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Defense Leads the Way in Liberty's Win

December 8, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Ritchie McKay picked up his 80th career win at Liberty with a 71-49 win over Maryland Eastern Shore. With the victory, Liberty has posted the most wins in its first 10 games since the 2008-09 season, during McKay's first stint at Liberty as the Flames also started 7-3 that season.

Liberty's defense was stellar for all 40 minutes of action forcing 17 turnovers, the second most this season against a Division I opponent for the Flames. Liberty limited the Hawks to 32.7 percent (16-49) for the game and capitalized off Maryland Eastern Shore's turnovers with 22 points off the errors.

"I thought we came in early and got the job done in terms of controlling the pace," McKay said following the win. "Even though we were hard to score against defensively. We are an unselfish team, and you have to in order to hand out 17 assists. I am happy for our guys."  

The Flames improve to 7-3 on the season while Maryland Eastern Shore drops to 3-7 on the year. Nine players scored for the Flames led by Ryan Kemrite with 12 points. Liberty's offensive was exceptional tonight in sharing the wealth as the team dished out 17 assists including three players recording a game-high four assists in Lovell Cabbil, Elijah Cuffee and Caleb Homesley.

For the fourth time this season, Liberty shot over 49 percent for the game, as the Flames shot 49.1 percent (26-53) from the floor Friday night. Receiving 82 minutes of playing time, the bench delivered, outscoring Maryland Eastern Shore 31-7, led by Homesley with 11 points. Myo Baxter-Bell filled the stat sheet with 10 points, four rebounds, one steal and a season-high four assists.

Liberty quickly applied the pressure on defense, forcing six turnovers in the first 4:40 of the game. While playing exceptional defense, Liberty went on a run making 5-of-7 field goals to jump out to a 16-6 lead midway through the first half. The Hawks stayed within striking distance of Liberty's lead, pulling down eight offensive rebounds that led to seven second-chance points.

"Tonight was a good game because we were executing and played our brand of basketball," Isaiah Williams said. "We did a good job of sticking to the game plan, but we have to stick to the process and take it one day at a time."

As the Flames tightened up on their rebounding, their defense remained on point, not allowing Maryland Eastern Shore to score in the final 4:30 of the half. During their scoring draught, the Hawks went 0-for-6 from the field and committed one turnover. Getting hot from beyond the arc in the first half for the Flames was Kemrite, scoring all 12 of his points in the first half, shooting 4-for-5 from the field.

The Flames went into halftime with a 38-16 lead over Maryland Eastern Shore. The 16 points surrendered marked a season-best for fewest points allowed in a half for Liberty this season. Liberty's defense protected the three-point line in the first 20 minutes of action, limiting the Hawks to just 14.3 percent (2-for-14) from the three-point line.

The Flames' offense kept rolling in the second half, outscoring the Hawks 15-4 in the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Flames continued to protect the three-point line in the second half, limiting the Hawks to 30 percent (3-10). Scottie James picked it up in the final 20 minutes with five points to go along with five rebounds.

Liberty will get a week off before returning to the court for its next game when they host Kentucky Christian on Saturday, Dec. 16. Tipoff against the Knights is set for 1 p.m. at the Vines Center.