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Blair Reaches 2,000-Point Milestone As Liberty Tops UNC Asheville
The Flames' third-consecutive win lifts them into a third-place tie with Coastal Carolina in the Big South Conference standings.
The historic moment happened rather quickly when Blair picked off a K.J. Garland pass and took it to the hoop for his first basket of the game. The lay-up gave Blair his 2,000th career point with 17:33 left in the opening half, making him the third player in both Liberty and Big South Conference history to reach the milestone. Blair also became the 429th player in NCAA Division I history to reach the landmark, and the fourth to do so this season.
Milestone aside, the Flames got off to a fast start, staking themselves to a 9-1 lead on the heels of a floater by Anthony Smith with 15:50 left in the opening half.
The Flames then followed that run with a 20-9 surge, capped by an alley oop from Damien Hubbard to Smith with 8:16 remaining in the opening period, lifting Liberty to a 29-10 advantage.
The Bulldogs clawed back with a 7-2 run, capped by a fast break lay-up from Bryan Smithson with 5:23 left in the half. Smithson's basket cut Liberty's lead to 31-17.
The two teams tallied seven points apiece in the remainder of the half. Rell Porter made an acrobatic shot over his head with 4.6 seconds remaining in the half for the Flames. The junior was also fouled on the play and made the ensuing free throw to give Liberty the 38-24 halftime advantage.
For the third-straight half and for the fourth time in the last five halves, the Flames shot over 50 percent from the field. The home team hit 59.3 percent of their shots on 16-of-27 shooting in the opening period.
Meanwhile, UNC Asheville shot 34.6 percent on 9-of-26 shooting during the first 20 minutes.
The Bulldogs started out the second half on a 17-13 run, finishing on a Donovan Jones lay-up with 12:10 left in the game. His basket shaved the Flames' lead to 51-41.
That was as close as the Bulldogs would get as the Flames outscored the visitors, 29-24, to close out the game as Smith dunked home the ball with 11.1 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
On Blair's historic night, he scored 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting with five assists, five steals and four rebounds. Blair now needs 139 points to take sole possession of first place on the Big South career scoring list.
Dwight Brewington led the Flames with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Alex McLean added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Smith chipped in 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the victory.
Liberty connected on 61.5 percent of their field goal attempts in the game, making 32-of-52 from the floor. Aided by 52 points in the paint, the Flames shot over 60 percent for the second-consecutive outing.
The Bulldogs got a big night from Garland, who had a game-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Smithson added 16 points in the loss. Brett Warner was strong on the glass, grabbing seven rebounds to go with his seven points.
The Flames conclude their three-game homestand on Saturday when the High Point Panthers visit the Vines Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.