Liberty's defense proved to be the difference maker Saturday at the Vines Center as the Flames pulled out their second straight win in the Big South. The Flames held Presbyterian 26 points below its season-average, as Liberty defeated the Blue Hose, 60-48.
With the win, Liberty improves to 11-5 overall and 2-1 in the Big South while Presbyterian falls to 8-8 and 1-2 in conference play. With two points scored tonight, Ryan Kemrite became the 25th player in school history to record 1,000 career points and also the 21st player to score 1,000 points along with 300 career rebounds during his tenure at Liberty.
"Presbyterian is a really good team that is phenomenally well coached and they will be a tough out for anyone," head coach Ritchie McKay said. "I was pleased with the way we defended because they have some guys that can make some shots and we endured today."
Forty-eight points was the fewest points Presbyterian has scored in a game this season (53 points was the previous low at Tennessee on Nov. 10) as the Flames held PC to 32.1 percent (18-56) for the game.
Liberty had three players score in double-figures led by Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz with 14 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. In his third start of the season, Caleb Homesley filled the stat sheet with 12 points, six rebounds, two blocks and one assist.
The Flames were dominant around the hoop, outscoring the Blue Hose 30-12 inside the paint while the bench also outscored PC 11-6 led by Myo Baxter-Bell with six points. The Flames were 2-3 going into the game when trailing at halftime and in the second half Liberty turned the corner outscoring PC 36-29 after facing a 22-21 deficit at the intermission.
Both teams found themselves in a slump on offense, combining to shoot 6-20 from the field in the first eight minutes of the game. The only players to get off to a solid start on offense in the game was Presbyterian's Reggie Dillard and Pacheco-Ortiz as each player scored their team's first five points.
Late in the first half, Presbyterian went on a 7-0 run to jump out to a 22-17 lead but the Flames would respond to score the final four points of the half to trail by one (22-21) to go into the half. Twenty-two points was the second fewest points Presbyterian has scored in a half this season. Defense was key for both teams as Liberty shot 33.3 percent (9-27) while the Blue Hose were limited to 31 percent (9-29) from the field.
With the jump shot struggling from three-point range (1-9), Liberty's frontcourt attacked the paint in the first half outscoring Presbyterian 14-8. After committing 12 turnovers in the first half in its last game against Charleston Southern, Liberty turned the corner and took care of the ball committing just four turnovers in the first half.
Looking to pick up its offensive attack, Liberty started the second half on a 7-0 run in the first 2:30 to take the lead (27-22). Francois Lewis kept the Blue Hose in the game early in the second half, scoring 12 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
After going back-and-forth exchanging the lead, midway through the final half, Liberty went on a 13-1 run over the course of four and a half minutes. The run gave Liberty its first double-digit lead of the game (47-36) at the 7:20 mark of the 2nd half.
Attempting the comeback, Dillard brought Presbyterian back into the game with back-to-back three-pointers to come within seven points (49-42) of the Flames' lead. After Dillard made his run, Liberty's defense locked up and allowed PC to score just six points in the final six minutes of the game.
After two games at home this week, Liberty will hit the road next week to face Winthrop. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, at the Winthrop Coliseum.
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