By DAN POMPILI
In basketball, a minute or two can make all the difference.
Midway through the third quarter, it was still anyone’s guess how Friday’s game between Liberty and Campbell would end.
It’s likely that even Liberty wouldn’t have bet on an 80-63 Leopard victory.
After a tight first half that Campbell led 35-34 going into the locker room, both teams dropped 10 points apiece in the first five or so minutes of the third quarter. The game remained nearly even up to the 2:06 mark.
Then it happened.
Several Red Devil turnovers facilitated a 20-2 Liberty run and the Leopards (7-6, 4-2 All-American Conference National Division) continued their home winning streak in thrilling fashion.
“We worked on a lot of new stuff this week and I think our three-quarter court diamond defense gave them some trouble down the stretch, and we got some more transition opportunities than they did,” said Liberty coach Dan Bubon. “They killed us on offensive boards in the first half and that kept them in the game.”
After the game, Campbell coach Mike Szenborn could only smile and lament his team’s errors.
“We just started turning the ball over,” Szenborn. “We had the game, we had the momentum, we just started trying to force the issue and forcing passes we missed some free throws to stay in the game, and the tide turned pretty quick on us.”
DaRon Clinkscale had a 10-point first quarter for the Devils (3-10, 1-5), but was held to three points the rest of the way. George Billiris added 10 points.
Asim Pleas scored 18 points, DJ Hight had 17 and Cameron Clark had 16 for the Leopards.
“We needed to up the pace,” Bubon said. “We play better up-tempo, and this was a good team to try to do that against because they enjoy playing a fast-paced game too.”
A 27-point fourth period put the game away despite three Devil 3 pointers, two from DJ Harrison. In the end, Liberty, out-rebounded, out-stole and out-shot Campbell when it counted.
“We need to work on ball control and putting four quarters together,” Szenborn said. “That’s been our story all year, that one quarter gets away from us and it usually is the difference in the game.”