Guided by a career-high 21 points and 13 rebounds from sophomore center Evan Maxwell, the Liberty men's basketball team returned to the win column, Saturday afternoon, defeating Central Penn inside the Vines Center, 86-50.
With the win in its American Sports Network (ASN) Challenge in Music City contest, Liberty moves to 3-1 under head coach Ritchie McKay, while the Knights fall to 7-2 on the year.
Along with Maxwell, sophomore forward A.C. Reid chipped in a career-high 16 points, knocking down a trio of three-pointers on the afternoon. Freshman guard Lovell Cabbil rounded out Liberty's double-digit scorers with 11 points, while redshirt freshman forward Ezra Talbert had a near double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Tyree Tucker closed out the afternoon as the Knights' leading scorer with 17 points and 10 rebounds, followed by John Starks, Jr., who had 16 points.
Despite Central Penn entering the contest averaging 100.4 ppg through its first eight games, the Flames defense stifled the Knights, holding the visitors to half their average. Liberty shot 49.2 percent (30-of-61) from the field, compared to 27.9 percent (17-of-61) for Central Penn.
Liberty had its highest rebound total of the season, outrebounding the Knights, 49-32. The Flames also distributed the ball well, tying its season-high in assists with 22. McKay's squad capitalized in the paint (42-20) and off turnovers (19-7), while receiving a season-best 35 points from the bench.
After Ryan Kemrite put the Flames on the board first with a three-pointer, Maxwell posted the next six points for Liberty. The Knights remained within one to two possessions of Liberty and briefly took the lead with a Starks three-pointer at 15:01. Reid reclaimed the lead for the Flames 17 ticks later, connecting on a layup to make it 11-10.
Liberty went on a 12-2 run over the next six minutes. Cabbil highlighted the burst with back-to-back three-pointers. Reid capped the run with a layup at 8:42, giving the Flames a 23-12 advantage.
The Knights pulled within nine with four minutes left in the period, but the Flames used another 12-2 run to close out the half. Freshman Sam Worman recorded four points during the surge, including a jumper at the buzzer to put Liberty ahead 40-21 at halftime.
Maxwell led all scorers at the end of the period, tying his previous career high with 15 points to go along with eight boards. Cabbil finished the frame with eight points. Tucker paced the Knights' offense with nine tallies.
Liberty shot 47.1 percent (16-of-34) in the half, while holding Central Penn to 25.8 percent (8-of-31) from the field.
The Flames continued to widen the gap in the second period. Maxwell continued to find the basket, while Liberty also received buckets from Reid, Talbert and Fields. A Worman jumper with 13:15 left gave the home team a 57-28 point lead.
Liberty increased its lead to 34 with 3:29 remaining, thanks to a dunk by freshman guard Caleb Homesley. The Flames took their largest lead (37) with 31 ticks left off two free throws from freshman guard Hansel Atencia. Keith Wainright added one more free throw for the Knights at the other end, setting up the 86-50 final.
Liberty hits the road for the first time this season, as it heads to Nashville, Tenn., to continue play in the Challenge in Music City. The Flames will square off with Appalachian State on Thursday for the first of three games inside the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m. (EST) with the contest broadcasting live on ASN.