Liberty Wins First Conference Game

From Liberty athletics:

LYNCHBURG, Va.- The Liberty men's basketball team avoided starting Big South Conference play 0-3 for the second straight season, defeating Coastal Carolina, Saturday night, 64-56. The Flames win inside the Vines Centers marks its second straight victory against the Chanticleers.

Liberty improves to 5-12 on the year and 1-2 in Big South action. The Chanticleers fall to 7-7 overall and 2-1 in conference play. The Flames now lead the all-time series 27-23.

Tomasz Gielo finished with a career-high night in points for the second straight game, pacing the Flames with 19 tallies. John Caleb Sanders chipped in 13 points, followed by Tavares Speaks who had 11. Joel Vander Pol led Liberty in rebounds with eight, while adding seven points.

Kierre Greenwood led the Chanticleers with 27 points, finishing the contest as Coastal Carolina's only double-digit scorer. The Liberty defense held Coastal Carolina leading scorer Anthony Raffa to eight points after the senior went scoreless in the first half.

Liberty concluded the night with its third highest field goal percentage of the season, shooting 47.6 percent (20-of-42) from the field. Defensively, the Flames held Coastal Carolina to 29.2 percent shooting (19-of-65), marking the first time a Liberty opponent has finished under 30.0 percent from the field since Campbell shot 29.0 percent (18-of-62) in the Flames' 49-41 regular-season finale win on Feb. 25, 2012.

Liberty also held the Chanticleers to 10.0 percent (2-of-20) from three-point range, while shooting 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from long distance.

Greenwood started things off for Coastal Carolina, posting six unanswered points. The Flames answered with a 14-2 run, highlighted by three-pointers from Davon Marshall and Gielo, followed by a traditional three-point play by Casey Roberts. The Chanticleers responded with another 6-0 burst to knot the contest, 14-14, at 8:41.

Gielo put the Flames on top with another three-pointer over a minute later. On the defensive end, JR Coronado caused the Vines Center crowd to erupt at the 6:45 mark after swatting a layup attempt by Charles Ashford. The Flames closed out the half outscoring Coastal Carolina, 10-6, including four unanswered tallies before the buzzer to take a 27-20 halftime lead.

Liberty began the second half with six straight points, including a third Gielo trey at 16:30 to stretch its advantage to 13. The Chanticleers chipped away at the deficit over the ensuing 5:31, making it a six-point game, 39-33, following a Michel Enanga layup at 10:59.

With the Flames up by seven under the eight-minute mark, Speaks provided a spark with back-to-back baskets. Following a made jumper, the senior guard connected on a fast break layup after a Coronado defensive rebound, giving Liberty an 11-point, 50-39, with 7:10 remaining.

The Chanticleers refused to go away quietly, making it a four-point game with two Greenwood free throws at 2:25. Fourteen ticks later, Marshall responded with a three-pointer to put the Flames up seven.

Coastal Carolina was forced foul in the final minute, resulting in the Flames going 7-fo-8 from the charity stripe en route the 64-56 victory.

Coastal Carolina heads to Boiling Springs, N.C., for a tilt with Gardner-Webb, Wednesday, at 7 p.m.

Liberty hits the road on Wednesday, continuing Big South play against High Point. Tipoff with the Panthers inside the Millis Center is slated for 7 p.m.