The Liberty men's basketball team hosted Big South leader High Point, Thursday night, inside the Vines Center. The Flames kept it close in the first period, but a second-half surge allowed the Panthers to widen the gap en route to a 72-53 victory.
Although the Liberty defense held High Point's John Brown to a season-low seven points, Devante Wallace hit five three-pointers on the night, finishing with a game-high 19 tallies. Adam Weary added 17 points off the bench, while Jorge Perez-Laham had 12.
For the second straight game, Theo Johnson led Liberty in scoring, closing out the night with 12 points.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 6-16 on the season and 0-9 in Big South play. High Point moves to 17-5 overall and 8-2 in conference action.
The Flames shot 43.1 percent (22-of-51) from the field. High Point concluded the night on 49 percent shooting (24-of-49), including 61.1 percent (11-of-18) from three-point land. Liberty edged High Point in the paint, 24-18, but the Panthers outscored the Flames from long distance, 33-15.
High Point pulled out to a 9-2 lead early thanks in part to a pair of Wallace three-pointers. Liberty cut the deficit to three off baskets by Theo and James Johnson. However, High Point responded with an 11-0 run capped by a Brown layup at 10:18.
The Flames countered with an 11-0 run of their own over the next four minutes. James and Theo Johnson combined for all 11 tallies during the surge. James Johnson cemented the burst with a layup, pulling the Flames within three, 20-17, at 6:17.
High Point led by as much as nine in the closing minutes of the half. An Andrew Smith tip-in made it a seven-point game at halftime, 33-26.
High Point edged the Flames from the field in the first half, shooting 46.4 percent (13-of-28) compared to 46.2 percent (12-of-26) for Liberty. Points in the paint were even at 16 apiece, but the Panthers held the advantage beyond the perimeter, 12-3.
Weary led all scorers at the half with 11 points. James Johnson paced the Flames with eight points, followed by Theo Johnson, who had seven.
The Panthers began to pull away in the second period. Leading the Flames by 11, High Point tacked on another 11-0 run, featuring two more Wallace three-pointers. Brian Richardson concluded the hot streak with a trey to give the Panthers a 55-33 lead with 8:46 remaining. High Point took its largest lead of the contest (29) with 3:31 remaining, courtesy of a pair of Lorenzo Cugini free throws. The Flames were able to cut the deficit to 19, but could not climb any closer, ultimately leading to the 72-53 final.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center court on Saturday, playing host to Charleston Southern at 7 p.m. The contest will broadcast live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network, ESPN3, MASN HD and the Big South Network.