The Flames were not able to hand Missouri State their first loss in a heatbreaking 52-54 contest. Liberty had arguably their best outing of the season against the Bears, but came up just short down the stretch.
The Flames were able to get a 10 point advantage, pulling ahead 18-8 in the first half, and really stinting the usually impressive Missouri State offense. Liberty only allowed the Bears 8 points in the first 13 minutes of the game. The Bears would then fight their way back steadily causing a back and forth contest during the second half. Neither team would ever gain more than a three point advantage from the 18 minute mark until Jarmar Gulley hit a clutch 3 pointer as the shot clock expired with 1:22 left in the contest to make the score 54-50, but the Flames would fight back.
JC Sanders brought the game back to two points in the ensuing possession, and after trading bad posessions the Flames were forced to foul Dorrian Williams, who came into the game shooting above 80% from the line. He gifted Liberty with two misses and the Flames would take possession with 9 seconds in a 52-54 contest. Davon Marshall would try to create a last second attempt for himself, but he lost the ball to JR Coronado who heaved up a 3 with 2.2 seconds and was fouled. He would go to the line with a chance to win the game, but missed all three free throws (the third he missed purposely). The Flames then received a gift from an official who accidently blew the play dead not realizing Coronado’s free throw had hit the rim, creating a jump ball situation. Possession arrow gave Liberty the ball, but unfortunately Davon Marshall could not connect from 3 as time expired.
Coming in, I vastly underestimated the Liberty defense. The Flames were able to hold Missouri State to 34% shooting and 23% shooting from 3, well below their season averages, which were over 50% and 45% from 3 entering the game. Jarmar Gulley would lead the Bears with 13 points and 8 rebounds, in another nice game from the senior. Meanwhile, Liberty shot 43% from the field, paced by Davon Marshall’s 17 points.
It would be mistakes that proved fatal for the Flames. Countering their perfect performance at UVA, the Flames went 4-15 from the free throw line. That amazingly poor number along with losing the turnover battle 15-8 would be what cost the Flames their first D1 victory last night.
The Flames really played a good game overall against a quality Missouri State team. Though the Bears were dealing with some key injuries, they are among the toughest teams Liberty will square off with this year. It was a heartbreaking defeat, but showed that the Flames are able to play with anyone.
Liberty will now travel to Corpus Christi to take on Hampton at 2pm on Friday as they wrap up the Corpus Christi Challenge.