Liberty faced UMBC in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) quarterfinal at the RAC Arena on Sunday. Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz scored a game-high 23 points but the Flames fell to the Retrievers, 80-68.
The Retrievers had five players score in double figures led by Jarius Lyles with 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists. UMBC shot 51.0 percent for the game (26-for-51) while limiting Liberty to 45.1 percent (23-for-51).
It was a slow start on offense for both teams as one field goal was made during the first four minutes of play. Liberty started the game 0-for-7 from the field and did not score its first points until the 15:58 mark off a pair of Brock Gardner free throws.
On the road in the CIT, Liberty's freshmen contributed early as Pacheco-Ortiz and Gardner scored the Flames' first nine points of the contest.
After starting the game 2-for-8 from the field, UMBC went 3-for-4 from the field midway through the first half to hold a three-point lead (17-14) with nine and a half minutes left in the half.
As the lead went back-and-forth between the squads, Liberty's Ezra Talbert once again came off the bench to make an impact, scoring five points and pulling down two rebounds in the first four minutes he played. The redshirt sophomore hit a three-pointer with 3:47, giving Liberty its last lead of the game, 27-26.
UMBC looked to take control to end the first half as they went on a 13-3 run, taking a 40-30 lead going into halftime. Liberty's bench kept them in the game during the first half with 15 points led by Gardner with seven points. The Retrievers were efficient on offense, shooting 52.2 percent (12-for-23) in the first half led by Lyles with 13 points. Liberty's freshmen trio of Myo Baxter-Bell, Gardner and Pacheco-Ortiz combined to score 19 of Liberty's 30 points in the first half.
Coming out in the second half, the Retrievers increased their lead to 14 points thanks to the three-point shot, hitting three of the five second-half treys during the opening eight minutes. UMBC finished the game hitting 11-of-29 shots from behind the arc (37.9 percent).
Liberty would not go away as they cut UMBC's lead to single digits, 57-50, with 12:10 left in the game sparked by Pacheco-Ortiz with five straight points and Lovell Cabbil's back-to-back three-pointers. During that run, Liberty made eight straight field goals.
Liberty came within three points two times midway through the second half and each time Liberty attempted to tie the game, UMBC responded with a bucket of its own to keep it a two-possession game. The Flames cut it to four points (65-61) with 6:13 left in the game and the Retrievers were able to end the game on 15-7 run to come away with the win.
Liberty ends the season with a 21-14 record, the most wins since the 2008-09 season. At the conclusion of the regular season, Liberty posted a school-record 14 Big South wins. The loss brings to a close the playing careers of seniors Ray Chen and John Dawson.