Liberty holds off VMI

Jesse Sanders had 21 points and 13 assists, David Minaya scored 22 points and the Liberty Flames defeated the VMI Keydets 100-82 in a Big South showdown played at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

For the game, Liberty shot 56.3% from the field, including 9 of 11 from three-point range (81.8%). The Flames (14-7, 8-1 Big South) placed five players in double figures, and had 26 assists to VMI’s 15. Minaya’s point total and Sanders’ assist mark were both career highs.

VMI (11-8, 4-5 BSC) was paced by Austin Kenon, who had VMI’s first eight points of the night and finished with 29. The current Big South Player of the Week hit five three-pointers, tying him with Chavis Holmes ’09 for the most made treys in Keydet history (306). The Keydets lost for the first time on the road in Big South action, falling to 4-1 in such contests this season.

The Keydets jumped out to the early lead, starting the game on an 8-2 run behind Kenon’s strong start. Liberty responded with seven straight points, and took its first lead of the contest at the 16:58 mark, 9-8, but VMI went right back on top moments later when Keith Gabriel hit a three-pointer, making it 11-9, VMI.

After an exchange of baskets, Jesse Sanders tied the game with a layup, but Ron Burks gave VMI a 16-13 edge at the 14:14 mark, converting an old-fashioned three-point play. The visitors would hold the lead for the next six minutes, stretching it out to a game-high tying six on a pair of occasions and holding a four-point edge at the 10:20 mark, 24-20.

At that point, Liberty launched the game’s decisive run, a 7-0 spurt that culminated with five straight points by Minaya, giving the home team a 27-24 lead. VMI would not lead again.

After several minutes of back-and-forth action, the Flames’ lead hit double-digits for the first time at the 3:07 mark, on yet another basket by Minaya, but VMI scored the next five straight points to cut the margin to five, 38-33. Liberty had the final four points of the half, and took a 42-33 lead to the locker room at intermission.

Kenon led VMI at halftime with 16 points, including 4 of 5 from three-point range. The Keydets shot 46.2% from the floor in the opening period, but Liberty was 17 of 31 from the floor (54.8%) to hold the advantage.

The teams exchanged two-point possessions for the first four-plus minutes of the second half, until Ron Burks converted a layup with 15:40 left, cutting the Liberty lead to four, 48-44. From there, the home team gradually pulled away, capping their efforts with a 10-0 run. Jeremy Anderson hit back-to-back three-pointers, with the final trey coming at the 11:36 mark, and Liberty held a 17-point cushion, 63-46.

VMI could get no closer than 15 the rest of the way, and Liberty went up by a game-high 25 with 1:40 to go, 100-75. The Keydets responded by scoring the final seven points of the game, accounting for the final margin.

In addition to Kenon’s exploits, the Keydets saw Stan Okoye notch 17 points, while Ron Burks (13) and Keith Gabriel (10) were also in double figures. Kenon added a team-high five assists, while Glasgow chipped in four dimes as well.

For Liberty, Evan Gordon and John Brown had 14 points apiece, while Brown, the Big South’s leading rebounder, added nine boards to help the Flames hold a 39-26 edge on the glass.

VMI freshman center D.J. Covington did not play due to a thumb injury.



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