Record improves to 10-1, streak continues

red hot — Junior guard Jesse Sanders had 20 points in an overtime victory against the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. Saturday he registered 11 points and 7 assists.

After an emotional, hard-fought victory against UNC-Asheville Thursday night, the Flames hosted the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs Saturday Night.

The Flames easily handled the Bulldogs 67-51, boosting Liberty’s record to 15-7, and 10-1 in the Big South conference, while Gardner Webb fell to 7-16 (2-9 BSC). Throughout most of the first half, both teams struggled from the field with Liberty shooting only 25 percent. Due to early fouls committed by Gardner-Webb, Liberty found itself making trips to the free-throw line early hitting 10-12 from the charity stripe which helped them hold a 31-22 lead at halftime.

Evan Gordon was a key spark, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the first half.

“I got open, we played together and passed the ball, we ran our plays and I happened to get open,” Gordon said.

Although Garden-Webb hit from a high percentage from the field, 38 percent, they weren’t able to convert from beyond the arc or from the free-throw line, being scoreless in both categories during the first half.

Forward John Brown was a major lift, grabbing 16 rebounds and scoring nine points giving the Flames a nineteen point lead in the second half.

“I think that the emotion from Thursday night did carry over,” Gordon said. “This was the second time we played (Gardner-Webb) down to the last second. But at our place, we looked at film so we didn’t commit the same mistake so that we can have a comfortable lead.”

Along with Brown, David Minaya, Jesse Sanders and the rest of the Flames began to heat up from the field shooting 46 percent. Minaya finished the game with 12 points, and Sanders finished with 11 points and seven assists. Liberty was successful in defending Gardner-Webb’s leading scorer, Jon Moore who averages 14 points a game. Moore was held to only four points shooting 2-12 from the field and 0-6 from 3-point range.

“We just had to know where he is at all times. He’s a lethal shooter so we didn’t want to give him any good looks,” Minaya said.

As the game wore on, free-throw shooting became a major factor determining the margin of victory. Within 11 minutes into the second half, Gardner-Webb found itself in the double bonus. They attempted 21 free throws but only sank 10. By the end of the game, the Bulldogs shot 40 percent from the free-throw line.

“Anytime we get a crowd like this, you can’t compete with it. It really helped us,” Minaya said with a chuckle.

The Flames next game is on Feb. 3rd at rival Coastal Carolina, who is undefeated in the Big South. In their first meeting, Liberty lost a close game by three points. With a win they will tie Coastal for the lead in the Big South.

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