From Liberty athletics:
RADFORD, Va. – The Liberty men’s basketball team kicked off the 2013-14 conference slate, Wednesday night, at the Dedmon Center, the same site it began a five-game win-streak, which culminated in its 2013 Big South Championship run. While the Flames entered the contest winners of five straight inside the facility, the Highlanders had other plans, countering Liberty’s early offensive burst with multiple scoring runs later in the game en route to a 72-63 decision.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 6-10 on the season and 0-1 in the Big South. Radford improves to 11-5 overall and 1-0 in conference play, remaining undefeated (7-0) at home, this season.
John Caleb Sanders finished the contest with 12 points for the Flames, followed by Davon Marshall, Tomasz Gielo and Andrew Smith, who had 11, apiece. JR Coronado chipped in eight points and seven rebounds, while Antwan Burrus returned after missing one game due to back spasms. The redshirt senior ended the night with four points and five rebounds off the bench in 17 minutes of action.
Radford’s R.J. Price led all scorers with 18 points. Ya Ya Anderson and Rashun Davis rounded out the Highlanders’ double-digit scorers with 13 and 12 tallies, respectively.
Liberty outshot Radford from the field, shooting 45.1 percent (23-of-51) compared to 39.3 percent (22-of-56) for the Highlanders. Free throws made the difference for the home team, as Radford outscored Liberty, 24-12, at the charity stripe.
Marshall kick started a 9-0 Liberty run in the opening 2:35, knocking down a three-pointer before following up with a layup. Smith capped the burst with a monster dunk and an acrobatic layup. After a Radford bucket, Coronado and Joel Vander Pol each tacked on baskets to give the Flames a 13-2 lead at 15:45.
Liberty maintained its double digit advantage until the 9:57 mark, when Davis knocked down a jumper to make it an eight-point game. The Highlanders continued to find their rhythm, nearly erasing the deficit with a 10-0 run. Sanders halted the surge with a free throw. Following two charity stripe tallies from Kion Brown, Sanders connected on a three-pointer to end a 6:22 scoring drought from the field. The senior’s trey gave Liberty a 27-23 cushion with 5:18 remaining in the half.
With Liberty leading by six with 1:31 left, Radford concluded the period with an 8-0 run, featuring back-to-back treys from Anderson. Jalen Carethers cemented the spurt with two free throws, sending Radford into the locker room with a 35-33 edge.
After beginning the contest 7-of-10 from the field, Liberty concluded the period shooting 48.0 percent (12-of-25) compared to 40.0 percent (12-of-30) for the Highlanders.
Marshall paced the Flames offense with eight points, while Davis also led the Highlanders with eight tallies.
Sanders tied the contest with a bucket at 18:35 to start the second half, but the home team prevented the Flames from gaining the advantage, outscoring Liberty 16-5 over the next 6:16. A pair of Davis free throws put the Highlanders ahead by 11, 51-40, at 12:19.
Liberty began to find some momentum with less than six minutes to play. After four straight made Flames free throws, Joe Retic found Smith on the next Liberty possession with a slick no-look pass. Smith connected on the layup underneath the basket and added a free throw on the ensuing foul to complete the traditional three-point play. The junior’s basket from the charity stripe made it 59-54 with 4:58 left on the clock.
Radford prevented the Flames from cutting the deficit further, sinking 11 free throws down the stretch en route to the 72-63 victory.
Liberty returns to action on Saturday, squaring off with VMI. Tipoff inside Cameron Hall is slated for 1 p.m., with the contest streaming live on the Big South Network