Men’s basketball dunks on local Lynchburg team 101-49
The Liberty Flames men’s basketball team hosted crosstown opponent Virginia University, Lynchburg, for the first time Dec. 7.
The Flames greeted their neighbors as most people would: by dunking on them repeatedly. They opened their home court to the visiting Dragons and sent them home with a lovely parting gift, a loss by a score of 101-49.
Liberty and VUL weren’t scheduled to face off until Monday afternoon, just 24 hours before the game took place. The opponent Liberty was scheduled to face was Clarks Summit.
That game was canceled, and the Flames scrambled to make sure they could still play a game. Thankfully, the VUL Dragons were happy to make the 10-minute trip to Liberty arena.
Right from the opening tip, the Flames showed no mercy to the Dragons. Senior big man Kyle Rode started the night off hot with 11 of Liberty’s first 15 points. Nine of those points came from beyond the arc.
“We are fairly liberal in the way we allow our guys to shoot 3s, and I just think we have a group that’s pretty selfless. And we tried to find the open man,” Head Coach Ritchie McKay said. “And fortunately, just for whatever scheme that would get granted for us tonight, we got some awesome looks and guys knocking.”
Shooting from beyond the arc has been a theme for the Flames this season, who have a habit of getting hot for long stretches. They live and die via the long ball, which has both helped them and hurt them this season. Tonight, the 3s were falling. The Flames ended 17-32 from beyond the arc, which meant they hit 53% of all the 3-pointers they took. For some perspective, the best team in the NCAA in average 3-point percentage is shooting just over 46% this season.
The 3s were far from the only thing to go right for the Flames. Almost everything they attempted went their way. With 5:28 left to go in the first half, the Flames took a 22-point lead on a 3 from senior guard Darius McGhee. For the rest of the game, the lead never dipped below 20, and by the end of the game, it had grown all the way to 52, which is where it sat when the game ended.
The scoreboard may not tell that compelling of a story, but what happened on the court might have been some of the most entertaining basketball Flames fans have seen in recent months. After building out their lead, the Flames put on a show, but they couldn’t seem to decide what kind.
Freshman Zach Cleveland, senior Blake Preston and sophomore Joseph Venzant all showed off their bounce as if performing in a dunk contest.
Flames fans also got to see history being made at the Liberty arena Tuesday night. Senior forward Shiloh Robinson etched his name into Liberty’s record books by grabbing his 332nd rebound, moving him to 50th all-time in total rebounds by a Flame.
“Shiloh is sometimes invisible,” McKay said. “We don’t give him enough credit for all the things that he does. He rarely makes a mistake. Defensively, he sacrifices his own individual numbers for the betterment of the team and its advancement. So happy for him that he’s in the top 50. Not surprised. And I think he should continue to climb up that ladder.”
Though the Flames’ roster is full of talented veterans like McGhee, Robinson and Rode, some of the newcomers are making their names known to the Liberty fanbase. Venzant seemed to leap out of the rafters of the Liberty Arena, slamming home multiple dunks to uproarious applause. Cleveland tried to follow suit and posturize one of the visiting Dragons more than once, but all his attempts fell short. Neither of them were able to outshine the most impressive performance from a newcomer. That honor goes to point guard Colin Porter.
In the world of basketball, being a pure point guard or game manager is something of a lost art. Many attribute that to the incredible successes of Steph Curry and the effect he’s had on young basketball players. Nowadays, many fans only see success in how much you contribute to the scoreboard and are missing out on some of the beauty of the game. A pass of the basketball, correctly placed, can be worth more than a jacked-up 3-pointer or a trip to the free throw line. Not only can that pass turn into an assist and put points on the board, but it also can earn the trust of your teammates. That is what Porter has done to start the season.
“It was fun just to go out there and have fun,” Porter said. “My teammates believe in me, and I think the opportunity just presented itself for me to let it fall, and it went in.”
Now, after playing eight games as a Flame and totaling 33 assists in those games, Porter was able to let loose, adding scoring to his already-developed passing game.
“Well, every game that Colin plays is just a deposit into the bank account. The more reps he gets, the more experience he has in games that are at this level,” McKay said regarding Porter. “I just think it’s going to benefit him and us because he’s a really special player. He’s mature beyond his years, and you can tell how much respect he’s garnered from his teammates by how they celebrate him and how much they trust him with the ball.”
Porter’s development and growth in his role is something to monitor for Flames fans. He’s been placed in the perfect situation at the side of superstar McGhee, and all signs point to Porter leading this team in the coming seasons.
Paslgrove is the Assistant Sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter @AaronPalsgrove