Libertys Rally Not Enough As Bulldogs Down Flames In Overtime Thriller
UNC Asheville let a 16-point second half lead slip away as the Flames held the Bulldogs to just two field goals over the final eight minutes of regulation, but UNC Asheville was able to use the free throw line in the extra period to pick up an 83-81 Big South win over Liberty, Monday evening, in the Vines Center.
With the victory, the Bulldogs up their conference record to 5-6 on the season (7-14 overall), while the loss drops Liberty to 2-8 in league play (5-17 overall).
Play remained tight most of the first half as the lead changed hands six times and the game was tied on seven different occasions. A pair of free throws by Anthony Smith (Fr., G, Plano, Texas) knotted the game for the seventh time at 23-23 with 5:57 left to play in the opening half.
However, UNC Asheville rattled off nine-straight points to take a 32-23 lead on a Chad Mohn jumper at the 2:46 mark. A lay-up by Reid Augst with 63 seconds left before the break gave the Bulldogs an 11-point lead, 36-25, but Eric Bigby (Jr., F, Meade, Md.) converted on two free throws 33 seconds later to trim the lead back to nine points, 36-25, at the break.
UNC Asheville continued to control the pace of play over the first eight minutes of the second half as a lay-up by Garrett Moles at the 12:08 mark completed a 6-0 run by the Bulldogs and gave the visitors a 16-point lead, 57-41.
But Liberty slowly started to chip away at the large deficit as Larry Blair (Jr., G, Charlotte, N.C.) trimmed the advantage back to single digits with a three-pointer with 7:11 left to play in regulation, while the junior nailed another three-pointer 45 seconds later to cut the lead to six points, 62-56.
Joey Harrell answered back with a trey of his own on the next possession at the 6:03 mark, but that would be the second to last basket that UNC Asheville would make down the stretch as the momentum completely shifted towards Liberty over the remainder of the period.
Jeremy Eck (Jr., F, Stafford, Va.) knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:08 left to play to cut the lead to three points, 67-64. After both teams missed a jumper, Harrell pulled down a defensive rebound and was fouled, sending the junior to the free throw line where he missed both attempts from the charity stripe, allowing Liberty one last opportunity where Blair made good as his fourth three-pointer of the evening tying the game with nine seconds and sending the contest into overtime.
A three-pointer by Damien Hubbard (Jr., G/F, Boyce, Va.) gave the Flames their first lead since the first half at the 4:16 mark of the overtime, but Omar Collington was able to drive the length of the floor to knot the game at 70-70 just seconds later.
Jumpers by Blair and Harrell tied the game at 72-72 with 2:29 left to play in the extra period, but the Bulldogs, who were a dismal 5-of-15 from the free throw line in the first two periods of play finally found their shooting touch from the line as UNC Asheville converted on 9-of-10 free throw attempts down the stretch to eventually seal the victory.
Liberty was able to get as close as two points on three separate occasions over the last two-plus minutes, including after a pair of Blair free throws with 13 seconds left, but UNC Asheville remained steady from the stripe to walk away with the victory.
All eight players that got into the game for the Bulldogs found the scoring column, while five finished in double figures. Collington led the way with 17 points as he was 5-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-4 from the free throw line and added six of the team’s 22 assists on the night.
Joseph Barber followed with 16 points and six rebounds, while Harrell came off the bench to record a double-double with 12 points and a team-best 11 rebounds.
Blair once against led the way for the Flames with his fourth 30-point game of the season as he scored 33 points, including 26 points in the second and overtime periods, while Hubbard followed with a season-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field. Rell Porter (So., F, Pittsburg, Texas) led the Flames with 10 rebounds, marking his third double-figure rebounding game of the season.
The Flames continued a four-game homestand on Saturday when they host Charleston Southern in the Vines Center for a 7 p.m. contest, while UNC Asheville continues a brief two-game road swing in the Commonwealth when they visit VMI on Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest at Cameron Hall.