Hitting on all cylinders
Forcing 20 turnovers is key to Flames win
In their first home game of the young season, the Flames defeated Randolph College 81-58 in a game where size and athleticism played a large role.
Coming off of an 81-59 loss on the road to 16th-ranked Texas A&M in their first game of the season, the Flames were able to turn things around in the Vines Center on Friday night.
In a game where Liberty shot 54.2 percent from the field, they were able to take the lead early and hold it for the rest of the game.
Guard Jesse Sanders finished 4-4 from the field, adding nine rebounds and eight assists, in a game where the point guard and team captain almost posted a triple-double with limited second-half playing time.
Sanders’ brother, guard John Caleb, added 17 points on a 6-9 shooting performance in which he dropped 4-6 from behind the three-point line.
Forward Antwan Burrus played strong down low, shooting 5-5 from the field and adding 10 points to the team total.
The story of the night, however, was junior college transfer guard Tavares Speaks, who provided a big spark off of the bench, leading the team in scoring with 18 points on a 7-9 shooting performance and looking like he had been playing with the team for years.
“I’ve started most of my career so coming off of the bench has been different, but I feel like it gives me more fuel,” Speaks said. “I feel like I already fit in with the team pretty well. It’s a long season and a long process.”
“Tavares has come in and done a great job. We’ve connected quicker than I have with a lot of other players and I think that helps,” Sanders said.
Liberty had an obvious size advantage and it proved to be true on the boards throughout the game. When it was all said and done, the Flames outrebounded Randolph 42 to 26.
In addition, Liberty grabbed 11 offensive rebounds as opposed to Randolph’s four offensive boards.
In typical Flames fashion, two guards led the team in rebounding. Jesse Sanders had nine while guard Chene Phillips had seven. The 6-10 sophomore center Joel Vander Pol added 5 rebounds from the center position.
Antwan Burrus, forward David Minaya and John Caleb Sanders added four rebounds apiece. The offensive rebounds gave the Flames plenty of second-chance opportunities. By the end of the night, Liberty had posted 25 second-chance points while Randolph College was unable to garner a single second-chance point.
The other story of the night was turnovers. Both teams played sloppy at times and the result was a bevy of turnovers.
Liberty played strong defense, making it difficult for an already undersized Randolph team to find any open shots. The smuggling defense led to 34.5 percent shooting from the field for Randolph in the second half. In addition, the Flames forced 20 turnovers during the game.
“Coach Layer has been teaching us to pressure the ball and make stops with our defense to feed our offense and we were able to do that some tonight,” Sanders said.
Still, they had 17 turnovers themselves. It should be noted that 11 of those turnovers came in a second half in which head coach Dale Layer opted to play many of his backup players for an extended period of time.
Overall, head coach Dale Layer seemed happy with the performance from his team following the game.
“It’s good to get a win and see that we built upon the Texas A&M game,” Layer said. “It was good to see Tavares get more comfortable and to see us beginning to adjust to the loss of Sommy Ogukwe and John Brown.”
In addition, Layer had good things to say about his sophomore guard, John Caleb Sanders.
“I think that defensively he’s 248 percent better than he was last year. He can help the team now in a lot of different ways,” Layer said.