The Liberty men's basketball team picked up its third straight win, defeating Montreat, 91-73, Tuesday night inside the Vines Center.
The victory moves the Flames to 5-8 on the season and 7-0 all-time against the Cavaliers.
Jesse Sanders achieved another personal milestone in his storied career at Liberty, setting a new Vines Center record with a career-high 16 assists. Sanders' single-game assist total surpassed TeeJay Banner (2008) and Coastal Carolina's J.J. Foster (1992), who each held the previous mark of 15. Finishing with eight points on the night, the Sugar Land, Texas native needs just two more points to become the 22nd member of Liberty's 1,000-point club.
John Caleb Sanders led Liberty with a career-high 20 points, followed by Antwan Burrus with 14 and Tavares Speaks with 10. Tyler Buff paced the Cavaliers with 16 tallies.
The Flames jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the opening 2:23, thanks to a John Caleb Sanders three-pointer and two jumpers by Tavares Speaks. Montreat halted Liberty's momentum with an Ian McVay trey and a layup by Buff to make it 7-5 at 16:35.
Liberty expanded its lead to six with a free throw by Burrus and another John Caleb Sanders three-pointer. Once again the Cavaliers answered with five straight points to cut the lead to one, 11-10, at 14:11. However, Burrus began to get hot, posting six unanswered points of his own to give the Flames a seven-point edge, 17-10, at 13:02.
After Montreat managed to make it a five-point ballgame at the 11:30 mark, the Flames proceeded to outscore the Cavaliers, 9-2, over the ensuing 3:30. John Caleb Sanders knocked down his third trey of the game with seven minutes to play in the half to up Liberty's lead to 12. Buff then answered the basket with one of his own 25 ticks later to cut it to nine, 28-19.
The Cavaliers continued to chip away at the bulge, climbing back within five points with 3:14 remaining in the period. However, the Flames began to widen the gap in the closing minutes of the half, putting on a dunk contest for the fans. Freshman Andrew Smith kicked off the jam session just under the two minute mark, receiving a pass from Jesse Sanders and flushing it for the alley-oop.
After Smith blocked a shot on the opposite end, Speaks took it to the rack with a one-handed dunk. Burrus capped off the trio of highlights with a two-handed jam with 36 seconds left, helping Liberty carry a 41-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Liberty shot 48.5 percent from the field in the first half, knocking down 16-of-33 attempts, while holding Montreat to 38.5 percent (10-of-26). The Flames controlled the paint in the opening stanza, outscoring the Cavaliers 20-10. Dale Layer's squad also capitalized off turnovers, 14-4.
John Caleb Sanders paced the Flames with 16 first half points, followed by Burrus with 11 points and seven rebounds. Needing eight points to reach his personal milestone, Jesse Sanders had just two points in the first half, but led Liberty with nine assists.
Terrell Mosley and Buff each led Montreat with eight points in the opening period.
Liberty continued to add to its lead in the second half, outscoring the Cavaliers 13-6 in the opening 3:59. During the span, Liberty received baskets from Jesse and John Caleb Sanders, Burrs and Tomasz Gielo to take a 54-33 advantage at 16:01.
Liberty capped off a 12-0 run approximately three minutes later. Jesse Sanders picked up his 12th assist at 12:59, dishing it to Smith, who finished the fast break layup to give the Flames a 28-point lead, 61-33.
Stephen Baird gave Liberty a 30-point advantage with 9:35 left on the clock. Scoring eight straight points for the Flames, the San Antonio, Texas native knocked down his second three-pointer of the game, putting the home team up, 69-39.
Jesse Sanders set a new Vines Center assist record with 5:52 left in the contest. The floor general garnered his 16th assist after dishing it to Gielo, who nailed a jumper to make it 74-50.
The Cavaliers climbed within 18 of the Flames down the stretch, but were unable to get any closer, as Liberty prevailed, 91-73.
Liberty shot 60.3 percent (14-of-23) in the second half, finishing with 53.6 percent (30-of-56) shooting for the contest. The Flames went 25-for-37 from the foul line, setting a new season high for made free throws in a game. The Cavaliers closed out the night with 44.4 percent shooting (26-of-63). The Flames received its second highest point total from the bench on the season, as Liberty's reserves scored 31 points.
The Flames take a week break from on-court action before heading to Richmond, Va., to take on the Richmond Spiders. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.