The Liberty men's basketball team concluded its four-game stand away from the Vines Center, Tuesday afternoon, squaring off with Notre Dame inside Purcell Pavilion. After Liberty trailed by nine at halftime, the Fighting Irish widened the gap early in the second period to pull away for a 73-56 decision.
With the defeat, Liberty falls to 3-12 on the year, while Notre Dame improves to 9-3. The Fighting Irish are now 3-0 all-time versus the Flames.
Playing on national television (ESPNU), freshman guard Caleb Homesley relished the spotlight, finishing with a game-high and career-high 18 points. Sophomore center Evan Maxwell, who entered the contest fourth in the country in field goal percentage, went 7-for-15 from the field and 1-of-2 at the foul line for 15 points. Ryan Kemrite rounded out Liberty's double-digit scorers with 10 tallies. Maxwell and Kemrite also had eight boards apiece.
Steve Vasturia led the Fighting Irish with 17 points, followed by center Zach Auguste, who chipped in 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Liberty shot 37.9 percent (22-of-38) for the contest, compared to 52.1 percent (25-of-48) for Notre Dame. The Flames outscored the ACC member in the paint (32-26), but Notre Dame made up for it at the foul line (14-8) and three-point land (27-12).
Liberty led briefly on three occasions in the opening five minutes. After Notre Dame claimed a 7-6 advantage at the 14:39 mark, the Flames utilized defensive pressure to stay within two possessions of the Fighting Irish for the majority of the half. The home team began to create a little more distance with 6:58 left, receiving a layup from Austin Torres to take a 23-15 lead.
The Fighting Irish capitalized on traditional three-point plays to lead by as much as 13 in the period with 3:48 remaining. Liberty cut at the deficit, capping the first stanza with a Maxwell layup to trail at halftime, 32-23.
Notre Dame shot 45.8 percent (11-of-24) from the field, while holding the Flames to 32.1 percent (9-of-28). Liberty matched the Fighting Irish in the paint during the frame, 14-14.
Kemrite paced the Flames at the half with seven points and five rebounds. Vasturia led Notre Dame with 11 tallies.
The Fighting Irish heated up in the first 90 seconds of the second half, going on an 11-0 run to stretch its lead out to 20. Notre Dame's burst included a trio of three-pointers from V.J. Beachem, Bonzie Colson and Vasturia. Maxwell halted the surge with a layup at the 18-minute mark, making it 43-25.
Homesley found his rhythm in the period. A layup by the freshman with 13:56 to play put Liberty within 15 points, 49-34.
Notre Dame stretched its lead to 21 following a Beachem three-pointer with 9:25 left. Liberty cut at the deficit again thanks to baskets from Lovell Cabbil, Homesley and Maxwell. Maxwell's layup at 3:57 made it a 15-point game once again. However, the Flames were unable to climb any closer en route to the 73-56 final.
Liberty returns to the Vines on Saturday, stepping back into Big South play against UNC Asheville. The Flames and the Bulldogs squared off on three occasions, last season, with Asheville claiming each contest. Tipoff for Saturday's matchup is slated for 2 p.m. The contest will broadcast live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network, MASN, ESPN3 and the Big South Network.