The Liberty men's basketball team began neutral-site play in the Challenge in Music City, Thursday afternoon, taking on Appalachian State inside the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Although the Flames led at halftime, the Mountaineers used a couple of big scoring surges in the second period to pull away for the 73-62 victory.
Redshirt senior guard Anthony Fields and freshman guard Lovell Cabbil paved the way for the Flames (3-2), carving out 15 points apiece. Fields' performance marked a career high for the Detroit, Mich., native.
Frank Eaves led Appalachian State (2-3) with 18 points, followed by Ronshad Shabazz, who came to life with 15 second-half points to finish with 17.
Liberty shot 40.4 percent (21-of-52) for the contest, compared to 45.0 percent (18-of-40) for the Mountaineers. Free throws played a huge role in Appalachian State's success, as the Mountaineers shot 80.6 percent (29-of-36) from the charity stripe. Liberty was unable to make it the line as often, finishing with a 70.6 free throw percentage (12-of-17).
Cabbil provided the bulk of the Flames' scoring early, posting eight of Liberty's first 10 points. With Appalachian State leading by three, Cabbil countered with a layup and a three-pointer to put Liberty ahead, 10-8, at 14:17.
The Mountaineers took advantage of a Liberty scoring drought after the 9:41 mark, going on a 9-0 run over the next 2:28. Fields prevented Appalachian State from extending its lead further, knocking down a three-pointer at 6:15 to make it 22-16.
Trailing by as much as eight in the closing minutes of the half, Liberty began chipping away at the deficit thanks to baskets by A.C. Reid and Fields and solid free throw shooting. Down by two with time winding down, Caleb Homesley drove to the basket and kicked the ball out to Reid on the right wing. The sophomore drained a buzzer-beating three-pointer to put the Flames ahead at the half, 34-33.
Eaves led all scorers at the half with 13 points. Fields paced Liberty with nine tallies, followed by Cabbil (8) and Reid (6).
Appalachian State took advantage of its numerous trips to the foul line in the stanza, shooting 77.8 percent (21-of-27) from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, the Flames went 9-of-12 (75.0 percent) in the opening frame.
Liberty took a five-point lead in the second half off baskets by Cabbil and Evan Maxwell. Appalachian State countered with back-to-back three-pointers from Eaves and Chris Burgess to regain the lead. After a Maxwell jumper put the Flames back on top briefly, a Shabazz bucket on the other end made it 41-40 in favor of the Mountaineers at 15:46.
Appalachian State extended its lead to six over the next 4:33, capping off a 15-4 run. The Flames answered with two straight three-pointers from Homesley and Cabbil, knotting the contest at 48 with 10:09 remaining.
Following another tie 37 ticks later, the Mountaineers utilized a 10-2 burst to pull away once again. A Ryan Kemrite bucket cut the Appalachian State lead to six, but five straight points from Shabazz gave the Mountaineers a 65-54 advantage with 4:50 to play.
The Flames climbed within seven at 3:21 thanks to a three-pointer by Fields, but could not pull any closer, as Appalachian State hung on for the 73-62 final.
Liberty continues play in the Challenge in Music City, tomorrow, squaring off with Western Michigan. Tipoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. (EST).