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Bears Pull Away Late to Edge Flames, Thursday
|Flames forward JR Coronado|
Looking to avoid starting 0-7 for the first time since the 1977-78 season, the Liberty men's basketball hosted Morgan State, Thursday night. The Flames hoped to avenge its 2012 Sears BracketBusters loss to the Bears, but the visitors had other plans, pulling away in the final 6:30 to win, 67-62.
The Bears improve to 2-3 on the year, while Liberty's 0-7 start is its second in program history. Morgan State is now 2-1 in the all-time series.
Anthony Hubbard led the Bears with a game-high 16 points, followed by Ian Chiles (12) and DeWayne Jackson (11). Justin Black finished with a near triple-double, recording nine points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
Casey Roberts paced the Flames with 15 points. Davon Marshall and Tavares Speaks each had 12 and 11 tallies, respectively. After missing the first six games due to injury, Tomasz Gielo returned to the court, posting 11 points in 18 minutes.
Both teams struggled finding the basket in the opening minutes. Morgan State held the advantage offensively during the first 5:17. However, the Flames answered with a 7-0 burst, highlighted by five points from John Caleb Sanders. A traditional three-point play by the junior guard gave Liberty a 12-7 lead with13:52 remaining.
The Flames hung on to the lead until a Jackson three-pointer knotted the contest at 14-14. Checking in for the first time this season, Gielo stepped on the court at the 12:00 mark, knocking down a long two-point jumper to give Liberty the advantage once again. The Bears went back on top with 10:15 left in the period thanks to a Rasean Simpson trey that made it 19-18.
The contest stayed within two possessions during the remainder of the half. The Bears led by as many as four tallies down the stretch, but a Roberts layup knotted things up with 1:19 left in the half. Chiles put the Bears on top with a jumper 20 seconds later, helping Morgan State carry a 35-33 lead in the locker room at halftime.
Morgan State finished the first half shooting 48.3 percent (14-of-29) from the field. The Flames concluded the opening period shooting 46.4 percent (13-of-28). Each squad shot 22.2 percent (2-of-9) from three-point land while sinking five free throws from the charity stripe.
In his 2012-13 debut, Gielo led all scorers at the half with nine points. Chiles and Hubbard each had six tallies for the Bears.
The Flames opened the second half with an 11-2 run to take a 44-37 lead at the 16:13 mark. Marshall and Roberts highlighted the surge with five points apiece. Marshall capped the run with a three-pointer to give the Flames the seven-point advantage.
Morgan State countered with a 9-0 burst to take a two-point lead 12:47. Gielo tied the contest 50 seconds later with a jumper, making it 46-46.
With the contest tied at 52 with 6:31 left, Morgan State proceeded to post seven unanswered points to hold a 59-52 advantage at the 2:50 mark. The Bears led by as much as nine during the remaining minutes.
Liberty managed to cut it to five with 19 ticks left, but fouls shots by the Bears bumped the deficit back to eight. A Speaks three-pointer at the buzzer gave way to the 67-62 final.
Liberty finished the contest shooting 43.4 percent (23-of-53) from the field. Morgan State shot 42.9 percent (24-of-56). The Flames held the Bears scoreless (0-for-6) from the three-point arc in the second half, while knocking down five treys of their own. However, free throws played a factor for the Bears, as they knocked down 12 compared to Liberty's four.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Sunday to host Georgia State. The contest is a rematch of last season's meeting, in which the Panthers bested the Flames inside Sports Arena, 72-50. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m.