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Flames' Defense Dominates Again In 92-46 Victory over Houghton
For the second-straight game, the Flames' defense stymied its opponent as Liberty held visiting Houghton College to just 28.1 percent shooting from the field and 46 points in a 92-46 home victory, Saturday evening, at the Vines Center.
With the victory, Liberty pushes its record to 2-1 on the year with its second-straight 30-point win after downing visiting Cincinnati Christian, 101-65, two days before Thanksgiving. The loss drops Houghton to 1-2 on the early season.
Liberty's first two victories of the year marks the first time since the 1992-93 season that the Flames have posted back-to-back 30-point wins. The last time that Liberty accomplished the feat, Liberty downed Averett (111-53) and Covenant (96-59) on December 7 and 12, 1992.
Both teams struggled to find their shooting touch early in the contest as a lay-up by Larry Blair at 18:12 marked the first time that anyone found the basket and Liberty held a 4-3 lead at the first media timeout (15:57).
Back-to-back baskets by Alex McLean and Rell Porter helped the Flames open up a five-point lead, 8-3, with 14:55 left to play in the first. Houghton started to find the basket as well as the Highlanders responded by scoring eight of the game's next 15 points with a lay-up by Yannick Anzuluni, pulling the Highlanders within four points, 15-11, at the 12:46 mark.
However, Anzuluni's basket would be the last for the Highlanders for the next four minutes as Liberty scored 21-unanswered points, capped by a lay-up by McLean at the 8:09 mark, giving Liberty a 36-11 lead.
Corky McMullen snapped Houghton's scoreless streak with a three pointer just 14 seconds later, but the basket would prove to be just one of two that the Highlanders would connect on in the final eight minutes of the opening half as Liberty closed out the period on a 17-4 run, taking a 53-18 lead into the intermission.
The Flames finished the opening 20 minutes shooting 57.9 percent from the field (22-of-38), while holding Houghton to just 29.2 percent from the floor (7-of-24). McLean led the Flames in the first as the junior scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field.
The second half didn't prove to be any better for the Highlanders as the closest the visitors got was 33 points on two separate occasions during the first three minutes. Anthony Smith's jumper off a feed from Justin Holland at the 13:35 mark gave Liberty a 40-point cushion it would never relinquish.
The Highlanders finished the game shooting 28.1 percent from the field (16-of-57), giving the Flames three-straight halves of basketball where they have held an opponent under 30 percent shooting. Houghton kept trying to get back into the game by virtue of the long ball, but it was to no avail as Liberty held the visitors to just 20.0 percent from behind the arc (6-of-20).
Liberty dominated the low post as the Flames scored 54 of their 92 points in the paint and the home team took advantage of Houghton's miscues, turning 22 turnovers into 36 points. The Flames also dominated the glass as they outrebounded the NAIA school by 20, 50-30, marking the first time Liberty has outrebounded an opponent by 20 since finishing with a 20-board edge (44-24) over Charleston Southern on January 17, 2005.
The tandem of McLean and Blair paced the way for the Flames again as McLean led the team by scoring 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field, followed by Blair's 24 points, four assists and two steals. Porter followed with 10 points and seven boards and Damien Hubbard pulled down a game-high eight rebounds.
The scoring performance allowed Blair to climb up another rung on the Big South all-time scoring list as he moved into eighth place by passing Mark Mocnik of Campbell (1989-93) who finished his career with 1,635 points. Blair, who has 1,654 career points, now stands just 10 points shy of seventh place on the conference's list as Winthrop's LaShawn Coulter (1992-95) finished his career with 1,664 points.
Houghton was led by Luke Mortenson as the guard was the only Highlander to reach double figures with 11 points. Anzuluni came off the bench to lead the team with five rebounds.
On the opposite bench sat a familiar face to many Flames' followers as Houghton current assistant coach Glyn Turner was a member of Liberty's 2004 Big South champion and NCAA Tournament team as the former forward highlighted his career (2001-05) by helping guide Liberty to its second-ever league champion.
The Flames will continue a current six-game homestand on Monday when they host the Knights of Southern Virginia in the Vines Center at 7 p.m.