From Liberty athletics:
LYNCHBURG, Va. – Playing in front of more than 5,200 fans, the Liberty men's basketball team led by as much as 10 points in the first half versus High Point, Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Flames, the Panthers rallied from the deficit to take the contest, 76-70.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 8-11 on the season and 2-2 in Big South play. High Point improves to 6-11 and 2-2 in conference action. Liberty remains atop the all-time series, 19-14, including a 13-4 advantage in the Vines Center. The Panthers have now won three straight in the facility.
Andrew Smith paced the Flames' offense with a career-high 17 points. Smith's performance marks his fourth straight double-digit scoring effort and second consecutive career-high night. The junior forward also closed out the night with a team-high eight rebounds.
Davon Marshall and Tomasz Gielo finished with 12 tallies apiece. John Caleb Sanders had seven points, surpassing his older brother Jesse (1,235 points) for 15th on Liberty's career scoring list with 1,240 tallies.
Adam Weary led High Point with a game-high 22 points, while Big South Preseason Player of the Year John Brown chipped in with 21. Devante Wallace and Lorenzo Cugini concluded the evening with 16 and 12 tallies, respectively.
Liberty shot a 61.0 percent (25-of-41), marking its second highest shooting performance on the season. The Panthers went 24-of-55 (43.6 percent) from the field. The Flames committed 18 turnovers versus 10 for the Panthers, allowing High Point to outscore Liberty off turnovers, 27-13. The Flames held the advantage in the paint (34-22) and off the bench (16-3), while High Point capitalized from the foul line (20-13) and three-point land (24-21).
After High Point opened with a pair of free throws, Liberty took the lead thanks in part to early buckets by Smith. The Panthers hung with Flames in the early minutes, posting their first three field goals from beyond the three-point arc. With Liberty ahead by one after a Cugini three-pointer, the Flames answered with a Marshall trey and a Smith tip-in to take a six-point lead. Wallace knocked down another three-pointer for the Panthers at 13:59, making it 14-11 in favor of Liberty.
The Flames began showing their knack for the three-ball under the nine-minute mark. Marshall found an open Joe Retic on the left side, who converted the cross-court pass into a trey. Retic decided to spread the wealth 29 ticks later, finding Casey Roberts for another three-point basket in nearly the same spot to take a 26-16 lead at 8:17.
Liberty saw its lead completely erased, as High Point took a 33-32 lead on the strength of a 17-6 swing. Two free throws by Antwan Burrus with 1:43 left allowed head coach Dale Layer's squad to carry a 34-33 edge into the locker room at halftime.
Liberty shot 59.1 percent (13-of-22) in the opening period compared to 42.3 percent (11-of-26) for the Panthers.
Wallace paced High Point with 11 tallies in the first half. Burrus led Liberty with seven points off the bench, while three Flames chipped in six points apiece – Smith, Gielo and Retic.
The Flames outscored the Panthers in the paint, 18-6, but High Point held the advantage along the perimeter, 18-12. Liberty's bench outscored High Point's in the opening stanza, 16-0.
The Panthers began the second period with a 12-0 run to take an 11-point lead. Liberty answered with eight straight points highlighted by back-to-back crowd igniting dunks from Smith. Gielo capped the burst with a three to pull Liberty within three. After six unanswered points by the Panthers, Marshall countered with a three-pointer, making it 51-45 at 11:52.
High Point led by as much as nine down the stretch. Smith's jumper with 44 ticks left put Liberty within two, but the Flames were unable to get over the hump en route to the 76-70 final.
Liberty hits the road on Wednesday, squaring off with Longwood. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.