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Liberty Moves to 3-0 in Big South with OT Win

December 31, 2010  Boiling Springs, N.C.  RSS
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Antwan Burrus posted 10 points and seven boards at Gardner-Webb on Friday to help the Flames move to 3-0 in conference play with a 64-62 overtime victory.

Antwan Burrus posted 10 points and seven boards at Gardner-Webb on Friday to help the Flames move to 3-0 in conference play with a 64-62 overtime victory.

The Liberty men's basketball team picked up an unprecedented third-straight win in Big South play, on Friday, but not without battling adversity. After trailing Gardner-Webb for most of the contest, the Flames forced overtime and took the contest in the extra period, 64-62.

The win moves Liberty to 9-6 on the season and 3-0 in conference play for the first time in school history. Gardner-Webb falls to 6-9 and 1-2 in Big South action.

The Runnin' Bulldogs struck first in the contest thanks to a three-pointer by Luke Davis. Evan Gordon helped the Flames cancel out the trey, connecting on a layup and capitalizing at the charity stripe for a traditional three-point play. On the next Liberty possession, Gordon made it to the foul line again, knocking down both shots to give the Flames a 5-3 lead at 18:10.

Gardner-Webb responded with a 5-0 run over the next 1:15 to take an 8-5 lead. John Brown cut the Liberty deficit to one, sinking a layup at 15:21. Davis resurfaced for Gardner-Webb 17 seconds later, knocking down his second trey of the game to put the Runnin' Bulldogs up, 7-11.

After Brown made it a two-point game with another layup, Laron Buggs countered with a fastbreak layup at the other end to make it 13-9 at 12:29.

Liberty responded over the next 2:29 to take control of the lead. Chene Phillips allowed the Flames to slice it to one with a three-pointer. Gordon then followed up the freshman's trey with a jumper to put Liberty ahead 14-13 with 9:00 left in the half.

A near four-minute drought ensued after Gordon's basket, with neither team able to find nylon. Jesse Sanders ended the scoreless stretch at 5:19 with a layup inside. A minute and a half later, Davis flipped the switch on the Flames, knocking down a third trey to hand the lead back to the Runnin' Bulldogs, 17-16.

After an Antwan Burrus foul shot knotted the contest at 17, Gardner-Webb proceeded to score five-unanswered points to take a 22-17 advantage. Burrus halted the burst with another free throw, but Josh Henley closed out the half with a layup two ticks before the buzzer to give Gardner-Webb a 24-18 halftime lead.

With three first half treys, Davis concluded the opening stanza with nine points. Gordon led the Flames at the half with seven tallies.

Turnovers troubled the Flames in the opening period as Liberty committed 13 in the stanza. Liberty hit 6-of-22 shots (27.3 percent) from the field, while Gardner-Webb shot 31.0 percent (9-of-29) in the half.

In the second half, Brown cut the Flames deficit to four points with a layup. The Runnin' Bulldogs then answered with a 7-0 run to go up 31-20 at 18:04. Liberty chipped away at the bulge over the next four minutes, making it a four-point game with 14:03 left, 33-29.

Liberty stayed within two possessions of the Runnin' Bulldogs until the 11:33 mark, when Davis nailed another trey to put the home team up by eight, 40-32.

The Flames chipped away at the Gardner-Webb lead over the next 2:22, cutting it three courtesy of a traditional three-point play by Burrus. The Winterville, N.C. native's and-one made it 42-39 with 9:11 remaining in the contest.

Gardner-Webb continued the roller coaster trend, going up by seven with 7:45 left thanks to a Keith Manley layup. After the Flames cut it to five off a Brown layup, the Runnin' Bulldogs maintained a seven-point edge with two free throws from Davis. The two tallies from the charity stripe made it 50-43, Gardner-Webb.

The game quickly turned into a nail biter in the closing minutes. With Gardner-Webb up by three with 19 ticks left, David Minaya was sent to the line for two foul shots. Minaya capitalized on both shots, cutting it to one. On the other end, Luke Engelken made it to the foul line, hitting one-of-two to hold a two-point cushion for Gardner-Webb.

After the made foul shot, Sanders drove down the court and was fouled with just over one second left. Sanders made both clutch free throws, sending the contest into overtime, knotted at 57.

In the extra period, both teams traded the lead. With the Flames leading by three, Manley charged toward the basket and was fouled after connecting on a layup. Manley then sunk the free throw to tie the game at 62 with 37 seconds on the clock.

After a timeout was called, the Flames held on to the ball for the final possession. As time ticked away, Jesse Sanders drove to the baskets and pulled up for a jumper, sinking the shot with four seconds left. Sanders clutch jump shot ultimately gave Liberty the win, 64-62.

Sanders and Gordon led all scorers with 19 apiece. Davis finished with 17 for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Liberty shot 20-of-47 (42.6 percent) from the field, while Gardner-Webb shot 37.7 percent (20-of-53). Both teams struggled with turnovers, as Liberty committed 25 and Gardner-Webb finished with 21.
Gardner-Webb will play host to the VMI Keydets on Sunday. Game time is set for 3 p.m.

The Flames remain on the road this weekend, as they open 2011 in Asheville, N.C., against UNC Asheville, Sunday. The Bulldogs are coming off an 83-72 home loss to VMI, Friday afternoon. Tipoff inside the Justice Center is slated for 2 p.m.