Liberty Hands North Florida Its First Home Loss of Season, Winning 73-62
Liberty handed North Florida its first home loss of the season, winning 73-62 over the Ospreys on Saturday afternoon at UNF Arena.
The Flames improve to 16-5 on the season and 7-1 in the ASUN. Liberty moves into first place by a half game over Kennesaw State (14-6, 6-1 ASUN), who will play later today at FGCU. This is Liberty’s first-ever win over UNF on its home floor and gives the Ospreys their first home loss of the season. UNF had entered the day 7-0 at home this season and brought a nine-game winning streak to the table dating back to last year. Liberty had been 0-3 against the Ospreys at UNF Arena prior to today’s triumph.
Liberty played its best basketball after intermission, outscoring UNF 38-25 over the final 20 minutes. Joseph Venzant grabbed 11 of his career-high 13 rebounds in the second frame, while Shiloh Robinson had 11 of his 17 points after the break and finished the game with a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards.
Freshman Colin Porter and redshirt senior Blake Preston had strong games as well. Porter scored seven points and had a career-best nine assists, while Preston had 13 of his 17 total points in the first half and grabbed five rebounds in the game.
Box Score Highlights
Liberty Individuals: Shiloh Robinson 17 points, 10 rebounds, 6-7 FG; Blake Preston 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists; Kyle Rode 14 points, 3-5 3FG, 4 rebounds; Darius McGhee 12 points, Colin Porter 7 points, career-high 9 assists, 2 steals, Joseph Venzant 6 points, career-high 13 rebounds
North Florida Individuals: Jose Placer 19 points, 4-9 3FG; Jonathan Aybar 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals; Carter Hendricksen 14 points, 6-9 FG
Key Team Stats: After UNF shot 57.7 percent (15-of-26) from the floor in the opening half, Liberty held the Ospreys to just seven field goals makes on 23 attempts (30.4 percent) in the final 20 minutes. The Flames notched 21 assisted on their 27 made baskets. Liberty held a decisive 41-24 edge on the boards, led by a combined 23 rebounds from Joseph Venzant (13) and Shiloh Robinson (10). Liberty also dominated the paint, winning that battle by a 34-16 count, and second chance points, 17-3.
Thoughts From Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“Because Darius (McGhee) is such a special player, sometimes what gets lost in that is how the other guys are. Sometimes that goodness is reflected in them starring in their roles. JV (Joseph Venzant) set an incredible tone for us in the second half. Defensively, he sat down in a stance. Shiloh Robinson was huge. I thought our team showed a toughness and maturity about them that continues to impress me.”
Liberty trailed 37-35 at the break but opened the half on a 9-0 run to take a 44-37 lead. Kyle Rode, who was in foul trouble in the first half and played only 4:34 in the opening frame, knocked down back-to-back threes to open the half. Darius McGhee’s fourth triple of the afternoon pushed the lead to seven (44-37) at the 17:52 mark.
UNF got within two, 54-52, following a three-pointer from Jarius Hicklen at the 7:33 mark, but a 12-2 Liberty run extending the lead to 12 (66-54) with 3:48 left. Joseph Venzant got the run started with a tip-in layup. On the Flames’ next possession, Kyle Rode drilled another three. Rode scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Liberty’s lead grew to 11, 64-53, following back-to-back baskets, a layup and three-pointer from the corner, for Shiloh Robinson. Venzant capped off the run with a defensive rebound on the other end, his 13th board of the game, and a layup in the paint for a 66-54 Flames edge with 3:46 left.
Key Stats & Notes
• Shiloh Robinson posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 boards in 33:42 of action off the bench. The senior was 6-of-7 from the floor. It is Robinson’s second career double-double, with his other being at Bellarmine on Feb. 3, 2022. Robinson is averaging 13.8 points and 5.8 rebounds over his last four games while shooting 84.6 percent (22-of-26) from the field.
• Colin Porter tallied a career-high nine assists today. He had six of the nine in the first half. His previous career high was eight against Regent in his first collegiate game, Nov. 7.
• Joseph Venzant’s 13 rebounds established a new career high. His previous career high was 11 against Stephen F. Austin during his freshman campaign (Dec. 11, 2021). Venzant had 11 of his 13 boards in the second half.
• Blake Preston scored 17 points today, coming within a point of matching a career high. The redshirt senior from Charlotte, N.C. averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games this week in the Sunshine State.
• Darius McGhee (12 points) became the second player in school history to eclipse the 2,300-point mark. He has 2,308 career points and is 65 points away from tying the school record of 2,373 points, held by Karl Hess. McGhee also became the first player this season to knock down 100 threes. His fourth and final three of the game, early in the second half, was his 100th triple of the season.
• UNF entered the day averaging 89.9 ppg at home. Liberty held UNF nearly 28 points below that average.
• Liberty improves to 7-4 all-time against UNF and 7-3 since joining the ASUN Conference.
Liberty will return home to face the Stetson Hatters (11-8, 6-2 ASUN), Thursday evening. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Liberty Arena and can be seen on ESPN+.
The Flames are 8-3 all-time versus the Hatters and 8-2 since joining the ASUN. The two squads last met on Feb. 19, 2022 at Liberty Arena, an 88-82 Flames victory.
Main Photo at Top of Story: No. 0 Colin Porter