Late effort pushes Paladins over Liberty, 61-58

libertyFurman scored 11 of the game’s final 16 points during the last three minutes of play, allowing the Paladins to escape with a 61-58 victory over Liberty, Tuesday evening, inside the Vines Center.

A layup by Myo Baxter-Bell with 2:54 gave the Flames a 53-30 lead, which was followed by a three-pointer from Furman’s Daniel Fowler to tie the game 31 seconds later. The junior’s trey sparked an 11-5 run to close out the contest and push the Paladins’ record to 5-4 on the season. Furman used 58.3 percent shooting during the second half (14-of-24) to secure the three-point win.

The loss, Liberty’s second in six home games this season, drops the Flames to 4-5 on the year.

Devin Sibley and Fowler paced the visitors with 14 points apiece. Sibley finished the night 4-of-6 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line, while Fowler was 5-of-8 from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from the line.

After missing the UNCG game with an injury on Saturday, Ryan Kemrite returned to Liberty’s lineup to lead the Flames with 18 points. The redshirt junior finished the night 5-of-6 from both the floor and the free throw line, including 3-of-4 from three-point range.

The game remained scoreless for nearly four minutes, as the two teams combined to miss their first eight attempts from the floor. A mid-court steal by the Paladins John Davis and a fast break lay-up at 16:33 ended the scoreless streak.

Both teams began to heat up by knocking down a trio of three-pointers during the next two minutes. Liberty took a 6-5 edge into the first media break at 14:44 after long-range baskets from Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz and John Dawson.

The Flames held the Paladins scoreless over the next 4:52 until Sibley connected on his first field goal of the night with 10:13 remaining in the half to trim Liberty’s lead to two points, 9-7.

Liberty then scored seven of the game’s next 10 points to take a 16-10 lead at 7:42, capping the burst on Dawson’s three-pointer from the top of the key.

The Flames extended their lead to seven, 24-17, following a pair of free throws by Brock Gardner with 2:07 left to play in the first half. After a three-pointer from Kemrite at 1:16, Liberty took its largest lead of the opening half at nine points, 27-18.

The visitors cut the deficit back to seven points during the final seconds of the opening half. Sibley grabbed a defensive rebound at one end of the floor and sank a layup as time expired to trim Liberty’s lead to 27-20 at the break.

Liberty had one of its better first-half shooting performances of late. After entering the games shooting 35.4 percent from the field this season, the Flames connected on 10-of-23 attempts from the floor during the opening 20 minutes (43.5 percent).

Pacheco-Ortiz paced Liberty with seven points, followed by six from Dawson and five from Kemrite.

Furman, who came into the game ranked No. 15 in the country in three-pointers per game (10.5), was limited to three during the first half. The Paladins were held to 30.8 percent shooting overall (8-of-26) and were led by seven points from Jordan Lyon during the opening 20 minutes.

After a pair of free throws by Baxter-Bell pushed Liberty’s lead back to nine, the Paladins went on a 6-0 run. An old fashion three-point play by Kris Acox trimmed the home team’s lead to three points, 29-26, with 17:31 remaining.

Kemrite pushed Liberty’s advantage back to nine points, 37-28, by hitting a three-pointer directly in front of his bench and connecting on the ensuing free throw at 15:29 of the final half of play.

Furman connected on its next six consecutive field goal attempts, tying the game at 40-40 with 11:44 remaining. Fowler hit a running layup and then connected on the following free throw to knot the contest.

The Paladins took their first lead since the opening minutes of the contest on a trey from Davis from the wing, capping an 11-0 run and giving Furman a three-point edge (43-40) at 10:52.

A three-pointer from the top of the key by Pacheco-Ortiz, Liberty’s eighth of the game, knotted the score at 45-45 with 7:48left to play. Three minutes later, Kemrite extended Liberty’s lead back to four, 50-46, with a layup and free throw at 4:53.

Following Sibley’s earlier mentioned three-pointer at 2:54 to tie the game, Fowler and Acox pushed Furman’s lead to four points with layups at 1:37 and 0:34.

After a pair of free throws with 27 seconds left by Caleb Homesley and a three-pointer by Dawson from the wing with 11 ticks left, Liberty trailed by one, 59-58.

Fowler helped Furman finished the second half 9-of-10 from the line by connecting on a pair of shots from the charity stripe with eight seconds remaining to push the visitors’ lead to its final margin of three at 61-58.

The Flames quickly got the ball up the court and gave Homesley a deep look for three with one second remaining, but the long-range shot did not fall to force overtime.

The Flames will host Princeton on Saturday in the second game of a men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader in the Vines Center. The day will begin with an 11 a.m. women’s basketball game against West Liberty followed by a 2 p.m. tipoff for the men’s team against Princeton.



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