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Second Half Surge Moves Asheville Past Liberty

February 4, 2012
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Coming off a win against Gardner-Webb on Thursday, the Liberty men's basketball team welcomed Big South leader UNC Asheville in the Vines Center, Saturday night.

Despite a valiant defensive effort by the Flames during the first half, the Bulldogs showed why they are the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation (84.3 ppg entering the night), breaking away with a second half surge to win, 65-51.

With the defeat, Liberty falls to 9-16 overall and 4-9 in Big South play. Asheville moves to 18-7 on the season and 13-1 in conference action. The Bulldogs now lead the all-time series, 29-20.
John Caleb Sanders paced the Flames with 15 points, while David Minaya finished with 13, allowing him to surpass 700 points for his Liberty career. The redshirt senior now has 702 career markers and is 34th on Liberty's all-time scoring list.

Jaron Lane led the Bulldogs with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Asheville's guard duo of Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm finished with 13 and 12 tallies, respectively.

The contest was themed by a strong defensive effort from both teams. Asheville's 65 points was the Bulldogs' lowest point total this season since a 73-63 loss to then No. 4 Connecticut on Nov. 24. Liberty's 51 tallies were the Flames' fewest since a 71-48 defeat at Coastal Carolina (Feb. 25, 2010).

Asheville opened the contest with a 6-0 run, receiving baskets from Primm, Dickey and Chris Stephenson. The Bulldogs defense prevented the Flames from finding the hoop during the opening five minutes, until Tavares Speaks put the Flames on the board at 15:01 with a jumper.

Asheville answered with a 7-0 burst to take an 11-point advantage. Joel Vander Pol prevented the visitors from extending their lead further, sinking a layup at 10:55 to make it 13-4 in favor of the Bulldogs.

The Flames rallied during the next 4:06 to pull within three points of the conference leader. Jesse Sanders kick started the 10-4 surge with a three-point basket. After jumpers from Minaya and Speaks, John Caleb Sanders capped the spurt with another trey, to turn the game into a one possession game, 17-14, 6:49.

John Caleb Sanders continued to display his range from outside during the closing minutes of the half. The sophomore sharpshooter made it a one-point game at the 3:41 mark with a second trey. With 16 ticks left in the half, Sanders nailed a third three-pointer to tie the contest at halftime, 22-22.

Entering the game shooting 49.7 percent from the field, Asheville was held to 32.3 percent (10-of-31) by the Liberty defense during the opening 20 minutes. The Bulldogs 22 points marked their second lowest first-half point total of the season and the fewest since opening their Dec. 1 meeting versus Gardner-Webb with 21 tallies.

Liberty closed out the first period shooting 37.5 percent (9-of-24), including 80.0 percent (4-of-5) from behind the three-point arc. The Flames defense held Asheville to 14.3 percent from downtown, forcing the Bulldogs to go 1-for-7 during the half.

John Caleb Sanders' trio of first-half three-pointers made him the game's leading scorer at halftime with nine points. Primm led Asheville with eight tallies on 4-of-7 shooting.

Both teams began the second half trading baskets. Liberty took its first lead of the contest with 17:44 remaining, thanks to an Antwan Burrus jumper, which put the Flames on top, 28-26. The Bulldogs regained the lead at the 16:28 mark, but Tomasz Gielo put Liberty ahead again 32 ticks later, swishing an open three from the top of the key to give the home team a 33-30 advantage.

The Bulldogs proceeded to go on a 13-0 run during the next 5:24. Quinard Jack highlighted the burst for the visiting team with seven points. John Caleb Sanders halted the hot streak with a short jumper at 9:40 to pull the Flames within eight, 43-35.

Asheville continued to distance itself from Liberty, taking a 13-point lead with 6:29 remaining. Trapped underneath the basket, Primm found an open Lane, who knocked down a three-pointer. Minaya answered with a layup at the other end just under the five-minute mark, but the Bulldogs tacked on four more tallies to go up by 15, their largest lead of the night, with 4:19 left on the clock.

Liberty managed to climb within nine during final 1:12, but could not inch any closer en route to the 65-51 final.

The Bulldogs shot 50.0 percent (17-of-34) during the second half to finish the night shooting 41.5 percent (27-of-65) for the contest. Liberty shot 35.2 percent (19-of-54) on the night. Asheville won the rebounding battle, 47-34 and outscored the Flames in the paint, 38-16.

Asheville receives a week long break before its next contest, playing host to Radford next Saturday inside Kimmel Arena. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m.

Liberty hits the road on Thursday to face Charleston Southern. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m.