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    Liberty Wins 70-53 on the Road at Bellarmine to Open ASUN Play, Thursday

    Dec 29, 2022 | Louisville Ky | Men's Basketball

    The Liberty Flames won 70-53 over the Bellarmine Knights to open ASUN Conference play, Thursday evening at Freedom Hall.

    Darius McGhee (game-high 24 points) and Kyle Rode (season-high 22 points) combined for 46 points in the convincing win. The Flames (10-4) pick up their 10th win of the season and improve to 1-0 in the ASUN. The Knights drop to 5-9 and 0-1 in the league.

    McGhee’s 24-point effort featured eight threes. The redshirt senior guard, who came into the game leading the nation in total three-pointers and three-pointers per game, was 8-of-15 from long distance for his fourth career game with at least eight threes. His eight threes are one off his program record of nine threes, which he set 10 days ago (Dec. 19) in a 36-point effort against Grambling.

    McGhee jumped six spots on the all-time career three pointers listing for NCAA Division I men’s basketball tonight, going from 14th to eighth all-time. The guard now has 436 career makes from long distance, with 70 of those coming this year (five per game).

    Rode’s 22-point effort was two points off a career high and eclipsed his previous season high of 15 points, which he set against Bryant in the Hall of Fame Classic, Dec. 17.

    Box Score Highlights
    Liberty Individuals: Darius McGhee 24 points, 8-15 3FG, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal; Kyle Rode 22 points, 10-16 FG, 4 assists; Joseph Venzant 2 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists

    Bellarmine Individuals: Garrett Tipton 16 points, 6-11 FG; Ben Johnson 14 points, 6-11 FG; Peter Suder 12 points, 6 rebounds

    Key Team Stats: Liberty committed a season-low five turnovers and shot 53.8 percent (28-of-52) from the floor. Liberty is 7-1 this year when shooting 50 percent or better from the field. The Flames forced 13 Knights turnovers and held Bellarmine to 44.4 percent shooting (20-of-45). Liberty, who entered the game leading the country in three-point field goals made per game (12.3), kept pace with its season average by burying 12 more threes tonight. The Flames had 18 assists on 28 made baskets and featured six players with multiple assists.

    Thoughts From Head Coach Ritchie McKay
    “Kyle Rode is one of the most underrated, unheralded players in the country. He’s really a tremendous player that doesn’t get much credit, with how selfless he is in terms of numbers. When you have a kid like Darius McGhee, you kind of want to slow down the clock. You want more time with him, and Kyle’s the same way. We have a room full of guys like that.

    The thing I take away from this is our guys knew hard it was going to be because of how good Bellarmine is with the pressure they put on you on the defensive end and how together they play. We always come in here with a great deal of respect and preparation because you have to have that to beat a Bellarmine team.”

    Turning Point
    Liberty led 35-24 at the break and got off to a strong start to the second half, going on an 11-3 run in the first four minutes to open up a 46-27 lead. McGhee hit his fourth, fifth and sixth threes of the night during that spurt.

    The Knights answered with a 13-3 run of their own to get within nine (49-40) with 10:20 left. Liberty’s Rode stopped the run and pushed the lead back up to 11, 51-40, with a basket, the start of a 13-2 Flames run. Liberty’s run ended with a driving layup from Rode at the 5:44 mark, stretching the lead to 20 (62-42).

    Key Stats & Notes
    • Two of McGhee’s eight threes were improbable makes with the shot clock expiring, one in the first half and one in the second half. McGhee hit a rainbow three as the shot clock ended at the 1:34 mark of the first frame. With 1:58 to play in the contest, he hit a left-handed three-pointer while being covered by two players, putting Liberty ahead 67-48 with his eighth and final triple of the night.
    • McGhee now has 11 games of 20-plus points this season and 46 for his career.
    • Rode’s 10 made field goals tonight are a career high. The Bluegrass State native (22 points) was two points off a career high. His career high is 24 points, set last season (Feb. 8, 2022) against Lipscomb.
    • Sophomore guard Joseph Venzant, the team’s leading rebounder at 5.5 rpg entering the night, grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. It is the second double-digit rebounding game of the season (other vs. Southern Miss, Nov. 18) for Venzant and third of his career.
    • Liberty improves to 4-1 all-time in ASUN openers and 3-1 all-time versus Bellarmine. The Flames are 3-0 against the Knights at Freedom Hall.
    • The Flames bolster their all-time ASUN mark to 52-11 (.825 winning percentage).
    • Liberty has featured the same starting five (Colin Porter, Darius McGhee, Joseph Venzant, Kyle Rode, Shiloh Robinson) in all 14 games so far this season.

    Up Next
    Liberty will face Lipscomb (8-5, 0-0 ASUN) in its first game in 2023. The Flames and Bisons will square off on Monday evening at Liberty Arena. Tip time is 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN+.