To tip off the 2017-18 season, Liberty men's basketball participated in an exhibition game at VCU on Thursday. The Flames pulled out the 85-69 victory but, more importantly, money was raised to help the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
The proceeds generated from Thursday night's contest will go to benefit the hurricane relief charity chosen by each school. This game hit close to home for Liberty's basketball program as sophomore point guard, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, is from Ponce, Puerto Rico. Pacheco-Ortiz also made somewhat of a homecoming, having played his last two seasons in high school in Richmond at Deep Run High School.
"The best thing about tonight was being able to partner with VCU," Head Coach Ritchie McKay said. "Hopefully being a part of the relief process can give the people of Puerto Rico some sense of normalcy. We are thankful and privileged to play this game at such a great venue against a very well-respected program in VCU."
Leading the way for the Flames on offense was redshirt junior, Ezra Talbert, shooting 7-8 from the field for a game-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds. Ryan Kemrite was second in scoring with 14 points, shooting 50 percent (4-of-8) from beyond the arc. The Flames' defense forced 20 turnovers throughout the game while the newcomers (Elijah Cuffee, Isaiah Williams, Keegan McDowell, Scottie James and Brendan Newton) combined for 30 points, 19 rebounds and four assists.
Liberty was lights out all game from beyond the arc, shooting 50 percent (11-of-22) from three-point range. The Flames' bench came up big, outscoring the Rams' bench, 30-20.
The Flames got off to a solid start as Talbert was hot to start the game scoring Liberty's first seven points. Coming off the bench in his first collegiate action, McDowell came out sizzling from beyond the arc, making his first two three-point attempts as Liberty jumped out to a 25-16 lead.
Liberty got hot from the field midway through the first half, making 7-9 of field goals while holding VCU scoreless for three and a half minutes. After VCU started to gain some rhythm on offense, Liberty turned up the heat on defense, not allowing a field goal for three minutes and 42 seconds late in the first half while going on a 9-0 run.
Liberty brought its signature defense to Richmond, forcing VCU's offense to commit eight turnovers in the first half. The Flames were efficient on offense in the first 20 minutes of action, shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from three. Talbert ended the first half shooting a perfect 5-5 from the floor with 15 points.
Liberty continued its stingy defense to open the second half, forcing the Rams' offense to go through a scoring drought of over four minutes while maintaining a double-digit advantage (58-43) at the 12-minute mark. The Rams quickly cut into Liberty's lead, making a run to come within single digits (62-54) just under the 10-minute mark.
Liberty was able to jump back to a double-digit lead due to its defense forcing 12 turnovers in the second half. Sealing the win for the Flames with 2:13 left in the game was the senior, Kemrite, drilling his fourth three of the night to make it 80-64.
Liberty's next game will be the start of the regular season on Friday, Nov. 10, when the Flames host Clarks Summit. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Vines Center.