In a game that featured 14 lead changes and saw neither team lead by more than nine, the Liberty Flames posted a 21-rebound advantage on the glass and survived a frantic late rally by the VMI Keydets to claim an 85-80 victory in Big South basketball action Saturday afternoon at Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va.
Liberty (7-10, 1-1 Big South) appeared on the verge of putting the game away with 1:44 remaining, when the Flames took a game-high nine-point lead and the Keydets (8-7, 1-1 Big South) missed two of their next three free throws.
The lead was eight when VMI started its comeback at the 50-second mark, doing so on a Rodney Glasgow three that made it 80-75. After an Antwan Burrus free throw for Liberty, each team missed the front end of a 1 and 1.
QJ Peterson then followed with a triple of his own, making it 81-78 with 35 seconds to go, and Glasgow stole the inbounds pass. Two free throws later, the VMI point guard had cut the deficit to one, 81-80, with 19 seconds on the clock. Burrus converted two from the charity stripe, however, and after a Glasgow missed three, the Liberty forward hit two more free throws to ice the game and account for the final margin.
Glasgow led VMI with 27 points and five assists, but the key stats of the day were rebounding and free throws. The Flames held a 52-31 edge on the glass, including 24-13 on the offensive glass, while VMI hit just 8 of 14 free throws (57.1%) including three misses in the final 1:37 that helped change the complexion of the game. Those 14 free throws were the second fewest attempts by VMI this season.
Liberty scored the game’s first six points, marking the first time VMI had trailed in this calendar year, but the Keydets came right back with a 10-2 run that gave them a 10-7 lead with 16:06 left in the first half.
The home team could not get any separation, however, leading by no more than four before Liberty retook the lead, 20-19, on a Joe Retic free throw with 11:14 on the clock.
The teams battled through the next five-plus minutes, until Julian Eleby hit a triple to give VMI the advantage once more, 32-31. The teams then traded the lead three times in the final 3:41, with a Davon Marshall hoop in the final seconds giving Liberty a 38-37 halftime lead.
The Keydets went in to halftime down just one despite having gotten just six minutes out of D.J. Covington, who had two early fouls, and having seen a 1 of 7 first 20 minutes from QJ Peterson. Phillip Anglade was a first period sparkplug, as he notched eight points and grabbed five rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
Covington started the second half and made an immediate impact, scoring on a pick and roll for the half’s first hoop and a one-point Keydet lead. VMI was still up one at the 18:29 mark when Liberty started a 7-0 run, capped by a Marshall three at 17:17, that gave the visitors a 47-41 lead.
The Keydets rallied again, cutting the margin to one at 49-48 with 14:52 on the clock thanks to a Glasgow three, and Covington gave VMI the lead once again with a jumper in the lane just over three minutes later that made it 55-54, Keydets. That would be the final Keydet advantage of the day, however, as John Caleb Sanders answered with a three-pointer and Liberty would lead the rest of the way.
The margin was still just three, however, until a 7-2 push by the visitors gave them a 76-68 lead with 3:37 to go. Glasgow hit a three to cut it to five, but Liberty scored the game’s next four points to go up nine and set the stage for the final dramatics.
JR Coronado led Liberty with a 20-point, 13-rebound performance that included 11 offensive rebounds, while Peterson added 15 for the Keydets, 10 of which came in the second half. VMI won the turnover battle, 17-8, but was outscored in the paint 46-32 in the setback.
Liberty’s win Saturday tied the all-time series at 15 victories apiece, and it was VMI’s first loss in an afternoon game this season (4-1).
Quotes – VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
“Liberty didn’t have any opponent to fight them inside. 24 offensive rebounds is a joke. That is what the game came down to. We had trouble staying in front of Marshall and Sanders and the guys helping off on the backside. They just dominated us in every aspect.”
“Rodney Glasgow I thought was magnificent. He was the one guy that came ready to play. I’m not sure the other nine that took the floor were, but he certainly was and I was real proud of his effort.”
“You can’t shoot 57 percent from the free throw line and expect to win the game.”
“Coronado played great and I thought Gielo played well and took advantage of a couple of mismatches. Smith came into the game averaging four points and has 13. We knew Marshall and Sanders could beat us and we kept them pretty much in check, but for them to get 41 points from those other three guys, we weren’t expecting that.”