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Flames Fall to Southern Miss at Progressive Legends Classic
The Liberty men's basketball team wrapped up its stay at the Progressive Legends Classic, Wednesday afternoon, squaring off with Southern Miss. The Flames held a one-point lead in the early going, but the Golden Eagles ability to knock down high percentage shots inside allowed Southern Miss to break away for the 74-56 victory.
Liberty starts the season 0-6 for the second time in program history and the first since the 1977-78 campaign, when the Flames began the year 0-7. Southern Miss improves to 5-0 on the year.
Jonathan Mills led the Golden Eagles with a game-high 18 points, while grabbing eight rebounds. Carey Norville also chipped in 13 tallies for Southern Miss.
Junior guard John Caleb Sanders paced the Flames offense with a season-high 15 points, followed by Tavares Speaks, who added 10. JR Coronado pulled down a game-high nine boards, while finishing with seven points.
Southern Miss shot 60.4 percent (29-of-48) from the field on the night, while holding the Flames to 34.0 percent (17-of-50). The Golden Eagles scored 62.0 percent of their points in the paint, owning a 46-16 advantage inside. Liberty hit eight three-pointers in the contest for its second highest three-point field goal total of the season.
Mills proved tough to tame inside during the early minutes, scoring nine of the Golden Eagles first 11 points. With Southern Miss up by two tallies, Liberty claimed the lead, 7-6, thanks to a Casey Roberts three-pointer at the 15:33 mark.
Southern Miss proceeded to go on a 12-2 run to take a nine-point lead with 9:10 remaining in the half. Speaks responded with a jumper 38 ticks later to cut the deficit to seven, 18-11.
Liberty made it a five-point game with 5:21 left in the half courtesy of a Marshall three-pointer. After a pair of Southern Miss free throws, the Flames cut it back to five with a finger roll by Coronado. Two straight layups put the Golden Eagles back up by nine, but a Sanders trey made it a six-point game with just over three minutes remaining.
Following another pair of Southern Miss free throws, Coronado connected on a layup with 29 seconds on the clock. With the shot clock off, a defensive stop by the Flames prevented the Golden Eagles from finding the basket, making it 31-25 at halftime.
Mills led all players at the half with 12 points and six rebounds. Coronado paced the Flames in the opening period with seven tallies.
The Golden Eagles shot 60.0 percent (12-of-20) from the field in the first half, while holding Liberty to 32.0 percent (8-of-25). Southern Miss controlled the paint during the period, outscoring the Flames inside, 22-8. Liberty hit a trio of three-pointers in the half. Southern Miss was held scoreless from beyond the three-point arc, attempting just one trey in the period.
In the second half, the Flames cut the deficit to four off a Sanders layup in the paint at the 17:51 mark. The Golden Eagles went back up by nine, until a three-pointer by Chad Donley at 15:33 made it a two possession game once again.
Southern Miss then went on an 11-0 run to take a 17-point lead. Sanders broke up the burst with a three-pointer at 12:42, making it 49-35.
Liberty could not climb any closer in the contest, as the Golden Eagles led by as much as 21 with 6:15 left en route to the 74-56 final.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Nov. 29, playing host to Morgan State. The contest marks a rematch of last season's Sears BracketBusters matchup, which resulted in an 81-69 victory for the Bears. Tipoff for the return meeting is slated for 7 p.m.