Flames basketball reclaims No. 1 in ASUN after a hard-fought victory over UNF 82-77

The men’s basketball team reclaimed its spot as the No. 1 team in the ASUN Thursday night in a hard-fought 82-77 victory over the North Florida Ospreys.

Thursday night’s game was Liberty’s second faceoff against the Ospreys this season after the team’s 71-70 loss at North Florida when the Ospreys claimed the first-place spot in the ASUN. 

But the Ospreys did not allow an easy win. Despite the Flames playing some of their best basketball all season and dominating the stats across the board for most of the game, the Ospreys managed to close within two points of the lead inside the last two minutes of the game.

Scottie James recorded a double-digit performance (16 points, 10 rebounds) – Photo By David Eppinger, Liberty Champion

“It was a really hard-fought game, and we expected nothing less than that, because we know what a quality opponent North Florida is, and their unconventional style really tests your defense,” Flames Head Coach Ritchie McKay said. “So, I was pleased to have the outcome that we did and thought we got better in a lot of different ways.”

Despite only completing two field goals in the final 10 minutes of the game, Liberty managed to maintain its lead through free throws. Twenty-two of the Flames points in the second half came from free throws, while 20 came from field goals.

Both teams saw players foul out, with Liberty redshirt senior Myo Baxter-Bell and UNF senior Wajid Aminu fouling out within a possession of each other.

The Flames saw high-scoring performances across the board, with redshirt senior Caleb Homesley leading both teams with 28 points.

“Caleb’s capable of that any night out,” McKay said. “Having a guy that can get 20-to-30 points a night is a real blessing to our program.”

Caleb Homesley led the Flames with 28 points – Photo by David Eppinger, Liberty Champion

Senior Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz racked up another 17 points and redshirt senior Scottie James put up a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Darius McGhee was next with nine points. 

The game was a special one for Pacheco-Ortiz, who had a surprise visit from his family and several of his friends from Puerto Rico. 

“It was great. They actually surprised me, I didn’t even know they were coming,” Pacheco-Ortiz said. “I was so happy. I haven’t seen them since the summer. Being there with my parents and with my friends was a great feeling. I enjoyed it a lot.” 

The Flames will play at home again Saturday when they host Stetson. The Hatters are Liberty’s only other conference loss this season, which came directly after their loss to the Ospreys in the same week.

Liberty will celebrate senior night during Saturday’s game, when Homesley, Baxter-Bell, Pacheco-Ortiz and James will be honored. Tipoff is at 5 p.m. in the Vines Center.

Baker is the Sports Editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter @embake99

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