The Liberty men's basketball team concluded the regular season with a win, Saturday afternoon, defeating Gardner-Webb on Senior Day, 86-81.
The Flames (13-18, 10-8 Big South) utilized sharp shooting from three-point range and the charity stripe to pick up the victory. Liberty concluded the contest against Gardner-Webb (15-15, 10-8 Big South) with 17 three-pointers, tying the program and Vines Center record set in a 103-88 over VMI in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Big South Championship (March 4, 2008).
Head coach Ritchie McKay's squad also went 17-of-18 from the foul line, tying the fifth best percentage in program history.
Caleb Homesley paced the Flames with a career-high 22 points. The freshman guard went 6-of-9 from the field, which included five three-pointers. Homesley was also a perfect 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. Three other Flames finished in double-digit scoring figures – John Dawson (16), Lovell Cabbil (16) and Ryan Kemrite (12).
Isaiah Ivey also tallied a career-high scoring total for the Runnin' Bulldogs, posting 32 points. Adonis Burbage (11), Harold McBride (10) and Tyrell Nelson (10) rounded out Gardner-Webb's double-digit scorers.
For the contest, Liberty shot 52.0 percent (26-of-50) from the field, compared to 44.2 percent (23-of-52) for the Runnin' Bulldogs. Gardner-Webb also had a quality day at the three-point arc and the foul line. The visitors hit 12 treys and went 23-of-31 (74.2 percent) at the charity stripe.
Prior to the start of the contest, Liberty honored its lone senior, Anthony Fields. The redshirt senior guard concluded the matchup with nine points and five assists. The Detroit, Mich., native closes out the regular season as the Flames' assist leader with 88 tallies.
Three-pointers themed the early minutes of the first half, as the Flames started 4-of-4 from long distance. Homesley kick started the three-point party with back-to-back treys. After a trifecta from Burbage, Kemrite countered with two of his own, giving Liberty a 12-3 lead at 16:54.
With the Flames still leading by nine, Cabbil upped the ante with another Liberty three-pointer at the 12:43 mark. Following a free throw from Brandon Miller, Cabbil let loose again, sinking his second trey of the game to boost the Liberty lead to 14. Miller went 1-of-2 at the charity stripe once again before Homesley connected on the Flames' seventh three-ball of the game at 11:21, putting Liberty ahead, 26-10.
Gardner-Webb proceeded to go on a 19-2 run, ignited by an Ivey three-pointer. Ivey was not done scoring, as he recorded 11 points during the offensive burst to give the Runnin' Bulldogs a one-point lead. Fields briefly put the Flames back on top with a layup, but Ivey nailed his fourth three-pointer with 3:12 left in the period to regain the lead for the visitors. Herve Aholode tacked on a free throw to give Gardner-Webb a 33-30 advantage.
Liberty regained the lead with consecutive treys from Cabbil and Kemrite. Gardner-Webb's Dylan Poston closed out the period with a jumper, resulting in a 36-35 halftime lead in favor of the Flames.
Liberty concluded the first half shooting 44.4 percent (12-of-27), going 9-of-20 (45.0 percent) from three-point land. Meanwhile, the Runnin' Bulldogs shot 47.8 percent (11-of-23), including 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) from long range.
Kemrite, Homesley and Cabbil accounted for all nine of Liberty's three-pointers, allowing each player to finish the period with nine points apiece. Ivey's hot streak during the opening stanza gave him 14 points at half's end.
In the second period, Homesley quickly extended Liberty's lead to four with his fourth three-pointer of the game. The Flames led by as much as five in the early minutes of the half, but two Runnin's Bulldog layups made it a one-point game, 41-40, at 17:10.
Liberty continued to connect from beyond the three-point arc in the ensuing minutes, receiving two treys from A.C. Reid and one by Dawson. A Cabbil layup with 11:50 to play gave the Flames a nine-point advantage, but an 8-0 burst by Gardner-Webb put the Runnin' Bulldogs within one once again. Homesley halted the run with his fifth three-pointer of the game at 9:04 to put the Flames ahead by four. Dawson tacked on two free throws to boost the Liberty lead to 65-59.
Another 8-0 run highlighted by five points from Ivey helped Gardner-Webb reclaim a two-point lead with 6:13 remaining. Liberty countered with an 8-0 surge of its own receiving, three-pointers from Kemrite and Dawson along with a Fields layup to go ahead for good. The final minutes turned into a free throw shooting contest, allowing the Flames to seal the 86-81 final.
Liberty now awaits its seeding and opponent for the 2016 Big South Championship in Buies Creek, N.C. Official seedings and pairings will be announced later tonight.