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LU Tops Rider in CIT Opening Round, 79-64

March 17, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Seth Curry scored 19 points in Liberty's opening round victory over Rider.

Seth Curry scored 19 points in Liberty's opening round victory over Rider.

The Liberty Flames (23-11) registered the first win of the inaugural Postseason Tournament (CIT) on Tuesday night, topping the Rider Broncs (19-13) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Association, 79-64.

Liberty's 23rd victory of the season ties this season's squad with the 1997 team (23--9) for most wins by a Liberty Division I team in program history. The win also marks Liberty's first Division I victory in postseason play outside the Big South Championship.

Seth Curry's trey at 15:01 finished off Liberty's 13-3 run to start the game. Rider's lone bucket in the run was a three-point field goal by Justin Robinson at the 18:15 mark. Back-to-back three-point buckets by Anthony Smith and Kyle Ohman at 10:21 extended Liberty's lead to 16 points, 29-11, capping a 16-8 run.

Four straight points from Novar Gadson helped cut Rider's deficit down to 14 points, 35-21, finishing off a narrow 10-6 Broncs' spurt at 5:59. Liberty surged ahead, staking the home team to a 22 point lead, 46-24, with 2:42 left in the opening stanza. Back-to-back three-point buckets by Smith and Jesse Sanders finished off the 11-3 jaunt.

Rider tallied four points near the end of the half, courtesy buckets by Mike Ringgold and Justin Robinson, sending the Broncs into the intermission trailing Liberty by 20 points, 47-27.

The Flames shot an efficient 69.2 percent (18-of-26) from the floor in the opening period, including a 66.7 percent (6-of-9) success rate from beyond the arc.

Liberty's stout defensive effort kept Rider from being successful from the field, as Rider connected on 31.3 percent (10-of-32) from the floor in the first stanza, including 23.1 percent (3-of-13) from three-point land.

The Broncs charged out of the break, cutting their deficit down to 15 points, 49-34, via a 7-2 run. An old fashioned three-point play by Ringgold at 18:13, followed by a Gadson bucket at 16:48 finished off the run.

Another back-to-back three-point effort by Smith and Ohman at 13:08 capped a 7-4 jaunt, giving the Flames a 19 point lead, 56-37. Gradson helped bring the Rider deficit down to 15 points, 58-43, after snaring a steal off a Smith turnover, then tallying the bucket at 10:08.

A Curry three-pointer as the shot clock shot expired at the 6:49 marker pushed Liberty's advantage back to 21 points, 66-45. Rider would counter with its biggest push of the contest, cutting the Liberty lead down to 11 points, 75-64, via a 19-9 run. Patrick Mansell was fouled by Ohman on a three-point attempt. Mansell nailed all three attempts from the charity stripe, capping the run.

But, the Broncs did not get any closer, as two Curry free throws and a Smith layup with 55 seconds left finished off the contest, giving Liberty the 79-64 triumph.

The Flames finished the contest hitting at a 51.9 percent (28-of-54) clip, including 43.5 percent (10-of-23) mark from three-point land.

Smith led all scorers with 25 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Curry added 19 points and five rebounds, while Ohman chipped 13 points and dishing out four assists. Sanders added 10 points, four rebounds and dropped three assists in 24 minutes of action.

Smith's night helped the senior pass Liberty great Peter Aluma (1,715) for the second-most points scored by a Flame during the Liberty Division I era. Smith currently has 1,728 points, ranking sixth all-time in the Liberty annals.

Rider finished the contest hitting 34.4 percent (24-of-70) from the floor, including 26.9 percent (7-of-26) from long range.

Gadson was a strong force for the Broncs, scoring a season-high 24 points off the bench, while pulling down eight rebounds. Ringgold chipped in 10 points and eight caroms in the losing effort.

Liberty will move on to the round of eight in the Postseason Tournament on Monday. The Flames hold a strong possibility to host the quarterfinal round against an opponent that will be determined following final opening round game on Thursday.

Rider Head Coach Tommy Dempsey – "Liberty played really well; they simply outplayed us all night. Liberty got into a great rhythm from the beginning and they never looked back shooting over seventy percent the first half. The feeling in the Vines Center was very similar to the atmosphere we felt in the CBI Tournament last season. This was a game between two teams that both had great seasons, and I wish Liberty the best of luck."

Liberty Head Coach Ritchie McKay- "We are a great shooting team and it showed tonight, as we were very relaxed coming into the game. We were very motivated as a team because this is postseason and if we lose, our season is over. It definitely helped being at home tonight, but being at home does not ensure a win and our urgency to win carried us through the night. The team showed great character, as we had great practices all week leading up to the game."