John Brown came through for the Flames in overtime, sinking a put back layup at the buzzer to give Liberty the 83-81 overtime win on Thursday.
John Brown played the role of hero on Thursday night, helping the Flames defeat the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 83-81 in overtime.
Despite the Flames being up by as much as 14 in the first half, the Bulldogs climbed back to take a three-point advantage in the final minutes of regulation, before Evan Gordon forced the extra period with a clutch three-pointer.
With the contest tied in the closing seconds of overtime, Brown grabbed a missed three-pointer and put up a shot as time expired to give the Flames the win.
The victory gives Dale Layer his 300th career win and helps Liberty improve to 15-7 (9-1 Big South) on the year, tying its season win total from last year. UNC Asheville falls to 10-10 overall and 5-5 in conference play.
The Bulldogs struck first in the contest, netting five unanswered points off a Matt Dikey three-pointer and foul shots from Quinard Jackson to open the contest. Liberty responded with eight unanswered of its own thanks to a David Minaya three-pointer, a Brown layup and another trey by Gordon. The sophomore long distance jumper gave the Flames an 8-5 lead at 17:07.
After Jackson layup halted the Flames run and cut the margin to one, Gordon gave Liberty a four-point edge with another three-point basket, putting the Flames up, 11-7.
The Bulldogs remained within four or less points of Liberty until the 10:40 mark, when Gordon made a layup. Jeremy Anderson followed up the basket 30 ticks later with a shot from behind the arc, giving the Flames a nine-point advantage, 20-11.
UNC Asheville chipped away at the Liberty advantage with four straight points. Following a tomahawk dunk by John Williams, Dickey transformed a steal into a fast break layup to make it, 20-15 at 8:58.
David Minaya extended the Flames lead by seven points with a layup at 8:24, but the Bulldogs quickly cut the advantage to four points on a Jaron Lane trey. Flame John Caleb Sanders countered on Liberty's next trip down the floor with a three-pointer of his own, upping the home team's cushion seven points, 25-18, with 7:54 left in the period.
With Liberty holding a six-point edge nearing opening period's five-minute mark, John Caleb Sanders sparked the Flames offense, reeling off six straight points over the ensuing 59 seconds. Following a three-pointer, Sanders capitalized on a traditional three-point play, sinking the foul shot after a fast break layup off a feed by his brother Jesse Sanders, pushing Liberty to a 33-12 advantage with 4:04 remaining.
The Bulldogs climbed back into single-digit territory by halftime, as the Flames took a 39-32 edge into intermission.
Gordon led all scorers with 10 tallies, followed by John Caleb Sanders, who had nine points in just five minutes of playing time. Dickey paced the Bulldogs with eight points.
Liberty shot 48.4 percent from the field, hitting 15-of-31 shots, including 6-of-13 (46.2 percent) from three-point land. UNC Asheville finished the period shooting 47.8 percent (11-of-23), including 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) from behind the arc.
Liberty came out firing on all cylinders in the second period, striking for four straight points off jumpers by Gordon and Minaya to begin the half. UNC Asheville responded with a Dickey trey and a fast break layup by Stephenson. Jesse Sanders halted the five-point spurt at 16:56, knocking down a rare trey for the guard. John Brown followed that shot with layup to make it, 48-39 at 15:51.
Following a layup by Jackson on the other end, Jesse Sanders lit up the scoreboard again with a traditional three-point play to give the Flames a 10-point lead. Minaya extended the margin to 13 with a three-pointer, but Dickey quickly nullified the shot with one of his own to once again-make it a 10-point game, 54-44, at 14:06.
With UNC Asheville down by six near the 11:30 mark, Minaya helped the Flames up the home team's margin back to 10 points. After being fouled on a three-point basket, the redshirt junior knocked down the foul shot to put Liberty back up by 10, 60-50.
The Bulldogs clawed at the Liberty lead in the ensuing minutes, slicing to three points, 68-65, after a three-point play by D.J. Cunningham with 5:55 left in the contest.
Jesse Sanders put the Flames back up by five with two foul shots, but Cunningham countered at the Bulldog end with four straight points to cut the Liberty edge to 70-69 with 4:55 remaining in regulation. UNC Asheville took its first lead since the opening two minutes of the contest with 1:40 left in the contest. J.P. Primm knocked down a jumper to put the Bulldogs on top, 73-72. Dickey upped the lead to three with two free throws nearly a minute later.
Down 75-72, Gordon knotted the contest with 19 ticks remaining, hitting a clutch three-pointer to send the contest to overtime. The extra period marked the fourth time the Flames have gone to overtime this season and the first in the Vines Center since Jan. 24, 2009, when the Flames were defeated by the Radford Highlanders in double overtime, 94-82.
In the extra period, Brown put the Flames up by one with a free throw, but Primm answered at the other end with a jumper put the Bulldogs on top, 77-76.
With under two minutes remaining, Jesse Sanders connected on a layup, giving the one-point lead back to Liberty. After Williams put the Bulldogs on top by a single digit with a Williams dunk, Minaya sunk a three-pointer at the 1:00 mark to put the Flames up by two. Asheville's Jaron Lane then knotted the contest, 81-81, 23 seconds later with a layup.
Liberty milked the clock with the final possession. With two seconds left, Minaya missed an attempted three-pointer, but Brown was positioned off to the left side of basket to grab the offensive rebound and put up the game-winning shot as time expired Liberty finished the game shooting 47.0 percent from the field, knocking down 31-of-66 shots, including 11-of-25 (44.0 percent) from behind the three-point arc. UNC Asheville finished the contest shooting 53.8 percent (28-of-52).
Jesse Sanders led the Flames with 20 points, followed by Minaya (19), Gordon (17) and Brown (13). Brown also finished with his 11th double-double of the season and five in six games with 12 rebounds to accompany his scoring effort. Four Bulldogs concluded the contest in double scoring figures – Dickey (20), Cunningham (16), Lane (12) Williams (11).
UNC Asheville heads to Lexington, Va., on Saturday to take on the VMI Keydets. Game time inside Cameron Hall is set for 1 p.m.
Liberty will return to the Vines Center on Saturday to play host to Gardner-Webb. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.