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Liberty Advances to ASUN Championship after Defeating North Florida

March 7, 2019  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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For the third time this season, Liberty found themselves in a battle against North Florida, with the rubber match determined who would advance to the ASUN Men's Basketball Championship Final. Led by Scottie James' 24 points and nine rebounds, the Flames were able to defeat the Ospreys 71-63 to advance to the championship game.

Turning Point

Liberty had the task of going up against the ASUN Defensive Player of the Year Wajid Aminu and the Flames won the battle inside, outscoring UNF 40-16 inside the paint. Liberty was able to get North Florida's big men in foul trouble early in the first half as Aminu picked up two fouls and Ezekiel Balogun recorded three fouls. Liberty capitalized as Scottie James scored 12 points in the first half and the Flames outscored North Florida 24-8 inside the paint in the first half.

North Florida stayed in the game due to its three-point shot, converting 7-13 (53.8%) in the second half led by Garrett Sams 16 points. The Flames countered by continuing to attack the paint with James scoring 12 points in the final 20 minutes of the game. With the lead in hand, Liberty did a good job of taking care of the ball, committing just three turnovers while forcing North Florida to commit nine giveaways. After struggling in the first half, shooting 3-8 from the free throw line, the Flames came up clutch in the second half converting 7-8 from the charity stripe.

Key Stats & Notes

  • Liberty improves its Division I school record to 27 wins, the most in a single season.
  • Liberty has now won a Division I school record 16 home games, the most in a single season.
  • For the second time in school history, Liberty is going to back-to-back conference championship games. Liberty made the Big South Championship in 1996 and 1997.
  • Scottie James led the Flames with a game-high and season-high 24 points to go along with nine rebounds and two assists.
  • With nine rebounds, Scottie James moved to No. 10 on Liberty's all-time rebounding list with 622 career rebounds.
  • Liberty outscored North Florida 40-16 inside the paint, the biggest scoring margin Liberty posted against a Division I opponent this season (Previous high – Liberty outscored Stetson 38-14 on Jan. 9, 2019).
  • For the fifth time this season, Liberty scored at least 40 points inside the paint.
  • Liberty shot 50 percent for the game (28-55), while shooting just 38 percent from three-point range (5-13).
  • Both teams started the game shooting hitting six of their first 10 field goal attempts.
  • Liberty outscored North Florida's bench 10-2 led by Myo Baxter-Bell's six points.
  • Liberty forced 16 turnovers throughout the game and converted those into 18 points.

Thoughts from Coach McKay

"I thought this was a well hard-fought game and I never felt comfortable even though we led for a lot of the game. North Florida is very well coached and they were playing with a lot of confidence. There is a reason they had won seven in a row and if the league would have started when they lost to Lipscomb, they would be in first place and us and Lipscomb would be looking at them. I knew they were a quality opponent and this was going to be a hard one. When Lovell (Cabbil Jr.) went down, it made it even harder for us, but this is our group. They are experienced, they are together, they are selfless and have a high level of character, so we are really excited that we are afforded the opportunity to advance."   

Up Next

The Flames will now travel to Nashville, Tenn. to face Lipscomb in the ASUN Men's Basketball Championship Final. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN. The Flames and the Bisons split the season series, as both teams won on the road. The two teams were named ASUN regular season champions as the two finished 14-2 in conference play.