Liberty Claims 6th Straight Win, Defeating JSU 75-41
Head Coach Ritchie McKay Press Conference
Darius McGhee and Blake Preston Press Conference
Liberty’s defense held Jacksonville State to 13 points in the first half, and the Flames rolled to a 75-41 victory over the Gamecocks in ASUN play, Thursday evening at Liberty Arena.
The Flames’ 13 points allowed in the opening frame were the fewest allowed by Liberty to any team this season. Liberty’s Darius McGhee made more history tonight, becoming the program’s second all-time leading scorer. McGhee scored a game-high 22 points and has 2,216 career points. He passed Liberty Athletics of Fame member Larry Blair (2,211 points) on the scoring list.
Liberty bolsters its overall record to 12-4 and 3-0 in the ASUN. The Flames have won six straight games and 10 of their last 11. Meanwhile, Jacksonville State slips to 7-9 and 0-3 in conference.
Box Score Highlights
Liberty Individuals: Darius McGhee 22 points, 6-10 3FG, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 0 turnovers; Brody Peebles 16 points, 5-7 3FG, 3 rebounds, 2 steals; Blake Preston 10 points, 5-6 FG, 3 rebounds, 3 assists
Jacksonville State Individuals: Skylear Potter 11 points, 4-6 FG, 4 rebounds; Amanze Ngumezi 9 points
Key Team Stats: Liberty shot 50 percent (28-of-56) for the game. The Flames are 8-1 this seson when shooting 50 percent or better. The Liberty defense held JSU to 34.1 percent shooting (14-of-41) on the night and 20 percent (4-of-20) in the first half. The Flames scored 27 points off 18 turnovers from the Gamecocks. Liberty is 11-1 this year when its opponent has more turnovers. Liberty’s bench outscored JSU’s reserves 31-14, led by 16 points from Brody Peebles. The Flames held a 28-20 edge in paints in the paint. Liberty entered the night as the national leader in three-pointers per game (12.3) and knocked down 13 more tonight. The Flames recorded 21 assists on 28 made baskets.
Thoughts From Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“I thought our effort defensively was what was needed in order to set a tone and beat a team that can get away from you really quickly. They are tremendously athletic and play with a lot of confidence. It was a little different tonight because we got ahead early, and they missed a couple. They were a little frustrated, but that’s a good team. Our guys are confident on the defensive end. They’re playing together and are connected on that end. I think that leads to sometimes a really good offensive flow.”
It was the Liberty defense that made an immediate impact from tipoff, as the Flames forced six Gamecocks turnovers in the first 9:32 of the game. During that timeframe, Liberty turned an early 4-2 deficit into a 15-4 lead, capped off by a Blake Preston turnaround jumper, his second early basket.
The Flames’ defense continued to make life difficult on the JSU offense. Liberty took a 22-8 lead and extended it to 34-8 with 4:46 on the first half clock. Brody Peebles punctuated the run with a four-point play. Liberty took a 25-point lead, 38-13, into the break.
Prior to tonight, the Flames’ best two defensive performances in halves were when they allowed 17 points to Bradley at the Cancun Challenge (Nov. 23) and 17 points to Regent in the season opener (Nov. 7).
Key Stats & Notes
• In three ASUN games, the Flames are winning by an average of 26.7 points. Liberty is averaging 74.0 points per game and allowing only 47.3 points per game. The Flames are shooting 50.8 percent from the floor in league play.
• This is tied for the second fewest points Liberty has ever allowed in an ASUN game. The Flames also surrendered only 41 points to Kennesaw State in a 62-41 win on Jan. 16, 2019. Liberty’s best-ever defensive effort in ASUN play was a 54-37 triumph at home over Jacksonville on Jan. 11, 2020.
• The Flames’ 41 points allowed tonight is the second fewest surrendered this season (fewest: 38 vs. Regent, Nov. 7) and least given up to a Division I opponent on the year. Liberty held JSU (71.8 ppg coming in) over 30 points below their season average.
• During Liberty’s six-game winning streak, the Flames are winning by an average of 26.2 points (77.8 ppg-51.7 ppg). Darius McGhee has knocked down 37 threes at a 53.6 percent clip (37-of-69) over the last six contests.
• McGhee, who entered the night leading the country in total three-pointers and threes per game (5.00) made six more threes tonight to bring his total to 81 on the year. He moved into seventh place on the all-time three-pointers list tonight, passing Chris Clemons (444 threes, 2016-19). McGhee is up to 447 career triples.
• His 22-point effort was his 12th game with 20 or more points this season. McGhee entered the game averaging exactly 22.0 ppg. McGhee added a season-high seven assists and did not turn the ball over.
• McGhee (2,216 career points) is 158 points away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in Liberty men’s basketball history. Karl Hess is the record holder with 2,373 career points.
• Peebles’ 16-point effort gives him 11 games in double figures this year. The sophomore guard from Hartselle, Ala. is shooting 52.1 percent (37-of-71) from three-point territory on the season.
• Making his second straight start, redshirt senior Blake Preston contributed 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
• Freshman Colin Porter finished the night with six points on 2-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc and added five assists. The Ashland, Ky. native has six games with five or more assists on the year.
• Tonight’s win is Liberty’s first over JSU. The all-time series is evened up at 1-1.
• Liberty has only trailed for only 64 seconds of the 160 minutes in its last four games. The Flames led for 37:27 tonight. A year ago against the Gamecocks, Liberty led for only 4:33.
Liberty will play its second road ASUN Conference game of the season on Sunday afternoon at Eastern Kentucky (9-7, 2-1 ASUN). Tip time is 1 p.m. at Baptist Health Arena in Richmond, Ky. and can be seen on ESPN+.
The Flames and Colonels met for the first time in ASUN play last season (Feb. 5, 2022). Liberty prevailed in a high-scoring affair, 91-84.
Main Photo at Top of Story: No. 2 Darius McGhee