After a sloppy start, Liberty got their first conference win of the season against Coastal Carolina Saturday night. The Flames offense appeared disjointed early on, with several turnovers and poor shots in the first 2 minutes. However, Liberty found their flow with a quick 14-2 first half run and never looked back. Layer’s team was able to weather a late Coastal run and sink free throws down the stretch to walk away with the 64-56 victory.
Liberty was paced by 6’9″ Sophomore Tomasz Gielo, who turned in his second straight career night with 19 points and 6 rebounds. Gielo was particularly hot from behind the arc, going 4-4 in 3 point shooting. When asked how he felt coming into the game Tomasz replied, “I felt really good especially after the last game…I had a lot of confidence before the game.” The team shot with confidence all night, sinking 47.6% from the field. Liberty put two other players in double digits, with 13 points by J.C. Sanders and 11 by Tavares Speaks.
While the Flames benefited from strong offensive performances by Gielo and Sanders, it was Liberty’s play on the defensive end of the floor that earned this victory. Led by the impressive individual performance of Senior Guard Tavares Speaks, Liberty was able to hold Coastal to 29.2% shooting, and just 56 points on the night. Coach Layer had Speaks matched up with Coastal star Anthony Raffa, who came into the game averaging nearly 20 points per game, and the move paid off. The explosive shooter was held scoreless in the first half, and was only able to score 8 points on the game thanks to the pesky defense of Speaks. The performance didn’t surprise Speaks, who said “I felt like that’s what the team needed from me, so I put it on my back.” Coastal was instead carried by Guard Kierre Greenwood, who turned in a career high 27 points, the only Chanticleer to reach double digits.
Also impressive in the win was the rebounding of the Flames. Coastal came into the game out rebounding their opposition handily, however Liberty was able to keep the battle close all night, fighting for loose balls. The combination of shot selection and rebounding, allowed Coach Layer’s squad to control the pace of play, something crucial for this season’s edition of the Flames. Layer remarked, “When you take better shots…it prevented them from getting into transition. We limited their transition baskets and that gives you a chance.”
This was by far the Flames’ most complete effort of the season. Putting together a solid 40 minute performance is a huge step forward for Liberty, and should reap benefits moving forward. This game looked much more like a Dale Layer coached team, with disciplined defense and solid shot selection. The approach paid off, and the Flames will move on to a road test against High Point on Wednesday.