Looking to build on its win over Radford, the Liberty men's basketball team hosted UNC Asheville, Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Flames, Lexington, Va., native Andrew Rowsey returned to his home state, leading the charge in the Bulldogs' 95-77 win with 27 points.
Following his career-high 26 points on Thursday, Theo Johnson led the Flames with 18 tallies, followed by Ryan Kemrite, who tied his career high with 14 points. Playing in his final game in the Vines Center, senior Andrew Smith finished with 11 points.
Along with Rowsey, Asheville had four other double-figure scorers – Ahmad Thomas (19), David Robertson (17), Giacomo Zilli (13) and Kevin Vannatta (12).
Liberty concludes the 2014-15 regular season with an 8-23 record and a 2-16 mark in Big South play, while Asheville moves to 14-15 overall and 10-8 in conference action.
Asheville finished the contest shooting 58.8 percent (30-of-51), while holding Liberty to 40.4 percent (23-of-57). The Bulldogs outscored the Flames in the paint, 42-30, and held a 21-12 advantage from behind the three-point arc.
Prior to the matchup, Liberty honored its three seniors – Ethan Layer, James Johnson and Smith.
The Flames and Bulldogs went back in forth in the opening 10 minutes, with six ties occurring during the span. Asheville then went on a 14-2 run, highlighted by a pair of traditional three-point plays from Rowsey. The second and-one bucket from Rowsey put the visitors ahead, 29-17, at 6:05.
Rowsey and the Bulldogs continued to find his mark, specifically from three-point range. Asheville knocked down three treys in the closing minutes, including two from the Rowsey, which helped the Bulldogs to carry a 46-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Rowsey led all scorers at the half with 17 points. Smith paced the Flames with nine points.
Asheville shot 65.4 percent (17-of-26) from the field, while holding the Flames to 30.4 percent shooting during the first 20 minutes of play (7-of-23).
Liberty posted nearly half of its first half points from the foul line, going 12-of-16 (75.0 percent) from the charity stripe. Despite scoring 34 points in the paint the last three games, Liberty was outscored 20-6 down low during the opening stanza.
The Bulldogs led by as much as 26 in the second half. With 12:56 remaining, Vannatta connected on a layup to go ahead 65-39.
The Flames dwindled the lead over the next nine minutes, cutting it to 14. A Kemrite free throw made it 82-68 with 3:54 remaining.
A Theo Johnson layup pulled Liberty within 12 with 51 seconds left, but it was not enough, as the Bulldogs hung on for the 95-77 final.
Liberty will play Asheville in the first round of the 2015 VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Men's Basketball Championship. Locked into the No. 11 seed, the Flames will square off with the No. 6 seed Bulldogs, Wednesday at 6 p.m. The contest will stream live on the Big South Network. The full tournament bracket will be announced later this evening.