Flames Fall 66-52 to Northwestern in Opening Game of Cancun Challenge
The Liberty Flames fell 66-52 to the Northwestern Wildcats in the opening game of the 2022 Cancun Challenge, Tuesday evening at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
Liberty led by a point (29-28) over Northwestern at the half but committed a season-high 18 turnovers in the game and shot 22.2 percent (6-of-27) from the floor in the final 20 minutes.
The Flames drop to 2-3 this season and will play in tomorrow’s third place game in the Riviera Division. Liberty will face Bradley, who lost 85-64 to No. 13 Auburn in the first game on Tuesday evening. That game will tip at 6 p.m. tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, Northwestern stays unbeaten at 5-0 and will face the Auburn Tigers in tomorrow’s championship game at 8:30 p.m.
Liberty was paced by Darius McGhee with a game-high 23 points. McGhee moved into fourth place on the program’s all-time scoring list this evening and has 1,968 career points. The senior guard passed Mark Chafin (1,947 points) for fourth place with a three-pointer at the 13:30 mark of the first half.
Box Score Highlights
Liberty Individuals: Darius McGhee 23 points, 3 rebounds; Kyle Rode 11 points, 3-7 3FG, 4 assists
Northwestern Individuals: Chase Audige 20 points, 7-11 FG, 5 assists; Ty Berry 19 points, 7-7 FT, 7 rebounds
Key Team Stats: The Flames shot 34 percent (17-of-50) from the floor and committed a season-most 18 turnovers. Northwestern shot 43.1 percent (22-of-51) for the game and connected on 52.2 percent (12-of-23) of its shots in the second half. The Wildcats scored 21 points off Liberty turnovers and held a 28-12 edge in points in the paint. Northwestern was 16-of-21 (76.2 percent) from the line, while Liberty was a perfect 9-of-9.
Thoughts From Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“We continue to self inflict. You can’t turn it over 18 times and put people at the line as many times as we have. Teams are going to the line at an incredible rate.”
Liberty led 35-30 with 16:45 remaining following a three-pointer from Kyle Rode, but Northwestern followed it up with a 14-0 run over the next 5:50 to take a nine-point advantage.
The Flames got within three (46-43) at the 9:32 mark following a three-point play from Darius McGhee, but the Wildcats once again had an answer with an 11-2 run. Northwestern’s Boo Buie banked in a three with 5:45 to go for a 57-45 advantage. The Flames scored the next five points to get within seven, 57-50, but Northwestern closed the game by scoring nine of the final 11 points.
Key Stats & Notes
• The Flames led the Wildcats by as many as 12 in the opening half. Liberty had a 27-15 advantage at the 5:40 mark, but Northwestern finished the half on a 13-2 run.
• The Liberty defense held Northwestern’s top scorer Boo Buie (17.3 ppg coming in) to a season-low five points on 1-of-8 shooting.
• Kyle Rode scored 11 points tonight, his first game in double figures since scoring 20 points against Kennesaw State last season (Feb. 26, 2022).
• Shiloh Robinson grabbed a season-best six rebounds, and Joseph
• Darius McGhee knocked down 7-of-7 free throws and is shooting 90.5 percent (19-of-21) from the free throw line through five games.
• The Flames’ 18 turnovers tonight are their most since also committing the same amount at Eastern Kentucky in a 91-84 win last season (Feb. 5, 2022).
• Liberty drops to 0-3 all-time versus Northwestern and 0-6 against the Big Ten.
The Flames will face the Bradley Braves in the third place game of the Riviera Division, Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. Liberty and Bradley (3-2) have never met in men’s basketball.
The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network.