A career-high 26 points for Theo Johnson allowed the Liberty men's basketball team to garner a momentum building 80-69 win against the Radford Highlanders, Thursday night.
Johnson's 26 tallies mark the most points scored by a Flame, this season. The point total surpassed his previous career high of 19 points, which he achieved inside Radford's Dedmon Center in the Flames' 84-76 loss to the Highlanders on Jan. 24. Johnson racked up most of his points at the foul line (14-of-18), where he single handedly made more shots than the Highlanders took (6-of-12).
Radford (20-10, 11-6 Big South) entered the night tied for second in the conference standings. With the win, Liberty (8-22, 2-15 Big South) snaps a three-game skid against the Highlanders.
Along with Johnson's effort, Andrew Smith finished with a double-double, posting 20 points and 10 rebounds. Smith's point total falls one point shy of his career-high (21), which he set against Longwood on Feb. 17.
David Andoh rounded out Liberty's double-digit scorers with 14 points.
R.J. Price paced Radford with 20 points, followed by Javonte Green (16), YaYa Anderson (15) and Cameron Jones (11).
Liberty finished the night shooting 50 percent (24-of-48) from the field, compared to 45.2 percent (28-of-62) for Radford. The Flames' went 30-of-37 from the foul line, marking the first time Liberty has posted 30 made free throws in a game since a 69-64 win over the Highlanders inside the Vines Center on Jan. 12, 2012.
After owning a 9-6 lead during the early minutes, Liberty went on an 8-0 run with baskets by Smith, Joe Retic, Andoh and A.C. Reid. Following a layup by Anderson, Smith flushed an alley-oop dunk off a Retic pass at the 10:09 mark to put the Flames ahead, 19-8.
Liberty led by as much 13 after a traditional three-point play from Johnson with 7:15 left in the period. Radford soon began chipping away at the Flames' lead, making it a seven-point game with a Green layup and a Cameron Jones three-pointer at 4:28.
Following a Johnson free throw, the Highlanders went on an 8-0 run, featuring back-to-back three-pointers from Price and Kyle Noreen. Price knotted the contest with a layup, but Johnson nailed a jumper on the other end to send the Flames into the locker room with a 32-30 lead.
Johnson led all scorers at the half with 11 points. Green paced Radford with nine tallies.
Liberty shot 44.4 percent (12-of-27) from the field compared to 41.9 percent (13-of-31) for the Highlanders. The Flames held the advantage in the paint, 20-14, and were more successful at getting to the foul line, going 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) from the charity stripe.
Radford took the lead in the opening 33 ticks of the second period and led by seven after an Anderson layup. Andoh countered with a jumper on the other end, but Green took advantage of the next Liberty possession. The forward picked the pocket of Retic and slammed a one-handed fast break dunk to make it 50-43 Highlanders at 13:22.
The Flames responded with a 13-0 run over the next 3:21. Smith and Andoh highlighted the burst with four points apiece. Following a Jordan Dembley three-pointer, Andoh capped the run with two free throws, giving Liberty a 56-50 lead.
Liberty and Radford traded buckets over the next two and a half minutes. With Liberty up by five, Anderson posted consecutive buckets to make it a one-point game, 63-62, with 5:34 remaining.
Radford regained the lead briefly off a Green jumper at 3:31. Andoh countered 16 seconds later with a layup to regain the advantage for the Flames. Eleven of Liberty's final 13 points came from the free throw line, allowing the Flames to pull away for the 80-69 final.
Liberty closes out the regular season on Saturday, playing host to UNC Asheville. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m., with the contest airing live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network, MASN HD, ESPN3 and the Big South Network.