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Three-point Shooting Puts Iona Over Liberty
Looking to bounce back from a loss to Howard this past weekend, the Liberty men's basketball team squared off with Iona in the Big Apple for the first time in nearly 15 years, Tuesday night.
The contest was expected to be a three-point shooting affair and it lived up to the billing. Despite the Flames entering the night 11th in the nation in three-point field goal defense, the Gaels had the hot hand from beyond the arc, tying an Iona school record with 18 three-pointers to claim an 87-69 victory.
The Gaels' 18 treys were the most allowed by the Flames this season. Liberty falls to 1-10 on the year. Iona improves to 5-4 on the season and 3-0 all-time against the Flames.
Iona's top two scorers proved why they are pacing the Gaels' offense. Leading scorer Lamont Jones posted a game-high 24 points, while Sean Armand added 23 tallies.
John Caleb Sanders led Liberty with a season-high 16 points. JR Coronado also had a solid night, finishing with a season-high 11 points and 14 rebounds. Coronado's double-double is the first for the Flames, this season.
Playing in New Rochelle for the first time since his days at Monroe College, Davon Marshall concluded the night with nine points. Tavares Speaks also chipped in nine tallies for the Flames.
The contest opened with a three-point shooting display, featuring a combined eight treys. The Gaels posted 15 of their first 19 points from behind the three-point arc. After an Armand three-pointer put Iona up by seven, Chad Donley countered with Liberty's third long range jumper of the game, making it 19-15, at 13:35.
Iona continued to find success from downtown, receiving a trio of three-pointers from Armand and Tre Bowman over the ensuing 5:44. Armand's fourth three-pointer of the contest gave the Gaels a 13 point lead at with under eight minutes in the half. Liberty responded with a Sanders basket and a Joel Vander Pol free throw to cut the deficit to 10, 34-24, at 5:49.
With the Gaels leading by 12 in the final three minutes of the period, Liberty closed the half with a 7-1 run.
After a Marshall three-point attempt missed the mark, Coronado grabbed a key rebound that gave the Flames the final possession in the period. Speaks capitalized on the opportunity, knocking down a jumper with three ticks on the clock, cutting Iona's advantage to six at halftime, 43-37.
The Gaels tied Richmond for the most three-pointers made by a Liberty opponent this season with 10 in the first half. Iona shot 47.6 percent (10-of-21) from the three-point arc to conclude the period shooting 44.1 percent from the field.
Liberty shot 51.9 percent from the field in the first half, connecting on 14-of-27 attempts. While the Flames have struggled in the paint this season, Dale Layer's squad outscored the Gaels inside, 12-7, in the first 20 minutes.
Entering the contest averaging over 19 points on the season, Armand ended the half with 17 tallies, knocking down five three-pointers. Sanders paced the Flames' offense with nine points, followed by Marshall, who had seven.
Liberty began the second half trading baskets with the Gaels. After a Coronado layup made it a six-point game, Iona went on a 13-0 run, highlighted by seven points from Jones. The burst gave Iona a 64-45 lead with 14:34 on the clock.
The Flames posted five unanswered points off a pair of Speaks' free throws and a Sanders' three-pointer to cut the deficit to 14. Iona responded with back-to-back treys by A.J. English to take a 20-point lead, 70-50, 10:14.
A Tomasz Gielo jumper in the paint put Liberty within 16 with 5:16 left. Iona then posted six unanswered points in the next 58 seconds, including four off the fast break to take an 82-60 lead with 4:18 remaining.
In the final minutes, Liberty got within 18 points of the home team, but could not climb any closer, giving way to the 87-69 final.
Iona shot 44.6 percent (29-of-65) from the field in the contest, including 43.9 percent from three-point land. The Flames concluded the night shooting 40.4 percent (23-of-57), after shooting 30.0 percent (9-of-30) in the second half.
Although Liberty entered the contest being outscored by opponents in the paint, 324-179, the Flames held a 24-18 advantage inside. Liberty's 38 rebounds were also the team's second-highest total this season.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Friday, playing host to Milligan. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.