Riding a three-game winning streak, the Liberty University Flames men’s basketball team stepped out of Big South Conference play for a Sears BracketBusters matchup at Morgan State on Feb. 18. Unfortunately for the Flames, the Morgan State Bears sharpshooting from the perimeter and overall size inside ultimately led to an 81-69 victory for the home team at Hill Field House in Baltimore, Md.

BrackBusters is a three-day national matchup of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament hopefuls from 17 athletic conferences.

The defeat drops Liberty to 12-17 overall (7-9 Big South), while Morgan State improves to 6-18 overall (3-9 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference-MEAC). The Flames are now 0-4 all-time in BracketBuster games. The Bears are 3-1 in BracketBusters contests, picking up their second straight win over a Big South squad after defeating VMI in the event last season, 66-62. This win was also in celebration of Morgan State Senior Night, honoring forwards Kevin Thompson and Ameer Ali and guards Aric Brooks and Larry Bastfield.

Liberty senior guard Jesse Sanders paced all scorers with 21 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line. The Sugar Land, Texas, native’s point total allowed him to surpass 1,200 for his career. Sanders now has 1,213 career points. With his four assists, the senior has 700 career assists.

Junior forward Antwan Burrus chipped in 13 points for the Flames, while sophomore guard John Caleb Sanders went 4-of-6 from behind the three-point arc to finish with 12.

Senior forward Aric Brooks led Morgan State with 18 points, followed by sophomore guard Justin Black and junior forward DeWayne Jackson, who each had with 15 tallies.

Despite shooting an average of 57.1 percent the last three games, the Flames finished the afternoon shooting 46.9 percent (23-of-49). The Bears shot 55.1 percent (27-of-49), including 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from outside. Morgan State edged Liberty in the paint, 34-30. The Bears also received 44 points off the bench, compared to 18 for the Flames.

Morgan State next plays Feb. 22 against MEAC opponent Coppin State. Liberty returns to its’ home court at the Vines Center in Lynchburg, Va. on Feb. 24 for first of two games to round out the regular season.

The Flames host Coastal Carolina, currently tied for second place in the conference standings. Tipoff with the Chanticleers is slated for 7 p.m.

Eric Brown

Special to the AFRO