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Buzzer Beater Lifts Liberty Over Conference USA's East Carolina, 55-53

November 17, 2007  Greenville, N.C.  RSS
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B.J. Jenkins leads the Flames with a career-high 22 points at East Carolina.

B.J. Jenkins leads the Flames with a career-high 22 points at East Carolina.

Alex McLean rebounded a TeeJay Bannister miss and laid the game-winning bucket in with eight-tenths of a second remaining, sending Liberty to a 55-53 victory over East Carolina, Saturday night inside the Minges Coliseum.

The victory served as the Flames' second-straight triumph over the Pirates in as many seasons, as Liberty defeated East Carolina, 64-56, in Lynchburg on Dec. 2, 2006.

The road victory was Liberty's first in Minges Coliseum in its fourth try. It also marked Liberty's second all-time win over a member of Conference USA, as the first was the Flames' victory over the Pirates last year.

With the win Liberty moves to 2-3 on the season, while East Carolina falls to 1-2.

Liberty jumped out to a 10-4 lead over the Pirates, courtesy of a Bannister jumper in the lane at 11:33. The Flames then did not score for nearly four-and-a-half minutes, at which time McLean hit 1-of-2 free throw attempts. However, the Pirates were cold from the field themselves, managing only two points during the Liberty dry spell.

McLean's solo successful attempt from the charity stripe pushed the Flames' lead to 11-6, with 6:59 remaining in the half.

East Carolina was able outscore the Flames, 11-8, for the remainder of the half, trimming Liberty's halftime advantage to 19-17.

Both squads were relatively cold from the field in the opening stanza. Liberty shot 33.3 percent on 7-of-21 shooting, including 0-of-5 from three-point land.

The Pirates were even colder in the opening period, hitting 8-of-26 shots for 30.8 percent.

Scoring picked up at the start of the second half, as B.J. Jenkins scored 11 of the Flames' first 13 points, increasing the lead to 32-26, with 16:13 remaining.

Liberty stretched its lead to 12 points, 38-26, after a McLean bucket in transition at 11:45. The next eight minutes were in the Pirates advantage, 18-12, with two made free throws by Darrell Jenkins cutting the lead to 50-44, at 3:23.

The final three minutes of play proved to be exciting. After Bannister canned a layup at 2:56, pushing the lead back to eight, 52-44, East Carolina scored five-straight points. The run cut the Flames' lead to three, courtesy of Jenkins' jumper with 1:29 remaining.

Porter was then fouled by Gabe Blair, sending the Liberty senior to the line for two shots. Porter sank the second attempt, giving the Flames a narrow 53-49 lead.

On the following possession, Jenkins went the length of the court, draining a three-point basket with 52 seconds remaining, cutting the Flames' lead down to one point, 53-52.

Liberty milked the clock on its next possession, but an Anthony Smith miss from behind the arc at the shot clock's expiration fell right into the hands of Brock Young, the freshman guard for the Pirates. Young pushed ball down the court on a fast break, and was fouled by McLean in the lane with 18 seconds remaining.

Young went to the line for two shots, sinking the first, tying the game, 53-53. Liberty called a timeout in between attempts and the freeze worked, as Young missed his second attempt.

McLean grabbed the rebound and sent the outlet pass to Bannister with 16 seconds on the clock. Bannister pushed the ball toward the hole, setting the stage for the buzzer beater.

Bannister dribble penetrated and shot a fade away in the lane with three seconds left. McLean and Blair battled for the rebound, but McLean had inside position. The Liberty senior then laid in the game winner with eight-tenths of a second remaining, sending the Flames to a 55-53 victory.

Liberty was hot in the second half from the field, hitting 61.9 percent of its shots on 13-of-21 shooting. After going 0-of-5 from three point range in the first half, the Flames hit 5-of-7 from behind the arc in the second half. The Flames finished the contest shooting 47.6 percent from the field on 20-of-42 shooting.

East Carolina also improved its shooting in the second half, finding the basket 48.1 percent of the time on 13-of-27 shooting. The Pirates finished the contest shooting 39.6 percent on 21-of-53 shooting.

Jenkins led Liberty with a career-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Jenkins also hit 4-of-6 from behind the three-point line. The nine field goals and four three-point field goals were also career highs for the sophomore from Virginia Beach, Va. McLean became the 46th player in Liberty history to score 500 career points, as the senior tallied 12 markers, including the game winner. McLean also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Bannister chipped in 10 points and six assists in the win.

East Carolina was led by Blair's 15 points and five rebounds, while Jenkins scored 12 second-half points, after being held scoreless in the first stanza.

Liberty is back in action on Wednesday when the Flames travel to the famed Rupp Arena to face Kentucky. Tip is set for 7 p.m.


Ritchie McKay's Quotes
"Anytime you go on the road, it's going to be difficult. I was really proud of our guys, as we have really improved a lot since our trip to Fresno. They have done a nice of job of taking it upon themselves to work hard, and trying to execute what we are working on in practice. When it appeared that East Carolina might take the lead, we didn't fold. Our players were able to go down the court, run the offense and get the bucket we needed."