Joel Vander Pol finished with a career-high nine points in Liberty's 71-62 win over William & Mary, Saturday night.
The Liberty men's basketball team returned to the win column Saturday night, defeating CAA member William & Mary, 71-62, inside the Vines Center. With the victory, the Flames are 7-5 on the season (2-0 Big South) and hold a 3-1 record in the all-time series with the Tribe. William & Mary falls to 4-6 on the season. The Tribe's Quinn McDowell lit up the scoreboard first for William & Mary, knocking down a three-pointer to give the visiting team the early lead. Following Jesse Sanders' jumper, the Tribe put up another trey, this time from Matt Rum, making it 6-2 at 18:58. The Flames responded by scoring six unanswered points with buckets from Joel Vander Pol and David Minaya, taking an 8-6 advantage at 16:17. Less than 30 seconds later, the Tribe regained the lead, as Kendrix Brown hit the third consecutive three for William & Mary to give the visitor a 9-8 edge. Once again, Liberty answered with a 6-0 burst. John Brown capped off the run for the Flames, picking the pocket of Kendrix Brown and finishing with a thunderous two-handed jam to put home team up, 14-9. William & Mary quickly chipped away at the Liberty lead, sinking another three to make it a two-point game, 14-12, at 14:17. Both teams went scoreless over the next three and a half minutes. John Brown broke up the scoring drought, converting another steal into a rim rattling dunk to put Liberty up by four. William & Mary made it a one-point game thanks to a three-pointer by Kyle Gaillard, making it 16-15. After a tip-in by Antwan Burrus made it a three-point game, the Tribe proceeded to go on a 10-0 run to hold a 25-18 advantage with 5:45 left in the half. John Brown halted the Tribe's hot streak at 4:05 with a made free throw, making it 25-19. With William & Mary holding a nine-point lead in the final two minutes of the half, Evan Gordon helped Liberty chip away at the deficit, knocking down a jumper from downtown to cut it to six, 31-25. Although the Tribe looked as if they would carry a four-point into the locker room, William & Mary's Brandon Britt closed out the half for the visiting team with a fast break layup. The last second drive gave the Tribe a 33-27 halftime lead. McDowell led William & Mary at halftime with 11 points, followed by Rum with seven. John Brown was the Flames' leading scorer of the opening stanza, finishing with seven. The Tribe hit 12-of-29 shots (41.4 percent) in the first half, including 7-of-14 (50.0 percent) from three-point land. The Flames knocked down 11-of-29 shots in the first 20 minutes, but managed just one field goal from behind the three-point arc. After Rum opened the second half for the Tribe with a jumper, Evan Gordon answered on the other end with a three-point basket to pull Liberty within five, 35-30, at 19:08. Liberty steadily chipped away at the William & Mary margin in the ensuing minutes. A Minaya layup put the Flames within three, 39-36, at 16:51. The Flames took their first lead of the contest nearly three minutes later, when Gordon hit a jumper to give Liberty a 40-39 lead. Following a tip-in by Kendrix Brown that put William & Mary back in the lead, John Brown reclaimed the advantage for the Flames, knocking down a jumper at 13:12 to give Liberty a 42-41 edge. With the home team in control, Joel Vander Pol gave Liberty a five-point cushion, sinking a jumper at 9:56 to make it, 48-43. William & Mary began to shrink Liberty's lead over the next few minutes. After the Tribe made it a one-point game, Gordon distanced the Flames from the visitor, hitting a trey with 6:41 remaining to put the Flames up, 53-49. Liberty lengthened its lead in the closing minutes of the contest. The Flames expanded their advantage to 10 points, laying it in following a feed from Gordon to make it 61-51 with 2:47 left on the clock. The Flames held off the Tribe in the minutes for the 71-62 final, thanks to hitting 10-of-14 free throws during the waning moments of the contest. Liberty bounced back in the second half, hitting 11-of-19 shots (57.9 percent) from the field, to finish with a shooting percentage of 45.8 (22-of-48) percent for the game. The Flames defense stifled the Tribe's three-point attack in the second half, allowing just one trey in the latter stanza. William & Mary shot 40.4 percent (23-of-57) from the field in the contest. Gordon led the Flames with a game-high 19 points followed by John Brown (14) and Minaya (10). Brown added 12 boards to his scoring effort for his sixth double-double of the season. Vander Pol proved solid at the five spot, finishing with a career-high nine points. McDowell and Rum led the Tribe with 15 points apiece. The Flames hit the road next week, travelling to Hampton, Va., to take on the Hampton Pirates in their final contest before Christmas on Wednesday. Tipoff inside the HU Convocation Center is slated for 7 p.m.