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Liberty's Late Game Defense Shines in Win over North Florida

January 19, 2019  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty faced its toughest test so far in ASUN Conference play as the Flames hosted North Florida at the Vines Center in front of a crowd of 4,958 on Saturday. For the first time this season in conference, the Flames trailed at half but Liberty was able to lock up on defense to pull out the 70-64 win over the Ospreys. Liberty improves to 16-4 overall and 5-0 in the ASUN, while North Florida drops to 9-11 overall and 3-2 in conference.   

Turning Point

For a program that prides itself on defense, the Flames had to raise its level of play on the defensive end against a very talented offensive team in North Florida. With the game tied with five minutes left to play, Liberty held the Ospreys to just five points during the remainder of the contest. North Florida shot 1-9 during the final five minutes, while also committing three turnovers. While frustrating UNF on offense, Liberty in return got to the free throw line in the final five minutes, converting 7-10 from the charity stripe to come out with the win. Liberty held North Florida to just 34.6 percent shooting (9-26) from the field during the second half.    

Key Stats & Notes

  • Liberty is 5-0 in conference play for the second time in school history and first time since 2011.
  • North Florida went into the game 8-1 when leading at halftime, while the Flames were 0-3 when trailing at half.
  • Liberty is 9-0 at home for the first time since the 2008-09 season, during head coach Ritchie McKay's first stint at Liberty.
  • Tonight marked the first time Liberty trailed at half since Dec. 18 against Alabama (seven games ago).
  • The contest marked the first time Liberty has played in a game this season where the outcome was decided by six points or less.
  • North Florida committed 18 turnovers, while Liberty recorded nine.
  • Liberty's frontcourt (Myo Baxter-Bell and Scottie James) combined for 28 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in the game.
  • Liberty had three players score in double figures (Baxter-Bell, Caleb Homesley and James) led by James' 18 points, shooting 7-11 from the floor.
  • The Flames outscored North Florida 40-26 inside the paint.
  • Liberty posted 14 assists with Elijah Cuffee and Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz leading the way with four assists each.

Thoughts from Coach McKay

"It was a grind, no doubt about it. I think and know we can play better, but I think North Florida had a lot to do with it. They have a little bit of a different system, where they run people off the three-point line and they make it tough. This was a good win because of the adversity we faced. The atmosphere was terrific. Our students were as good as they've been since I've been back. They were phenomenal and I hope this gets noticed on social media because they were worth five or six points."     

Up Next

The Flames will have a quick turnaround as they stay at home to face North Alabama. Tip-off against the Lions is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, and the game can be seen on ESPN+.