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Viva Las Vegas, Liberty Wins

December 23, 2008  Las Vegas, Nev.  RSS
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Anthony Smith scored a game-high 21 points in Liberty's win over USC Upstate in Las Vegas.

Anthony Smith scored a game-high 21 points in Liberty's win over USC Upstate in Las Vegas.

The Liberty Flames (9-4) received 21 points from Anthony Smith on Tuesday afternoon, in the final day of the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic, defeating the USC Upstate Spartans, 77-64.

A Seth Curry trey at 17:19 gave the Flames an early 8-3 lead, but the Spartans tied the game after scoring five straight points. A three-point bucket by Josh Chavis and a layup by Bobby Davis knotted the game at eight apiece at the 16:04 mark.

Nick Schneiders scored a bucket at 15:08, staking the Spartans to their first lead of the game, 10-8. Liberty retook the lead, 17-13, via a 9-3 spurt, capped by a Curry three-pointer at 12:17.

Bill Weaver was the recipient from Johnny Stephene on an ally opp pass at 8:18, pushing Liberty's lead to nine points, 27-18. Weaver's bucket capped a 10-5 run.

The Spartans came roaring back, closing out the half on an 18-7 run to take the lead going into the intermission, 36-35. Gabor Boros hit a three-point bucket with 29.1 seconds left, cutting the score to a one point Liberty lead, 35-34. Following the bucket, the Liberty bench was charged with a technical foul at 29.1, and Chavis connected on both free throws.

The Flames hit 54.2 percent (13-of-24) of their shots in the opening stanza, including 57.1 percent (8-of-14) from three-point land.

USC Upstate also found success from the floor in the first half, hitting on 56.6 percent of its attempts (13-of-23), including 44.4 percent behind the arc (4-of-9).

Smith got thing started for the Flames in the second half, scoring Liberty's first 10 points, helping Liberty to a 16-4 run to start the second half. A Smith trey, followed by two Kyle Ohman free throws at 13:30 capped the run, giving the Flames an 11 point lead, 51-40.

Liberty continued its surge on the Spartans, going on an 18-7 run to storm out to the 69-47 advantage. A Smith basket and a Stephene bucket on transition at 5:10 capped the streak for the Flames.

Stephene's two-pointer pushed the Liberty advantage to 22 points, the largest of the game. At that juncture Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay emptied his bench. USC Upstate ended the final five minutes on a 17-8 run, but it wasn't enough as Liberty grabbed its ninth win of the season.

Liberty shot an impressive 58.5 percent (24-of-41) from the floor, including 57.1 (12-of-21) from three-point range. The Flames tallied 12 two-point field goals and 12 three-point field goals in the game.

Smith led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-8, including 3-of-4 from three-point range. Smith also pulled down seven rebounds. Curry added 18 points and Stephene chipped in 14 points in the winning cause.

USC Upstate connected on 44.2 percent (23-of-52) from the floor, including 30.4 percent (7-of-23) from beyond the arc. For the second straight game, the Flames limited an opponent in the second half from the field, as the Spartans shot 34.5 percent from the field (10-of-29), cutting their overall shooting percentage down 12 points over the final 20 minutes.

Bobby Davis led the Spartans with 14 points and 11 caroms for the double-double. Chavis chipped in 11 points and Schneiders added 10 points.

Liberty will return to the hardwood after Christmas, on Sunday, when Cincinnati Christian comes to the Vines Center for one final non-conference tune up before Big South play. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.