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Records Fall In Liberty's First Round Win

March 4, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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TeeJay Bannister set a Big South Championship record with 14 assists in Liberty's 103-88 victory over VMI on Tuesday.

TeeJay Bannister set a Big South Championship record with 14 assists in Liberty's 103-88 victory over VMI on Tuesday.

Five records were set or matched as the No. 4-seeded Liberty Flames topped the No. 5-seeded VMI Keydets, 103-88, in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Advance Auto Parts Men's Basketball Championship, Tuesday night, inside the Vines Center.

With the victory, Liberty advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2004 and will play No. 1-seeded UNC Asheville Thursday night at 8 p.m. live on ESPNU inside the Justice Center in Asheville, N.C.

The Flames matched or broke four records, including a Big South Championship mark of 17 made three-point field goals, helping Liberty to connect on 48.6 percent (17-of-35) from three-point land.

Liberty reached the 100-point plateau for the first time since topping the same Keydet team on Feb. 21, 2007, inside Cameron Hall. The win, serving as Liberty's first in the Big South Championship title game of the 2004 classic, ended a three-year span of winless quarterfinal appearances.

The win, which was a rematch of last year's Big South Championship No. 3 versus No. 6 contest, pushes the Liberty record to 16-15 on the season. No Liberty coach has every won 16 games in their first year heading the program, making Ritchie McKay the first. VMI ends the year at 14-15, marking the first time since 1977-78 that a Keydet team tallied back-to-back 14 win seasons.

The Keydets wasted no time getting started, quickly staking themselves to a 6-0 lead, following buckets by Chavis Holmes, Adam Lonon and Reggie Williams. The run was capped with Williams' marker at 17:53.

Liberty cut its deficit down to two points, 12-10, via a 10-4 spurt. Back-to-back buckets by Anthony Smith capped the run at 15:23. The Keydets were on mark the entire first half from beyond the arc, as they quickly extended its lead back to five points, 18-13, via a 6-3 spurt. VMI capped the run with three-point buckets by the Homes twins, Chavis' coming at the 14:29 mark.

The Flames stormed to a five-point lead, 26-21, via an 11-3 run, featuring three-point buckets by Kyle Ohman, Jeremy Anderson and Smith. B.J. Jenkins' trifecta at 11:09 ended Liberty's spurt.

VMI and Liberty continued to trade baskets with Liberty holding the narrow 34-30 advantage after a Williams marker at 8:35. Two Jenkins free throws at 4:40 pushed the Liberty lead back to seven points, 39-22. An Alex McLean rebound and put back at 2:52 extended the Liberty advantage to nine points, 46-37.

Chavis Holmes connected on three free throws after being fouled by TeeJay Bannister, capping a 10-0 VMI run that helped the Keydets retake the lead, 47-46, with 58.1 seconds remaining. However, McLean poured in two points with 16.1 seconds left, giving the Flames the 48-47 lead going into the intermission.

Liberty connected on 47.4 percent (18-of-38) from the floor, including 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from beyond the arc during the first 20 minutes of action. VMI hit at a 58.1 percent rate (18-of-31), including a staggering 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from three-point land. Liberty won the first half rebound war, 22-13, while dishing out 14 first-half assists, 10 by Bannister alone.

An Ohman trey at 17:37 helped the Flames open its second-half lead to seven points, 59-52. Liberty pushed its advantage to 16 points, 71-55, via a 13-3 run. Five-straight points by Smith ended the run at 9:56. During one stretch of the run, Liberty held VMI scoreless for 4:55.

A Chavis Holmes jumper at 5:54 dwindled the Liberty advantage back to single digits, 79-70, with 5:54 remaining in the contest. But that would be as close as VMI would get the remainder of the night, as Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay emptied his bench with 1:03 remaining and a 16-point lead. Liberty rode walk-on Garen Lafser's career-high six points in the final minute, holding on to the 103-88 victory.

Liberty shot 61.5 percent (16-of-25) in the second half to finish the contest hitting 53.1 percent (34-of-64). The Flames connected on a Vines Center and Big South Championship record 17 three-point buckets, finishing the night hitting a 48.6 percent clip (17-of-35) from long range.

VMI was 9-of-28 from the floor late in the second half, marking its second-half shooting at 37.8 percent (14-of-37), finishing the game connecting on 47.1 percent (32-of-68) of their shots. VMI tallied 40 percent (12-of-30) of its three-point attempts, while adding their 12 makes from behind the arc with Liberty's 17, the two teams broke another Big South Championship record for combined three-point field goals. Liberty's 26 assists also marked a Big South Championship record.

Liberty received a career-high 30 points from Smith, marking the second-straight game the junior has set a new career high. Smith has now tied or set a career high in five games this season. Smith also pulled down 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Ohman tallied a career-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

Ohman's seven three-point field goals tied a Big South Championship record and a Vines Center mark as well. Jenkins poured in 18 points, dishing out six assists and pulling down six caroms. Bannister dished out 14 assists, including 10 in the opening stanza. Bannister's helper mark also set a Big South Championship record. McLean added his 15th double-double of his career with 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Williams, the Big South all-time scoring leader poured in 30 points on 12-of-25 shooting, finishing his illustrious career with 2,556 career points. The Holmes twins tallied double figures as well in the losing effort. Second team All-Big South Chavis scored 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while brother Travis poured in 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

Liberty Head Coach Ritchie McKay
"That was an excellent college basketball game. I was a little afraid of the fast pace early on, because we typically don't play that fast. I was very impressed by VMI. They have a highly skilled group of players. We played together and worked hard defensively. We didn't get beat on penetration like we did last Tuesday."

VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
"Congratulations to Liberty. Coach McKay had the Flames ready to play tonight. You pick your poison against them. They have such a good post player in Alex McLean and their other guys stepped up and hit shots. Kyle Ohman was unbelievable. When you shoot 49 percent from three-point range like they did, you'll be very tough to beat, especially with a beast like McLean inside. Liberty's players 1 through 6 are as good as anybody in the league, and the Flames will wreak havoc the rest of the way in the tournament."