David Minaya led the Flames with 13 points in Liberty's 61-53 win over Radford on Saturday.
The Liberty men's basketball team improved to 7-1 in conference play, Saturday night, defeating the Radford Highlanders in the Dedmon Center, 61-53. With its fourth straight conference road win, Liberty moves to 13-7 for the season. The win marks Liberty's third consecutive victory in the Dedmon Center and its fourth in five seasons. Radford falls to 4-13 overall and 1-6 in the Big South. Gorkem Sonmez put Radford on the scoreboard first, hitting a jumper to give the Highlanders the early lead in the game's opening minute. Liberty responded by reeling off 14 unanswered points off three-pointers by Evan Gordon and David Minaya and baskets by Jesse Sanders, John Brown and Joel Vander Pol. Following free throws by Vander Pol and Minaya, Jareal Smith halted the Liberty burst with a trey. Blake Smith added two free throws cut the Highlander deficit to seven at 14-7, with 13:09 remaining. Antwan Burrus ended a three-plus minute scoring drought to put the Flames up by nine. After a Johnathan Edwards free throw, Jareal Smith knocked down a long two-point jumper, allowing the Highlanders to climb within six of visiting Liberty, 16-10. Gordon widened the gap with 7:47 remaining, knocking down a three-pointer with a rainbow jumper. Chene Phillips then tacked on a free throw to give Liberty a 10-point lead, 20-10, with 5:40 remaining in the opening half. Fourteen seconds later Blake Smith cut the Liberty advantage to eight with a thunderous dunk, following a steal. Anderson answered on the other end for the Flames, burying a trey to put Liberty back up by 11, 23-12. In the later minutes of the period, the Highlanders outscored the Flames, 9-5, to chip away at their deficit before halftime. With two seconds remaining in the half, Sonmez hit a jumper to make it 28-21, Liberty, at end of the half. Gordon and Minaya led the Flames at the close of the first stanza with six points apiece. Jareal Smith led the Highlanders with five tallies. Sanders finished with four rebounds in the period, recording his 500th career board with 1:48 left. Liberty shot 41.7 percent (10-of-24) from the field in the opening 20 minutes, while holding Radford to 25.9 percent (7-of-27). As in the opening half, Radford got on the scoreboard first in the second period, thanks to a jumper by Edwards. Sanders responded on the other end for Liberty, knocking down his fourth three-pointer of the season. Minaya then added a long two-point jumper to extend the Liberty lead to 33-23, at 15:42. The Highlanders whittled away at the margin over the ensuing 2:55, going on a 7-0 run to close the gap to three points, 33-30, at 12:47. Liberty held Radford scoreless from the field over the next 3:32, triggering a span in which the Flames outscored the Highlanders, 10-2, during the span. Brown highlighted the stretch with six points, including an authoritative two-handed jam. Minaya followed up Brown's high percentage shot with a fast break dunk of his own at 10:48. Burrus added a layup over a minute later to put Liberty up by 11. Radford responded with six straight points close within five point with 8:30 remaining, 43-38. Once again, Liberty held Radford scoreless over the next 3:17, racking up 11 unanswered points in the process. The spurt gave Liberty a 52-38 lead with 5:22 remaining. However, Radford countered with a eight-point burst of its own, cutting the Flames' advantage to six with 3:37 left, 52-46. The Highlanders failed to climb any closer in the contest. With 47 seconds left, Sanders netted a layup make it a 10-point game in favor of the Flames. Following two free throws by Jareal Smith and one from Gordon on the other end, Sonmez cut it to six with a three-pointer with 19 ticks on the clock. Gordon then sealed the game with two more free throws, en route to the 61-53 final. Blake Smith paced the Highlanders with 13 points, while Sonmez chipped in 12. Minaya led the Flames with 13 points, followed by Brown (11) and Burrus (11). Brown recorded his fourth straight double-double and 10th of the season, adding 14 rebounds to his scoring effort. The Flames shot 41.5 percent (22-of-53) in the contest, while holding Radford to 32.1 percent (17-of-53). Liberty also outrebounded the Highlanders, 51-32. Despite losing the turnover battle, 16-8, the Flames managed to match Radford in points off turnovers, 11-11. Radford heads to Rock Hill, S.C. to take on Winthrop on Thursday. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Thursday, playing host to VMI. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.