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Liberty rallies past VMI

Second-half run pushes Flames to win

Staff Report
VMI sports: www.vmikeydets.com

An 11-0 run early in the second half, sparked by three straight Jeremy Anderson three-pointers, gave the visiting Liberty Flames a lead they would not relinquish, en route to a 110-102 win over VMI Saturday afternoon in a Big South contest played at Cameron Hall in Lexington.

Keith Gabriel led VMI in scoring for the sixth time this year, as the sophomore notched 27 points in a losing effort. Austin Kenon had 21, including a trio of three-pointers that moved him into the #2 spot on VMI’s all-time three-pointers made list. 

The visiting Flames were led by Kyle Ohman’s triple-double, just Liberty’s fourth such performance in school history as the Flames broke the 100-point plateau for the first time this season. Ohman had 16 points, 14 of which came in the second half, to go along with 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Evan Gordon had 24 points, and Chris Perez had 21.

With the loss, VMI falls to 4-7 on the year and 1-2 in Big South play, while Liberty advances to 7-8 and 2-1 in conference action. The Keydets got off to a strong start, opening the game with a Keith Gabriel three-pointer just 13 seconds in. Liberty responded with a pair of Jesse Sanders free throws to make the score, 3-2, but the home team fired back with six unanswered points to start the game on a 9-2 run, capped by a Gabriel dunk at 17:39.

Evan Gordon scored on a lay-in to break the run, but a Kenon basket pushed the advantage back to seven, 11-4. Liberty was able to cut into the margin, as VMI could not push the lead beyond six points until the 12:55 mark, when Michael Sparks hit the first of his three first-half three-pointers to make it 20-13, Keydets.

That trey opened a 16-2 VMI run that gave the home team its biggest lead of the opening frame, a 33-15 margin with 10:33 left in the half. The Keydets were 3-for-3 from distance during the run, and also converted a three-point play via free throws to help achieve the 18-point lead.

Liberty fired right back with a 25-8 run over the next seven-and-a-half minutes, a spurt that cut the VMI lead to just one, 41-40, after a layup by Antwan Burrus at 2:59. The run featured six points by Burrus and four by Perez as the Flames chopped the margin to a single point, but VMI closed the half on a 12-4 run to take a 53-44 lead into the intermission.

The visiting Flames had 34 points in the paint in the opening stanza, and all of their remaining 10 first-half markers came at the free throw line. Meanwhile, Sparks and Gabriel each had 13 first-half points to lead the Keydets, as VMI hit 10-of-18 from three-point range in the half.

Liberty started the second half on an 11-0 run, including its first basket outside the paint, a Gordon trey at 19:02. The run ended with a Burrus layup, giving the Flames their first lead of the day, 55-53 with just under 18 minutes to go.

VMI came back and eventually took a 61-60 lead on an Adam Lonon bucket, part of an eight-minute spurt of back-and-forth play. In the opening 6:18 of the second half, the lead changed hands seven times and the score was knotted on five occasions, after the Keydets had led throughout the first 20 minutes.

Stan Okoye gave the Keydets their final lead of the day, a 68-65 advantage with 14:24 left, as he converted five consecutive points, ending with an old-fashioned three-point play. Anderson nailed a three to tie the score just 11 seconds later, starting the game-turning 11-0 push that gave the Flames the lead for good.

Perez ended that run with a basket, and after Kenon and Bill Weaver traded hoops, Liberty was able to push its lead out to 16. Despite a late game run, VMI could get no closer than seven the rest of the way.


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