The Liberty men's basketball team picked up its fourth straight win, Saturday night, defeating Presbyterian, 65-61, inside the Templeton Center. Led by a career-high 19-point effort from John Dawson, the Flames defense held the Blue Hose in check in the closing minutes for their second consecutive win away from the Vines Center.
With its first win at PC in nearly four years (Feb. 11, 2012, 77-64), the Flames improve to 9-15 overall and 6-5 in Big South play. The Blue Hose fall to 8-13 on the year and 3-7 in conference action. Liberty now has back-to-back road wins for the first time since the 2012-13 season, when it defeated Radford inside the Dedmon Center, 73-56 (March 2, 2013), and Coastal Carolina in the HTC Center during the opening round of the 2013 Big South Championship, 78-61, four days later.
Along with Dawson's effort, freshman guard Caleb Homesley chipped in 15 points for the Flames, followed by Evan Maxwell, who added 10 points for the second straight game.
DeSean Murray entered the contest leading conference in scoring (20.1 ppg), and the 6-5 sophomore forward lived up to the billing, finishing with a game-high 23 points. Murray was the only double-digit scorer on the night for the Blue Hose.
The two squads nearly matched each other from the field, with the Flames (45.5 percent, 20-of-44) holding a slight edge over PC (44.4 percent, 20-of-45). However, Liberty was more efficient from the three-point arc, outscoring the Blue Hose, 33-18.
The Flames jumped out to a nine-point lead early in the contest. Dawson highlighted Liberty's scoring with seven points on a pair of three-pointers and a free throw. The redshirt sophomore's second trey at 14:22 put the Flames ahead, 13-4.
PC answered over the next 5:21 with an offensive surge over its own, outscoring the Flames, 16-4. The Blue Hose capped it off with an 8-0 run, consisting of a Murray layup and two Dillard three-pointers. Dillard's second trifecta gave the home team a two-point edge, but Lovell Cabbil countered with a three-pointer at 8:31, reclaiming the Liberty lead, 21-20.
Liberty maintained the advantage through the remainder of period, leading by as much as eight in the closing minutes following a Ryan Kemrite three-pointer. Ed Drew closed out the stanza with a basket for PC, giving the Flames a 37-32 lead at halftime.
The Flames concluded the opening 20 minutes shooting 59.1 percent (13-of-22) from the field, including 50.0 percent (5-of-10) from three-point land. The Blue Hose stayed in toe with Liberty, shooting 48.1 percent (13-of-27). Head coach Ritchie McKay's squad committed five turnovers compared to six for PC, but outpointed the Blue Hose off miscues, 10-3.
Murray led all scorers at the half with 12 points. Dawson paved the way offensively for the Flames with nine tallies, followed by Maxwell with eight.
In the second half, Murray cut into the Liberty lead with a layup, but back-to-back three-pointers from Kemrite and Cabbil boosted it back up to nine. PC responded with two treys of its own and a pair of Drew free throws to cut the deficit to one at 13:46, 43-42.
Liberty upped its lead back to nine nearly three minutes later following a Dawson three-pointer. Once again, the Blue Hose chipped at the Flames' advantage, making it a two-point game, 56-54, following a Murray layup under five minutes to play.
The Flames went back up by six after a Homesley three-pointer with 3:43 left. Dawson tacked on a free throw a minute later. The Liberty defense took over in the closing minutes, setting up the 65-61 final.
Liberty returns to the Vines Center on Tuesday, playing host to Winthrop, who is currently tied for first place in the standings. The Eagles defeated the Flames on Jan. 16, 74-58, marking the largest margin of defeat for Liberty in conference play, this season. Tipoff for the rematch is slated for 7 p.m., with the contest broadcasting live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network, MASN, ESPN3, WFFP 24 and the Big South Network.