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Liberty Cruises Past VMI Keydets, 91-73

January 28, 2010  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Coach Layer gives his thoughts on his team's performance following Liberty's 91-73 victory over VMI Thursday night.
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Coming off a key road win over second-place Radford this past Saturday, the Liberty men's basketball team (11-11, 6-4 BSC) returned to the Vines Center on Thursday, hosting Commonwealth competitor VMI. Freshman forward Antwan Burrus took center stage during the evening tilt, achieving career highs in points (20) and rebounds (13), helping the Flames sweep the Keydets on the season, 91-73.

Point guard Jesse Sanders accompanied Burrus' 20-10 performance, earning a double-double of his own with 10 points and 15 boards.

Liberty's victory keeps the Flames in the running for third place in the conference, as they are currently tied with Winthrop and UNC Asheville at 6-4 in the standings.

With both teams going scoreless for the first 52 seconds, Patrick Konan ignited the Vines Center crowd with a two-handed jam, giving the Flames an early 2-0 lead. The Keydets responded at 18:35, as Austin Kenon connected on a jumper to knot the contest at a pair.

The Flames and Keydets continued matching one another basket-for-basket over the next 2:08. Antwan Burrus joined Konan in the jam session, grabbing a rebound off a missed Evan Gordon layup and converting it into a one-handed dunk to make it 6-4, Liberty at 16:50. The Keydets then answered with an Adam Lonon layup to knot the contest for the third time.

After the series of ties, Liberty netted four-straight points with baskets from Gordon and David Minaya to take a 10-6 lead at 15:03.

The Flames managed to create a five-point cushion at 12:38, but the Keydets quickly closed the gap, scoring five unanswered points thanks to a Michael Sparks trey and a Gabriel fast break layup to even it at 16 apiece with 12:02 remaining in the half.

Following a made free throw shot from each team to tie the contest at 17, VMI grabbed the lead off a Nick Gore three-pointer to make it 20-17 at 11:36.

The Keydets maintained the lead for the next 2:49, until David Minaya scored on a fast break to reclaim the Liberty advantage, 23-22 at 8:47.

The Flames widened the gap with 4:25 left in the half, when Burrus made good on a tip-in, making it 31-25.

VMI rallied once again, erasing the deficit within 47 seconds off treys from Gabriel and Gore, creating the fifth tie of the contest, 31-31.

Liberty managed to distance itself from the visiting team in the closing minutes, outscoring the Keydets 11-6 down the stretch to head into the locker room with a 42-37 lead at halftime.

Burrus ended the opening period just one board shy of a double-double, finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds. Gabriel paced the Keydets in scoring with 11 points.

Bench points played a factor in the first half, with Liberty and VMI's reserves contributing 14 points apiece. Minaya led the Flames' bench attack with eight points, while Gore played the role of sixth man for the Keydets with nine tallies.

Liberty shot 54.5 percent from the field in the first half, hitting 18-of-33. On the defensive end, the Flames held the Big South's highest-scoring offense to 38.2 percent shooting (13-of-34).

The Flames picked up where they left off in the second half, scoring four-straight points to stretch their advantage to nine, 46-37 at 18:33. Following a Lonon layup that cut it to seven, 46-39, Liberty proceeded to go on a five-point burst with buckets from Sanders and Konan to increase the bulge to 12, 51-39 at 17:05.

Konan resurfaced less than a minute later, throwing down a two-handed slam to put the Flames up by 13, 55-42.

Liberty continued to widen the margin at 14:25, as Sanders nailed a jumper inside the paint to put the Flames up 16 points, 61-45.

Gordon gave the Flames an 18-point edge with 11:03 remaining in the contest, netting a layup to make it 65-47. Liberty and VMI swapped buckets over the next 54 seconds, but the home team maintained its advantage thanks to another Gordon lay-in to keep the margin at 18, 69-51.

The Flames experienced its largest lead of the game with 8:40 remaining in the contest, when Jeremy Anderson knocked down a trey to put the Flames up 72-53. The Keydets then responded with a 7-0 run over the next 1:04 to cut it to 12, 72-60.

VMI managed to cut it to single digits with 2:53 remaining, when Gabriel laid it in to make it a nine-point affair, 80-71. However, the Flames fended off the Keydets' attack, going on an 11-2 tear in the final minutes, taking the contest's final score 91-73.

Liberty improves to 11-11 on the season and 6-4 in conference play with the win, while VMI drops to 7-13 and 2-8 in the Big South.

Burrus' career-high 20 points and 13 rebounds gives the freshman his second collegiate double-double and his first 20-10 game. Sanders' 15 boards marks a career-high to go along with his 10-point scoring performance on the night. Gordon and Konan also finished with double-digit scoring figures in the contest, tallying 18 and 17 points, respectively.

Gabriel led the way for VMI with a game-high 24 points, followed by Austin Kenon (12) and Gore (11).

Liberty hit 36-of-64 shots (56.3 percent) from the field in the contest, concluding the night with its third-best field goal percentage of the season. VMI, meanwhile, shot 37.3 percent on 25-of-67 shooting.

The Flames remain in the Vines Center next Thursday, playing host to Winthrop at 8 p.m. The matchup is part of a men's and women's basketball doubleheader, with the Lady Flames slated to tip off against North Carolina Central at 5 p.m. In the last meeting between the Flames and Eagles on Jan. 9, Winthrop successfully defended its home court, holding off Liberty 65-62 inside the Winthrop Coliseum.

VMI returns to Cameron Hall next Tuesday, hosting second-place Radford at 7 p.m.