The Liberty men's basketball team suffered its third-straight defeat, Sunday afternoon, falling to William & Mary in the Vines Center, 65-64.
The final matchup of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer came down to a game of free throws. With the Tribe holding a one-point edge after an old-fashioned three-point play by Quinn McDowell, John Caleb Sanders had a chance to sink the game-winning basket after being fouled at the other end with one second remaining. Unfortunately, the sophomore was unable to connect on either free throw attempt, as the visitors hung on to win.
Jesse Sanders achieved a career milestone for the third straight game, surpassing the 900-point mark. The Sugar Land, Texas native reached the mark with two free throws with 6:59 left in the first half. He now has 908 tallies as a Flame.
Tavares Speaks led Liberty with 13 points, while McDowell paced the Tribe with 18. With the defeat, Liberty falls to 2-4 on the season. William & Mary moves to 1-5.
Julian Boatner put the Tribe on the board first with a three-pointer in the opening 1:19. After two John Caleb Sanders free throws, Tom Schalk laid it in at the opposite end to regain the three-point edge. John Caleb Sanders responded with a three-pointer of his own to knot the contest, 5-5, at 18:02.
William & Mary looked to create a cushion, scoring four unanswered points, but the Flames countered with a quartet of tallies from David Minaya, tying the contest once again. Jesse Sanders tacked on a free throw at 14:28 to give Liberty a 10-9 lead.
The Tribe once again took the lead and put some distance between themselves and the Flames, outscoring Liberty 6-2 over a span of 5:03. An Antwan Burrus layup followed by a Tavares Speaks jumper out the Flames back on top. Jesse Sanders added two made baskets from the charity stripe increase the advantage to three. McDowell then brought about the contest's third tie, knocking down a three-pointer to make it 18-18 at 6:07.
With The Tribe holding a three-point lead, John Caleb Sanders tied things up a fourth time with his second trey of the contest. Matt Rum nullified the bucket nearly 50 ticks later, sinking a triple of his own to regain the three-point margin for William & Mary, 25-22, with 3:22 left in the opening period.
The trend continued in the closing minutes of the half. Tied at 26, Brandon Britt nailed another Tribe trey to send William & Mary into the locker room with a 29-26 edge.
William & Mary shot 37.5 percent from the floor in the half, hitting 12-of-32 shots. Liberty finished the first period shooting 31.8 percent (7-of-22). Unlike last Monday's meeting when the Flames held the advantage in the paint after the opening half, 20-8, the Tribe controlled the inside this time, outscoring the Flames, 12-4. William & Mary's bench also came up big, outpointing Liberty's, 13-2.
Marcus Thornton led William & Mary in scoring with 10 first-half points. John Caleb Sanders also had 10 tallies for the Flames, followed by Jesse Sanders with six.
Minaya cut the deficit to one in the early moments of the second half with a jumper. Boatner made it a four-point game 19 ticks later with the Tribe's fifth three-pointer of the contest to put William & Mary up, 32-28.
Liberty hung with the Tribe, staying within two possessions over the next 5:57. Minaya put the Flames back on top at 13:08 with a jumper, but the lead was short-lived, as Britt regained the advantage for the Tribe, 40-39, 29 seconds later.
William & Mary outscored the Flames, 12-6, over the ensuing 3:46, finishing with a Fred Heldring fast break dunk at 8:53. The tides soon began to turn, with Liberty tying the contest for the seventh time with 6:12 left on the clock. Speaks knotted the game at 53, hitting two free throws.
The contest remained within one possession down the stretch with four more ties occurring. Minaya nailed a jumper that put the Flames up by two (64-62) with 22 seconds left. McDowell answered with a traditional three-point play in the final eight ticks, leading to the 65-64 final.
Liberty shot 40.7 percent for the contest, hitting 22-of-54 shots. William & Mary finished the contest with 36.8 percent shooting (21-of-57). The Flames improved their shooting in the second half, shooting 46.9 percent (15-of-32), while holding the Tribe to 36.0 percent (9-of-25). The game concluded with 10 ties and 10 lead changes.
Along with Speaks, four other Flames finished with double scoring figures – John Caleb Sanders, Jesse Sanders, Minaya and Burrus. Once again Jesse Sanders narrowly missed a triple double, chipping in 12 rebounds and seven assists. Britt and Thornton chipped in 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Tribe.
Liberty will receive a six-day rest before heading to Atlanta, Ga., to take on Georgia State on Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.