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Second Half Shooting Ensures Flames Victory

February 11, 2012
|  Clinton, S.C.
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Flames guard John Caleb Sanders chipped in 13 points in Liberty's 77-64 win over Presbyterian, Saturday.

Riding the momentum of a thrilling buzzer beater at Charleston Sothern two days ago, the Liberty men's basketball team stepped into Presbyterian College' Templeton Center, Saturday night, looking to add to its recent success. The Flames did just that thanks to sharp shooting, snapping the Blue Hose's three-game win streak with a 77-64 victory.

The win moves the Flames to 11-16 on the year and 6-9 in Big South play. PC falls to 11-14 overall and 5-10 in conference action. Liberty is now 6-5 in the all-time series. The Flames have won four of its last five road games, including three straight.

Liberty finished the contest with its best shooting performance of the season. The Flames shot 57.1 percent (28-of-49) from the field, marking the second straight contest Liberty has shot over 55.0 percent.

The Flames shot at a 70.8 percent (17-of-24) clip during the second half, its best single half shooting performance of the season. PC had a strong shooting performance, as well, finishing with 54.3 percent (25-of-46) from the field.

The Flames won the rebounding battle decidedly, 28-15, holding PC well below its season average of 29.5 boards per game. The mark is the fewest rebounds allowed by the Flames since the Blue Hose were held to 14 at the Vines Center on Feb. 6, 2010.

Jesse Sanders led the Flames with 19 points, six rebounds and 10 assists, followed by Antwan Burrus with 15 points. John Caleb Sanders had 13 tallies, while Tavares Speaks and David Minaya each had 11. Alonzo Coleman paced PC with 19 points, followed by Pierre Miller, who had 15.

Entering the contest averaging over 25 points in the last four games for PC, Coleman looked to add to his recent success, putting the Blue Hose on the board first with a layup.

Liberty responded with an 8-0 run, receiving baskets from Jesse Sanders, Minaya and Speaks. Khalid Mutakabbir broke up the Flames burst with a jumper, but John Caleb Sanders countered with a three-pointer to put Liberty up, 11-4 at 12:57.

PC turned up the intensity, going on a 12-0 run over the next 3:10. Pierre Miller capped off the burst with a three-pointer at 9:46, giving the Blue Hose a five-point lead. Kelly Assinesi came off the bench, ending the home team's hot streak with a two-point jumper just inside the perimeter. The freshman's field goal was his first since a three-pointer during Liberty's season opener against then No. 19 Texas A&M.

Nearly a minute after Assinesi's bucket, another freshman got on the board, as Jesse Sanders found an open Andrew Smith, who finished with a monstrous two-handed jam to pull Liberty within one-point. Miller struck again 18 ticks later, nailing another three-pointer at 8:13 to make it 19-15.

Liberty posted six straight points to take a two-point lead at the 5:50 mark. PC answered with four points to take back the advantage 55 seconds later. The Flames closed out the half outscoring the Blue Hose, 8-3, with PC's only points during the span coming from a Josh Johnson three-pointer.

With two seconds left on the clock, Speaks connected on a layup to send Liberty into the locker room with a 29-26 halftime lead.

Liberty shot 44.0 percent during the half, hitting 11-of-25 shots. The Blue Hose shot 45.5 percent (10-of-22) from the field, including 36.4 percent (4-of-11) from three-point range. Despite Coleman's presence, the Flames outscored PC in the paint, 12-8. The Blue Hose held the advantage from the perimeter, outpointing the Flames, 12-3. Liberty benefited from second chance points, outscoring the Blue Hose, 10-0.

Speaks led Liberty at the half with nine points, while Miller had eight tallies for the Blue Hose. The Flames defense held Coleman to six points in the opening half, giving up two baskets from the field.

Much like the first half, Coleman put the Blue Hose on the board first in the second. Following a Jesse Sanders layup, Mutakabbir knotted the contest at 31 with a three-pointer. Jay Reynolds tacked on a layup to put PC up by two, but the Flames proceeded to post eight unanswered points to take a six-point advantage. Minaya capped off the burst with a three-pointer off a Jesse Sanders assist, allowing the Flames to take a 39-33 lead at 16:33.

Liberty continued to hold a two to three possession lead over the Blue Hose. A jumper by Jesse Sanders bolstered Liberty's lead up to eight with 12:02 left. With 10:33 on the clock, a pair of free throws by Minaya enlarged Liberty's advantage to nine.

Just over a minute later, Burrus stepped up again for the Flames, laying it in to give Liberty an 11-point cushion. Burrus' bucket made it 53-42 and was part of a personal hot streak in which he scored eight points in an 3:07 span.

With Liberty still holding an 11-point advantage at the 7:02 mark, PC dwindled the Flames lead to six in 64 seconds, receiving buckets Mutakabbir, Washington and Miller.

The visitors countered over the next 1:31, outscoring the Blue Hose 6-1 during the span. Liberty boosted its lead back to 11 with a John Caleb Sanders three-pointer and a free throw and jumper by Jesse Sanders. The jump shot by Sanders made it 65-54, with 4:31 remaining.

The Flames continued to find the mark in the final minutes. The Blue Hose climbed within nine thanks to an Alonzo Coleman three-pointer with 44 seconds to go. However, Liberty ended the night with four made free throws en route to the 77-64 victory.

PC heads to Winthrop on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Flames return to the Vines Center on Tuesday to host VMI. The contest will air live exclusively on ESPN3.com at 7 p.m.