remaining in the contest.

Liberty managed to knot the contest two more times down the closing stretch. Jesse Sanders tied the game at 63 just under the two minute mark with a layup. Thirty-five ticks later, Joab Jerome hit a jumper to give Winthrop the edge.

Liberty held the final possession with 34 seconds in the contest. Minaya attempted a three-pointer with six seconds left. The shot bounced off the rim and was nabbed by Speaks, who attempted one final jumper. Speaks' shot failed to connect, resulting in the 65-63 final.

The Flames finished the contest shooting 49.0 percent (25-of-51) from the field, while the Eagles shot 42.9 percent (27-of-63). Liberty held the advantage in defensive rebounds, 23-19, but Winthrop capitalized on the offensive boards, 15-8, to outrebound the Flames in the contest, 34-31.

Winthrop returns to the Winthrop Coliseum on Saturday to host High Point at 4 p.m.

The Flames remain on the road Saturday, squaring off with Radford inside the Dedmon Center at 4 p.m.

The game will be broadcasted live on the Liberty Channel and tape delayed on MASN, airing at 12 a.m.