Chene Phillips (right) received the first start of his collegiate career on Tuesday night, finishing with eight points and four rebounds.
Before heading back into Big South Conference play, the Liberty men's basketball team returned to the Vines Center, Tuesday night, defeating the Union College Bulldogs, 84-47. With the win Liberty improves to 8-6 on the season, while the Bulldogs fall to 6-8. The Flames lit up the scoreboard first, netting four unanswered points. David Minaya kick started the Liberty offense, finding some room inside for a layup. Joel Vander Pol followed up his teammate's basket underneath with one of his own to give the Flames an early 4-0 lead at 18:20. Following a Bulldogs bucket, Liberty proceeded to go on a an 8-0 run, with baskets by Minaya, Chene Phillips and John Brown, who capped of the run with a fast break dunk. Brown's rim rattler gave Liberty a 12-2 advantage at 15:39. After Union College's Cody Miller halted the hot streak with a jumper, the Flames answered with five straight points. Once again, Brown ended the spurt with a dunk, this time receiving a slick pass underneath from Jesse Sanders. Brown converted the helper into a two-handed jam to give Liberty a 17-4 lead at 14:09. The Bulldogs cut the deficit to 10 courtesy of a Miller three-pointer. However, John Caleb Sanders answered with a long distance jumper on the opposite end to reclaim Liberty's 13-point lead, 20-7 at 13:40. Liberty continued to widen the gap during the first half. Brown increased the Flames' margin to 17 with 7:56 left in the period, knocking down a jumper to make it 30-13.
On the defensive end the Flames gave up just six points in the remaining minutes of the period, allowing Liberty to carry a 46-19 advantage into the locker room at halftime. Liberty shot 52.9 percent from the field in the first half, hitting 18-of-34 shots. The Flames were just as effective on the opposite end of the floor, holding the Bulldogs to just 25.0 percent shooting (8-of-32). Minaya led the Flames at the half with 11 points followed by Brown with eight. Miller, Turrell Morris and Darriel Hunter finished the period with five apiece for the visitors. In the second half the Flames picked up where they left off, finding the net frequently while stifling the Bulldogs offensive attack. Vander Pol gave Liberty a 30-point margin at 17:26, tipping it in to make it 54-24. Nearly four minutes later, Evan Gordon increased the Liberty lead to 34, sinking a layup to put the Flames ahead 62-28. With 12:36 remaining in the contest, Antwan Burrus ignited the Vines Center crowd, throwing down a thunderous dunk. The fans let out another roar nearly three minutes later, as Jeremy Anderson knocked down a trey to give the Flames a 40-point lead, 75-35, at 9:36. The pace slowed in the remaining minutes of the latter stanza, ultimately resulting in the 84-47 final.
Minaya led the Flames with a game-high 14 points, followed by Gordon and Burrus who finished with 12 and 11 respectively. Ian Davis led the Bulldogs with 10 points. Liberty finished the contest shooting at least 50.0 percent from the field for the second straight game, hitting 33-of-66 shots in the contest, while holding Union College to 29.0 percent (18-of-62). The Flames profited well inside, outscoring the Bulldogs in the paint, 48-20. The Flames will look to end 2010 on a positive note and keep their Big South win streak alive, as they travel to Boiling Springs, N.C., to take on Gardner-Webb, Friday. The Runnin' Bulldogs enter the contest with a 6-8 record on the season and a 1-1 posting in conference play. Tipoff inside the Paul Porter Arena is slated for 5:30 p.m.