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Flames Heat Up "The Furnace" With 64-56 Win Over Conference USA Foe, East Carolina

December 2, 2006  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Alex McLean had game highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Alex McLean had game highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Liberty (4-1) overcame a 17-3 deficit early in the first half to beat Conference USA foe East Carolina (4-2) at the Vines Center on Saturday night, 64-56. 

On the night that legendary Liberty basketball player, Karl Hess had his jersey retired, honoring the most prolific scorer in school history, the Flames defeated East Carolina for the first time after going winless in five previous meetings. The victory also marked the Flames first win ever over a Conference USA foe. Hess is Liberty's all-time scoring leader with 2,373 points. 

East Carolina got on the board to open the contest on a three-point basket by Courtney Captain to give the Pirates the 3-0 lead 20 seconds into the game. After Anthony Smith hit one of two free throws, Captain got a lay-up on a fast break to extend the lead to 5-1 with 18:42 left in the first half. 

East Carolina extended the lead to 6-1, after John Fields hit the one of two free throws. Darrell Jenkins then pushed the advantage to 9-1 after hitting a three-point basket from the corner with 16:16 left in the half. Captain followed by hitting a jumper at 15:38 to make it an 11-1 Pirate lead. 

After a Jeremy Ingram basket at 14:20 made it a 13-1 game, the Flames got their first field goal of the contest at 13:57 as Larry Blair fed Alex McLean to make it 13-3. 

However, it was a Russell Monroe thunderous dunk on a B.J. Jenkins pass with 8:54 left in the first half which got the Liberty crowd and the Flames on track. Monroe's dunk was so powerful, the shot clock slid halfway out of its casing above the basket. The rim rocker cut the lead to 17-7 East Carolina, but sent the Flames on an 18-13 run to close out the half. The run left the Pirates with a 26-21 lead at the half. 

The Flames started the second half on a 5-2 run to cut the Pirates lead to 28-26 when Blair hit a wide open three-point basket with 18:12 left in the game. 

After being down 17-3 with 12:04 left in the first half, the Flames tied it up at 30 a piece as Blair hit both free throws at 15:34 left in the game. 

Liberty then took their first lead of the game with 14:49 left when Jenkins took the ball coast-to-coast for a lay-up giving the Flames their first advantage at 32-30. 

Ingram gave the Pirates a one-point lead after banking a three-point shot at 14:07 left in the contest to make it, 33-32. Jenkins then picked Cory Farmer's pocket and laid the ball in, after the Pirate secured a defensive rebound under the Flames basket, giving Liberty a 34-33 advantage with 13:25 left in the game. 

Farmer hit a jumper to regain the lead for the Pirates at 35-34, but back to back baskets on transition from McLean and Jenkins extended the Flames lead to 38-35 with 11:43 left in the game. 

The Flames went on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 44-35 on a McLean basket with 10:03 left in the game. The Pirates cut it to 46-41 after a quick 6-2 run of their own after two Captain three-point baskets with the second coming with 7:34 left in the game. 

The Flames went neck and neck with the Pirates over the next four minutes, holding an 8-7 edge over the span, capped by a McLean put back after a Justin Holland miss to give Liberty the 54-48 lead with 3:56 left in the game. 

The Pirates tried to comeback, but were unable as the Flames held a 10-8 advantage over the final three minutes of play to close out East Carolina and secure the win. The Flames solidified the victory at the line as Damien Hubbard, McLean and Anthony Smith all hit big free throws at the conclusion of the game. The Pirates were 10-of-27 from the free throw line, including 10 straight misses which aided in East Carolina's demise.
The Flames shot 61.5% on 16-of-26 shooting from the field in the second half, a vast improvement from their 22.6% on 7-of-31 shooting in the first half. East Carolina shot 35.1% from the field on 20-of-57 shooting in the loss. 

McLean collected his third double-double of the season with a game highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Flames. Blair collected 15 points, while Jenkins chipped in 12 points, three assists and three steals off the bench in the win. 

Captain scored 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting and Darrell Jenkins scored 12 points in the losing cause. 

The win gives Liberty its fourth straight win. The last time the Flames won four straight games was during the 2004-05 season, when Liberty won five straight games, capped by a 91-71 victory over VMI on January 24, 2005 at the Vines Center. 

Liberty is back in action on Monday night when St. Francis (Pa.) comes to the Vines Center. Tip is set for 7 p.m.