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Big South Semifinals Recap

March 5, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments




Big South Conference Semifinals Recap

Recap by Jeremy Dunlap

(1) Liberty 88, (4) Coastal Carolina 73
Liberty broke open a close game late and withstood a 28-point effort by Coastal’s Brandon Newby to win 88-73 and advance to their first Big South Championship game since 1997. The top-seeded Flames were up 71-68 with less than three minutes remaining, then went on a 17-5 run to close out the game, in front of a home crowd of 6,411 fans. During the final run, Newby went down with a knee injury as Liberty freshman Larry Blair drilled a three-pointer that gave Liberty an eight-point lead with 1:40 remaining in the game. Newby did not return and the Flames made nine-of-twelve free throw attempts down the stretch to win comfortably.

With two minutes remaining in the first half, Liberty freshman David Dees made three free-throws after getting fouled by Coastal’s E.J. Gallup to give the Flames a 31-29 lead and they would never trail again. Liberty went to the half with a leading 38-32 and Coastal Carolina could never get closer than three points during the second half despite the dominating performance from Newby. Newby scored 28 points on thirteen-for-fifteen shooting from the field, including two-for-three from outside the arc. In the final minutes, Newby went down with a knee injury while trying to stay in front of Liberty’s Brian Woodson, who ended up dishing the ball out to Blair for the three-pointer that proved to be the nail in the Chanticleers’ coffin.

Blair, the Big South freshman of the year, led the way for the Flames with a 23-point performance. Liberty senior Gabe Martin also played well, scoring sixteen points and grabbing a game-high nine rebounds. Seniors Louvon Sneed and Ryan Mantlo also reached double-figures for the Flames, scoring ten points each. Coastal Carolina had two players join Newby with double-figures, with junior Colin Stevens and freshman Moses Sonko scoring eleven points apiece. Gallup, the Chanticleers’ leading scorer and the second leading scorer in the Big South this season, was held to seven points on only eight field goal attempts. Gallup averaged over seventeen points per game this season for Coastal Carolina.

Liberty will now host the championship game, which will be played tomorrow at 2:00 pm. Liberty’s last trip to the championship game was also played at the Vines Center back in 1997, but the Flames fell 64-54 to Charleston Southern in that game. The last time Liberty won the Big South tournament was in 1994, when they defeated former Big South member Campbell in the championship game and ended up facing North Carolina in the NCAA tournament, falling 71-51.

(2) High Point 63, (6) UNC Asheville 49
High Point junior Zione White drained three straight three-pointers to turn a tie game into a nine-point Panther lead over visiting UNC Asheville to win 63-49 and reach the Big South championship game for the second time in the last three years. The 9-0 run by White gave High Point a 43-34 lead with a little over fourteen minutes remaining in the game and the Panthers were able to withstand a Bulldog run that cut the lead to one point with eight minutes remaining. After UNCA got to within one point on a Steven Rush three-pointer with 8:28 left in the game, they would not make another field goal down the stretch, getting outscored by the Panthers 14-1 and failing to defend the championship that they won last season as the fifth seed.

White led all scorers in the game with 26 points, shooting ten-for-eighteen from the field and single-handedly giving High Point a lead that they would never relinquish in the second half. Junior Danny Gathings helped the HPU cause with a double-double, scoring ten points and grabbing fourteen rebounds while junior Jorsua Chambers chipped in with eleven points. Asheville had three players in double-figures as well, with sophomore Chad Mohn leading the way with thirteen points. Freshman Steven Rush had twelve points on four three-pointers and freshman K.J. Garland added ten points for the Bulldogs.

The first half of the game was close throughout as there were six ties and eleven lead changes in the first twenty minutes. UNC Asheville ended up taking the lead at the half as sophomore Oliver Holmes hit a lay-up in the final minute to give the Bulldogs a 30-28 lead into the locker room. Neither team had a lead larger than three points throughout the first half. In the game, High Point shot much better than UNCA, as the Panthers finished the game shooting 48 percent from the field while the Bulldogs only made 32.8 percent of their shots. That proved to be the major difference in the game as the turnover and rebound battles were virtually even.

High Point will travel to Lynchburg, VA to take on Liberty in the championship game on Saturday. The Panthers will attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their school’s history, after being a member of Division I for only five seasons.

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