John Caleb Sanders
The Liberty men's basketball team nearly pulled off the upset in its second game of the Corpus Christi Challenge. Squaring off with Missouri State, Tuesday night, inside JQH Arena, the Bears (5-0) prevented the Flames (1-5) from connecting on a shot at the buzzer to take the contest, 54-52. The contest ended in bizarre fashion. With the Bears up by two in the final seconds, JR Coronado heaved up a desperation three-point attempt and was fouled on the play. The senior missed all free throws, but an inadvertent whistle by the official created a jump ball scenario with the possession arrow pointed to the Flames. Liberty had a chance for one final play. Davon Marshall attempted what would have been a game-winning three-pointer, but the Bears defense stifled the shot, giving the home team their fifth straight win. Liberty finished the contest with 42.9 percent shooting from the field (21-of-49), compared to 33.9 percent (19-of-56) for the Bears. The Flames edged Missouri State from three-point land, 18-15. Although Missouri State entered the contest 11th in the country in three-point shooting percentage (45.6 percent), the Liberty defense held the Bears to 22.7 percent from long range (5-of-22). Despite going 12-of-12 from the foul line at Virginia on Saturday, Dale Layer's squad went 4-for-16 at the charity stripe on the night. Marshall led the Flames with a game-high 17 points, cracking the Top 50 on Liberty's all-time scoring list. The Niagara Falls, N.Y. native now is now 49th with 579 tallies. Antwan Burrus followed up with a 10-point performance. John Caleb Sanders finished with nine points to break into to the Top 20 in Liberty scoring. Sanders now has 1,071 career points. Jamar Gulley paced the Bears with 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds, while Christian Kirk had 10 points and seven boards. The Bears lit up the scoreboard first with an Addo three-pointer. Sanders responded with five unanswered points off a jumper and a trey to give the Flames a lead. After free throw from Addo, Marshall tacked on another three-pointer to give Liberty an early 8-4 edge at 15:57. The Flames continued to distance themselves from the home team, outscoring the Bears, 10-4, during the next 7:23. Following another Marshall trifecta, Sanders nailed a jumper to give Liberty a 10-point lead at 8:34, 18-8. Missouri State closed the gap on an 11-2 spurt, capitalizing on several Liberty turnovers to cut the deficit to one. Burrus prevented the Bears from taking the lead, connecting on jump shot at 2:39. The hosts countered with a Gulley jumper, but Liberty went on a 6-0 burst off an Ethan Layer three-pointer and old fashioned three-point play by Marshall. The Bears closed the half with a short jumper from Nathan Scheer, making it 28-23 in favor of the Flames at halftime. Liberty took advantage of the Bears' shooting woes during the first half. The Flames shot 50.0 percent (11-of-22) from the field, compared to 28.1 percent (9-of-32) for the home team. The Bears took advantage of Liberty's miscues in the period, outpointing the Flames, 11-0 off turnovers. Marshall paced the Flames with nine points during the opening 20 minutes, followed by Sanders with seven. Gulley led the Bears with six tallies. Missouri State began the second half with an 8-2 run to take the lead, 31-30, for the first time since the 18:37 mark in the first period. Liberty quickly regained the advantage off perfectly executed inbound plays. Sanders found Marshall open for a baseline three-pointer to go ahead by two. Burrus later followed up with an authoritative dunk off an inbounds pass to increase the margin to four, 35-31. The Bears knotted the contest, 36-36, at 10:56 with a Dorian Williams three-pointer. A seesaw battle ensued, with the teams trading the lead and keeping it a one-possession game over a five minute span. With the Bears up by three, Marshall sank his fourth trey of the contest to tie things up, 47-47, at 5:24. Missouri State took its largest lead of the game, four points, after a pair of free throws and a jumper with 3:55. The Flames made it a one-point game with under two minutes left, but a Gulley three-pointer gave the Bears a four-point cushion. A Sanders jumper put Liberty within two, but despite having the final possession, the Flames were unable to reclaim the lead en route to the 54-52 final. Liberty heads to Corpus Christi, Texas to continue play in the Corpus Christi Challenge versus Hampton. The Flames look to break the 2-2 stalemate in the all-time series with the Pirates, when the two squads meet on a neutral court for the first time. Game time is set for 1 p.m. (CST)/2 p.m. (EST).