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Liberty Drops BracketBusters Matchup to Morgan State
Riding a three-game winning streak, the Liberty men's basketball team stepped out of conference play for a Sears BracketBusters matchup at Morgan State, Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Flames, the Bears sharpshooting from the perimeter and overall size inside ultimately led to an 81-69 victory for the home team.
The defeat inside Hill Field House drops Liberty to 12-17 overall (7-9 Big South), while Morgan State improves to 6-18 (3-9 MEAC). The Flames are now 0-4 all-time in BracketBuster games. The Bears are 3-1 in BracketBusters contests, picking up their second straight win over a Big South squad after defeating
VMI in the event last season, 66-62.
Jesse Sanders paced all scorers with 21 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line. The Sugar Land, Texas, native's point total allowed him to surpass 1,200 for his career. Sanders now has 1,213 career markers. With his four assists, the senior has 700 career dimes.
Antwan Burrus chipped in 13 points for the Flames, while John Caleb Sanders went 4-of-6 from behind the three-point arc to finish with 12.
Aric Brooks led Morgan State with 18 points, followed by Justin Black and DeWayne Jackson, who each had with 15 tallies.
David Minaya put the Flames on the board first, but Brooks knocked down a three-pointer on the other end to give the Bears the lead. After a Burrus basket, Morgan State proceeded to score five more points off another Brooks trey and a Shquille Duncan layup. The five-point burst gave the Bears a four-point advantage, 8-4.
Burrus connected on another layup to pull Liberty within two. Morgan State responded with a four-point burst before John Caleb Sanders nailed a three-point bucket to make it a three-point game.
Following a thunderous dunk by Duncan at 12:43, Tavares Speaks answered on the other end with a layup. Morgan State then went on a 16-2 run, preventing the Flames from posting a field goal during the span. The Bears continued to find their range from outside the arc with three-pointers by Brooks, Blake Bozeman and Black. The trio of treys helped the home team take a 30-13 lead at 8:41.
Liberty cut the deficit to 15 with 1:21 left in the period thanks to solid free throw shooting. However, the Bears were also able to connect at the charity stripe in the final seconds of the half, making it 44-26 at halftime.
Morgan State shot 62.5 percent (15-of-24) from the field, holding Liberty to 40.0 percent (8-of-20). Much of the Bears success in the opening period came from three-point land, where they shot 75.0 percent, hitting 6-of-8 shots.
Brooks paced the Bears at halftime with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 from downtown. Brooks also went 3-of-4 at the charity stripe in the first half. Jesse Sanders led the Liberty at halftime with eight tallies, going 1-of-2 from the field and 6-of-6 at the foul line.
In the second half, Liberty began to chip away at the deficit in the early minutes. With the Bears holding a 20-point lead at the 16:54 mark, the Flames went on a 9-0 run. During the burst, Liberty received baskets from Burrus and Jesse Sanders. A traditional three-point play by Sanders cut the deficit to 11 at 14:19, 50-39.
The Bears responded over the next 2:48, outscoring the Flames 11-2. Morgan State converted the Flames' turnovers into buckets and fouls into made free throws, while holding Liberty scoreless from the field during the stretch. An Ian Chiles bucket with 11:31 remaining gave the Bears a 60-41 advantage.
A John Caleb Sanders three-pointer with 10:14 remaining put Liberty within 16. The Bears countered with two treys of their own from Jackson and Black to extend the lead to 22. Two Burrus free throws at the other end made it a 20-point game again with 8:25 left, 68-48.
The relentless Flames continued to find nylon over the ensuing 3:42, making it an 11-point game courtesy of an 11-0 run. The spur included a John Caleb Sanders three-pointer, followed by a Burrus basket and a dunk by Andrew Smith. Jesse Sanders cemented the surge with a bucket to make it 68-57 at 4:47.
Liberty was unable to climb any closer in the remaining minutes, resulting in the 81-69 final.
Despite shooting an average of 57.1 percent the last three games, the Flames finished the afternoon shooting 46.9 percent (23-of-49). The Bears shot 55.1 percent (27-of-49), including 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from outside. Morgan State edged Liberty in the paint, 34-30. The Bears also received 44 points off the bench, compared to 18 for the Flames.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Thursday for its first of two games to round out the regular season.
The Flames host Coastal Carolina, who is currently tied for second place in the conference standings. Tipoff with the Chanticleers is slated for 7 p.m.