Liberty withstands Campbell comeback 82-80

Trey Freeman (photo by Will Bratton)
Trey Freeman (photo by Will Bratton)

BUIES CREEK, N.C. – Tavares Speaks scored a career-high 28 points and Liberty withstood a late Campbell rally to earn an 82-80 Big South Conference win Wednesday night at Gore Arena.

The Flames (9-17, 5-7) led 73-60 with 6:39 to go and by 10 with less than 5 minutes to play before the Camels closed the game with an 11-3 run.

Campbell cut the gap to 82-80 on Trey Freeman's three with 50 seconds to play; then made the defensive stop to have a shot at a game-tying or winning attempt.  Darian Hooker dribbled down the right side in the last five seconds and missed a short bank.  Darius Leonard grabbed the rebound, but his try from inside the paint fell short and the buzzer sounded sending the Camels (10-16, 5-7) to their sixth-straight loss.

A senior from Green Hope High School in Raleigh, Speaks made 9-of-18 from the floor and 10-of-13 from the stripe to eclipse his previous career high (22) that he set in last month's win over Campbell at Lynchburg, Va.  John Caleb Sanders added 18 points, 6 assists and 3 steals, while Davon Marshall had 12 points for Liberty, which won its third in the last five games.

Freeman led Campbell with 22 points – 18 in the second half – plus 8 assists.  Leonard added a career-best 17 on 8-of-15 shooting, while Hooker finished with 16 on 6-of-11 from the field.  Marvelle Harris contributed 13 points and a game-high 10 boards.

A pair of put backs by Andrew Smith capped an 11-2 Liberty run midway through the second half that gave the Flames a 65-52 edge with 6:33 to play.  The margin stayed at 13 (73-60) when Speaks made two from the line with 6:39 to go before the Camels made their final push.

Campbell held Liberty to just one field goal and forced 3 Liberty turnovers in the last 4:37, but could not recover.  Liberty shot 50.9 percent (28-55) from the field and made more free throws (23-31) than Campbell (19-22) attempted.  The Camels hit 44 percent of their shots (28-63), but gave up a 40-26 edge on points in the paint.

Both teams finished the night with 34 rebound and 13 turnovers.

Liberty won for just the second time in 12 road games this season and the first time in six tries in Big South away games.

An early 11-0 run gave the Flames an 11-4 lead capped by Speaks' steal and dunk in transition that prompted Campbell head coach Robbie Laing to call time out just 6:46 into the game.

The Camels, however, hit 6 of their next 7 shots and drew even at 18-all on Leonard's bucket with 7:33 to go.  Leek Leek's 3 from the key with 1:44 remaining gave Campbell its first lead since the opening 4:30, but Sanders knocked down a triple to push Liberty in front 35-34 at the half.

Campbell hosts VMI Saturday in a 2:00 p.m. tip-off that will be televised regionally by MASN.