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Liberty Picks Up Fourth Straight in Dedmon Center, Saturday

January 28, 2012
|  Radford, Va.
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After a narrow defeat at Winthrop on Thursday, the Liberty men's basketball team bounced back, Saturday afternoon, defeating Radford inside the Dedmon Center, 67-65.

The victory moves the Flames to 8-15 overall and 3-8 in the Big South. Radford falls to 4-20 on the year and 1-11 in conference play.

Liberty has now won four straight contests against Radford, sweeping the Highlanders for two consecutive years. The Flames' victory also marks the fourth win in a row inside the Dedmon Center.

For the second straight contest, David Minaya and Antwan Burrus served as Liberty's dynamic duo, pacing the Flames' offense with 15 points each. Jesse Sanders concluded the night with 11 points and a team-leading seven rebounds and six assists. Javonte Green led the Highlanders with a game-high 20 points and eight boards. Freshman guard R.J. Price finished as Radford's other double-digit scorer with 16 tallies.

Minaya put the Flames on the board first with a jumper, but the Highlanders answered with a 7-0 off run off a Jareal Smith jump shot, a Price three-pointer and another jumper by Kyle Noreen. Liberty answered with five points of its own, thanks to a Tavares Speaks basket and a John Caleb Sanders trey to knot the contest, 7-7, at 16:17.

The three-pointers continued to fly for the Highlanders. After another Price bucket from downtown, John Caleb Sanders countered at the opposite end with a layup. Radford responded with a five-point burst, including a Daniel Mitchell three-pointer to take a 15-9 edge at 11:48.

The Highlanders continued to pull away from the Flames, taking advantage of a near eight minute scoring drought from the field by visiting Liberty. During the span, Liberty received only two free throws from Jesse Sanders. Minaya ended the dry spell at 6:48, picking up a traditional three-point play to pull the Flames within six points, 20-14.

Liberty found its offensive rhythm in the closing minutes of the period. An authoritative alley-oop from Liberty's all-time assist leader Jesse Sanders to Joel Vander Pol jumpstarted the Flames offense. Minaya added to the jam with a jumper to make it a five-point game with 2:05 left.

With Radford leading by seven, John Caleb Sanders capped off the scoring in the first half for the Flames with a pair of free throws, sending Liberty to the locker room trailing by five, 29-24.

Radford shot 42.9 percent (12-of-28) from the field, while holding Liberty to 36.0 percent shooting (9-of-25). Both teams were even in the paint, 12-12.

Minaya led the Flames with seven tallies at halftime, while Green paced all scorers with 11.

Radford jumped out to a nine-point lead to start the second half, getting baskets from Tolga Cerrah and Green. Liberty proceeded to erase the deficit over the next 4:02, outscoring the home team, 12-3. During the burst Liberty received buckets from Minaya, Burrus, Vander Pol and Jesse Sanders. A Burrus layup tied the game at 36, while a Vander Pol free throw gave Liberty the lead for the first time since the opening 30 seconds of the contest at 37-36. Green followed with a jumper to  put the Highlanders back on top, 38-37 at 14:20, ending Raford's span of 4:52 without a field goal.

Liberty reclaimed the lead with a Minaya layup 10 seconds later and led by as much as five over the next 6:10. A Speaks jumper with 8:00 left gave Liberty its five-point advantage, but Radford answered with back-to-back buckets over a span of 56 seconds to cut its deficit to one, 49-48, with 7:04 remaining.

The Flames managed to open a six-point advantage, its largest lead of the game with two Antwan Burrus free throws with 2:30 left on the clock. A Price three-pointer nine ticks later, sliced Liberty's advantage in half, while a Blake Smith jumper with 1:40 remaining moved the Highlanders within one. Neither team scored for the next 1:13, forcing the Highlanders to foul soon after a key offensive rebound by Jesse Sanders.

Four free throws by Speaks gave the Flames a five-point edge with 16 seconds left, but Price refused to back down, hitting his fourth trey of the game to cut Radford's deficit to a pair points. The Highlanders fouled again, sending Jesse Sanders to the line for two more charity stripe tallies. Chance Smith ended the contest with a layup for the Highlanders with one second left, but it was not enough to prevent Liberty from securing the 67-65 final.

Liberty concluded the contest with 41.5 percent shooting (22-of-53), while Radford shot 44.6 percent (25-of-56). The Flames held the advantage in the paint (30-28), off turnovers (10-9) and on second chance points (12-9).

Despite being outrebounded in the opening half, 16-15, the Flames turned it around in the second. Liberty grabbed 23 boards compared to Radford's 12, ultimately winning the rebounding battle, 38-28.

Radford remains at the Dedmon Center, Thursday, squaring off with Winthrop at 7 p.m. Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Thursday, hosting Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on the Liberty Channel and tape delayed on MASN at 9 p.m.