The Liberty men's basketball team made an emphatic statement on the road, Wednesday night, defeating Gardner-Webb inside Paul Porter Arena, 69-55. The Flames' victory extends Liberty's current win streak to three games.
Redshirt sophomore John Dawson continued his trend as the Flames' consistent scorer, finishing with 17 points, his second best total of the season. Dawson has now posted double-digit scoring figures in 11-of-12 games since joining the Liberty lineup on Dec. 17.
Ryan Kemrite garnered the first double-double of his collegiate career, recording 14 points and a career-high 10 boards. Freshman guard Caleb Homesley and Evan Maxwell each finished with 10 points. Maxwell's performance marked his first double-digit scoring effort in eight games.
Harold McBride paced the Runnin' Bulldogs with a game-high 22 points. Jamaal Robateau added 13 tallies off the bench.
While known for their three-point shooting, the Flames capitalized down low, more than doubling the Runnin' Bulldogs in the paint, 34-16. Liberty broke loose in the second half, outscoring Gardner-Webb inside, 20-4.
The Flames shot 50.9 percent (27-of-53) for the contest, marking the second straight game Liberty has shot over 50.0 percent from the field. The Flames, who entered the contest second in the Big South in scoring defense (66.8), held the home team to 37.5 percent shooting (18-of-48).
With the win, Liberty improves to 8-15 overall and 5-5 in the Big South. Gardner-Webb is now 10-12 overall and 5-5 in conference play. Liberty's three-game win streak is it's first since the 2013-14 season (games played Nov. 29-Dec. 7, 2013).
Liberty began the contest with an early 11-2 run. Homesley kick started the burst with five unanswered tallies, including a three-pointer. Following a Gardner-Webb bucket, Dawson concluded the surge with a trio of acrobatic layups. The Runnin' Bulldogs then closed the gap with a three-pointer by Jamaal Robateau and a Laquincy Rideau layup to make it 11-7 at 13:22.
With the Flames up by five at 12:04, Liberty extended its lead with a 6-0 burst. Isaiah Ivey halted the run with a jumper, but Evan Maxwell boosted the Flames' lead back to 11 with a layup. The Runnin' Bulldogs began living up to their moniker over a five-minute span, erasing the deficit with 13-0 surge. Harold McBride capped the run with six straight points to give the home team a one-point edge. Calvin Hoffman, who made his 2015-16 debut after missing 22 games due to an injury, swished a three-pointer to put Liberty back on top, 25-24, at 4:05.
Much like the start of the period, Liberty used another 11-2 run to create some distance. The Flames closed the scoring surge with an A.C. Reid three-pointer and a Maxwell layup. McBride ended the period with a jumper, resulting in a 33-28 lead at halftime.
Liberty shot 54.5 percent (12-of-22) from the field, including 50.0 percent from long range. Gardner-Webb went 11-of-26 (42.3 percent) and 3-of-11 behind the three-point arc.
McBride and Robataeu led all scorers at the half with eight points. Maxwell, Dawson and Homesley all had six tallies apiece for Liberty.
The Flames opened the second period with a 10-1 run, receiving layups from Homesley and Maxwell and three-pointers by Dawson and Kemrite. Gardner-Webb responded with eight unanswered points. After a Robateau three-pointer cemented the scoring streak, Dawson breezed by the Gardner-Webb defense with a layup at 13:10, making it 45-37.
Reid boosted Liberty's lead back to 11 with his third trey of the game at the 6:16 mark. Liberty began to really find its rhythm inside down the stretch thanks to multiple layups by Kemrite and Dawson. A layup by Dawson with 61 ticks left gave the Flames its largest lead of the contest (15). Following McBride three-pointer, Dawson nailed a jumper with 23 seconds left to seal the 69-55 final.
Liberty returns to action on Saturday, squaring off with Presbyterian. Game time inside the Templeton Center is slated for 7:30 p.m.