John Caleb Sanders finished with 10 points, including three buckets from downtown, to help the Flames earn a 64-58 victory over Mississippi Valley State.
Playing in its first of two games inside the South Padre Convention Centre, the Liberty men's basketball team squared off with Mississippi Valley State. Thanks to solid three-point shooting in the first half, the Flames created a 10-point bulge at halftime and did not let up in the second half, en route to a 64-58 decision, Friday afternoon. The meeting between the two teams was the second-straight season the squads have met in a Thanksgiving week tournament. Last season, the Flames defeated Mississippi Valley State, 72-53, in the Chicago Invitational on Nov. 27, 2009. With its victory in the rematch, Liberty improves to 3-4 on the season, while the Delta Devils fall to 0-5. The Flames and the Delta Devils traded baskets over the first four minutes of the opening period, knotting the contest at 6-6 at 16:01. Evan Gordon broke up the stalemate 13 seconds later, knocking down a trey to give Liberty a three-point edge at 9-6. Following a David Minaya layup, John Caleb Sanders tacked on back-to-back three-pointers. The burst gave the Flames a 17-6 advantage with 9:15 left in the half. Mississippi Valley State responded to the 11-0 Flames run with one of its own, scoring eight-straight points off baskets from Terrence Joyner and Jason Holmes. The 8-0 burst allowed the Delta Devils to climb within four points of the Flames. However, Sanders once again demonstrated his shooting touch, stopping and dropping another three-pointer to make it 20-13 at 4:06. Sanders got Antwan Burrus involved in the scoring just under the two-minute mark, finding the 6-5 forward on the block for a thunderous dunk to extend the Flames advantage to nine points at 22-13. In the closing minutes of the half, Mississippi Valley State attempted to chip away at the Liberty lead. With the Delta Devils trailing by seven, Jeremy Anderson joined Liberty's three-point party, sinking a downtown dagger with six ticks left on the clock to send the Flames into the locker room with a 27-17 advantage at halftime. With both teams nearly mirroring each other from the field in the first half, the difference came from behind the three-point arc and at the charity stripe. Mississippi Valley State went 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) from the field, while the Flames hit 8-of-29 shots. Liberty held the advantage thanks to long range shooting, hitting 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) shots from three-point range. The Flames also connected on 6-of-7 shots from the foul line. Sanders led all scorers with nine at the half, while Burrus proved solid on the boards with eight. Holmes was the Delta Devil's leading scorer in the opening stanza with six points. Both teams looked to intensify the pace in the opening minutes of the second half. Following a John Brown layup, the Delta Devils posted 4-0 straight tallies to make it an eight-point game. Burrus regained the double-digit lead for the Flames, hitting a layup to make it 31-21 at 18:32. Liberty began to widen its margin over the ensuing minutes with baskets from Minaya, Burrus and Brown and free throws by Jesse Sanders. Burrus converted two more free throws at 11:51, giving the Flames a 44-27 lead. The Delta Devils again looked to chip away at their deficit over the next 3:22, cutting it to 11 points on a fast break dunk by Falando Jones. Gordon answered at the other end, knocking down a trey to give the Flames a 14-point cushion, 49-35, with 8:19 remaining in the contest. Mississippi Valley State continued to rally, cutting the Liberty lead to single digits with two free throws, 54-45, at 5:25.
After another Delta Devil free throw, Orlando Smith connected on a fast break layup to shrink the Liberty lead to six. Mississippi Valley State's 8-0 burst was halted by two made Liberty free throws by Chene Phillips. With Liberty holding a six-point lead with under a minute remaining, Minaya cemented the contest, hitting a clutch three-pointer just before the shot clock sounded to put the Flames up by nine, 59-50. The Delta Devils tried to answer with three-pointers of their own, but could not overtake the Flames, as Liberty earned a 64-58 victory. Four Flames finished the contest in double-digit scoring figures – Minaya (12), Burrus (10), Gordon (10) and John Caleb Sanders (10). Burrus also earned a double-double, adding 11 boards to his point total. Joyner led the way for the Delta Devils, scoring a game-high 14 points. Liberty went 15-for-49 (30.6 percent) from the field, but capitalized at the free throw line, hitting 27-of-36 (75.0 percent). The Delta Devils hit 24-of-62 shots (38.7 percent) from the floor, but struggled from the charity stripe, going 5-for-12 (41.7 percent). The Flames close out the South Padre Island Invitational on Saturday, squaring off with Chicago State. Tip off inside the South Padre Convention Centre is slated for 3 p.m.