Dec. 21, 2006
The Bisons got an early Christmas present on Thursday night by defeating Liberty University 66-61, and ending a four game road losing streak.
"We have a very quality schedule on purpose, and maybe that is my fault, but we need to win a road game before we get into league play to know that we can win on the road," Head Coach Scott Sanderson said. "This right here tells us that we can win on the road, and that we can finish games down the stretch like we finish games down the stretch at home."
"That was definitely a big, quality road win for us."
Coming into Thursday night's game, Liberty had won six consecutive games at home, while the Bisons had not won on the road since last year in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
The Bisons jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but Liberty flamed back and took a four point lead with 15:15 in the first half. That would be the largest lead of the game for the Flames, as the Bisons took the lead 17-16 with 11:35 to go in the first period. The Bisons would not give up the lead for the rest of the game.
The Bisons led by as many as five points in the first half, and held a 35-34 advantage going into the locker room at halftime. The Bisons struggled on the glass throughout the game against taller Flames team, getting out rebounded for the game 46-29.
In the second half, the Bisons utilized a zone defense to try to buy a couple of players some time with a couple of big men in foul trouble, while also forcing the Flames into some perimeter shots.
"We went zone, and zone slows them down, while also keeps us from fouling," Sanderson said. "It made them shoot a lot of perimeter shots, and they did not shoot it great, they went 4-for-22 from the three point line. The biggest problem with the zone is you can't rebound good, and we did not rebound great out of it. It bought us some time, it bought us some fouls, it kept them off the free throw line, and it was good for us.
The Bisons made up for the rebounds by getting to the free throw line, something they had struggled with against Evansville. The Bisons went to the free throw line 37 times connecting on 23-of-37, while Liberty went to the line only 17 times connecting on 11-of-17.
The Bisons took the opening basket in the second half, and then went back and forth with the flames early in the second half with the lead never getting more than two or three points. A critical point in the game came at the 12:39 mark in the second half when Liberty Head Coach Randy Dunton got called for a technical foul after Eddie Ard was fouled on his way to the basket.
"The technical foul, when (Eddie Ard) made four free throws in a row was big for us," Sanderson said. "I told my guys what happens when a home team coach gets a technical foul, they get the next four of five calls. So I told my guys that to make sure we played defensively accordingly."
Before the technical foul, the Bisons led 46-43, but after the four free throws by Eddie Ard, the Bisons stretched the lead out to a seven point game.
Eddie Ard paced the Bisons with 24 points to lead all scorers. Ard picked up 13 of his 24 points from the free throw line were he was 13-13 at the charity strip.
"He stepped up," Sanderson said. "He made some big plays. He went 13-for-13 from the free throw line and had eight rebounds. [The Coaches] kept saying `Give him a blow, give him a blow, give him a blow,' and I kept saying `Do you want to win, do you want to win, do you want to win.' He didn't come out in the second half and he played 39 minutes, and I was trying to win the game, so I didn't even want to give him a blow. I just turned my head when he got tired."
Brian Fisk was the only other Bison in double figures with 12 points. The Flames defended Trey Williams very well all night long allowing him only four points on the night. Williams did have eight assists on the night with only one turnover.
The Bisons, now 8-4 on the year, get a few days off before traveling down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to face top ten opponent Alabama. Head Coach Scott Sanderson will return to familiar settings, as he travels back to his home grounds of Alabama where he lived for 18 years. Sanderson's father, Wimp Sanderson, was the Head Coach for Alabama for 12 years.
"I am looking forward to it, that is were I grew up," Sanderson said. "I know every part of Coleman Coliseum. I am looking forward to going back. I am not too excited about playing their team. Their team is awful good."
Liberty placed three players in double figures, Larry Blair with 20, Alex McLean with 17, and Dwight Brewington with 10 points.