The Liberty men's basketball team found itself in a seesaw battle at Presbyterian, Friday night. With the Flames down by one, clutch shots by PC's DeSean Murray and William Truss allowed the Blue Hose to pull away and leave the Templeton Center with a 69-61 victory.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 6-19 on the year and 0-12 in Big South action. PC now leads the all-time series (8-7) with the Flames, moving to 8-17 and 4-8 in conference action.
Much like the first meeting this season, Murray came up big for the Blue Hose, this time finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds in the absence of leading scorer Jordan Downing. Markus Terry added 14 tallies, while Truss finished with 10.
Andrew Smith led the Flames with 16 points, one-point shy of tying his career high. Smith also pulled down a team-leading nine boards. Ryan Kemrite concluded the night with a career-high 14 points, sinking four three-pointers. Theo Johnson rounded out Liberty's double-digit scorers with 13 tallies.
Liberty shot 42.3 percent (22-of-52) for the contest, while PC shot 48.1 percent (26-of-54). With points off three-pointers (21-21) and free throws (10-10) being identical between the two teams, the Blue Hose capitalized in the paint, 30-18.
The contest was back and forth during the early minutes, with four ties taking place in the opening eight minutes. After two Theo Johnson free throws, PC regained the lead with a Will Adams three-pointer. Smith connected on a jumper at 11:23 to put the Flames back on top, 15-14.
With the Flames trailing by one after an Andoh baskets at 7:02, PC went on a 7-0 run over a near two-minute span to take an eight-point lead. Liberty closed out the half with back-to-back buckets from Smith and Jordan Dembley to make it a three-point game at halftime, 34-31.
Both teams shot over 50 percent in the first half. The Flames concluded the period with 56.5 percent shooting (13-of-23), while the Blue Hose shot 51.7 percent. Liberty and PC hit a trio of three-pointers, but the Blue Hose held an 18-14 advantage in the paint.
Smith paced the Flames with eight points, followed by Theo Johnson and Kemrite who each had six.
Murray led all scorers at the half with 11 tallies, while Terry chipped in 10 points.
The Flames came out aggressive in the beginning of the second half, as Kemrite found his rhythm downtown. The redshirt freshman cut the deficit to two with his first trey and gave the Flames the lead at 17:26. A Murray jumper 20 ticks later put the Blue Hose back up, 40-39.
With Liberty still trailing by one, PC received back-to-back three-pointers from Terry and Ruben Arroyo-Felix. Following a Smith jumper, Arroyo-Felix drained another trey to give the Blue Hose a 53-45 lead with 8:30 to play.
Still down by eight with 7:39 on the clock, Liberty chipped away at the deficit again. After Johnson drained a three-pointer, Dembley found Smith with a quick pass under the basket. Smith flushed the pass with a two-handed jam. Johnson then tacked on two free throws to pull the Flames within one, 55-54, at 4:43.
However, Liberty's run would be its last, as the Blue Hose pulled away to lead by as much as nine during the closing minutes. A dunk by Janeil Jenkins with 10 seconds left sealed the 69-61 decision.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Tuesday to play host to Campbell. Tipoff is slate for 8 p.m., with the contest broadcasting exclusively on the American Sports Network.