Three-Point Shooting Propels Liberty Past UNI
Liberty advances to the winner’s bracket after defeating Northern Iowa, 76-74, in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic with the Flames coming back from a double-digit deficit for the second straight game. The Flames improve to 8-4 and await the winner of the Stanford vs. Wyoming game.
Liberty’s offense struggled out the gates, shooting 1-7 from the field to start as Northern Iowa jumped out to a 20-9 lead by the 12-minute mark. The Flames were able to respond with a 12-0 run to get back into the game sparked by Shiloh Robinson scoring eight of Liberty’s 12 points during the run. The Flames took their first lead of the game (23-22) at the 8:49 mark of the first half. Liberty would get hot from beyond the arc to close out the half, shooting 50 percent from three-point range (8-16) as five different players made a three-pointer, led by Kyle Rode shooting a perfect 3-3. The Flames went into the break with a 39-31 lead over the Panthers. Liberty’s frontcourt of Micaiah Abii (seven points), Blake Preston, (two points) and Shiloh Robinson (eight points) scored 17 of Liberty’s 39 points in the first half.
Liberty once again struggled to start the half, as the Flames were held scoreless for the first four minutes of the half. Liberty got back on rhythm on offense as the Flames held an 11-point lead (60-49) with just under eight minutes left in the game. Keegan McDowell got hot in the second half, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the second half making a trio of three-pointers. Northern Iowa was able to storm back late in the game, making it a one-point game (75-74) with six seconds left in the contest. After McDowell made 1-2 free throws, UNI had a chance to win it at the buzzer but UNIU’s AJ Green missed a three-pointer giving Liberty the 76-64 win.
Key Stats & Notes
- Darius McGhee scored a game-high 22 points, recording his 19th career 20-point game.
- McGhee moved to No. 18 on Liberty’s all-time scoring list with 1,289 career points, passing Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz.
- Liberty shot 53 percent (28-52) from the field, the highest field goal percentage for Liberty against a Division I opponent this season.
- Liberty made 15 three-pointers while limiting UNI to six for the game.
- Shiloh Robinson scored 15 points, tying his career high.
- Liberty had four players score double figures in McGhee (22 points), Keegan McDowell (15 points), Robinson (15 points) and Micaiah Abii (11 points).
- Ritchie McKay won his 350th career game as a head coach.
Thoughts from Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“Really good win for our program, Northern Iowa is a program I have followed for years, and I have a great deal of admiration for. I think Ben Jacobson is a fabulous coach and their staff does a great job, and they have one of the best players in the country in AJ Green, so I was proud of our defensive efforts against him and the rest of their group. I think that was what was able to propel us to victory.”
Liberty now will face the winner of the Stanford vs. Wyoming contest. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 23, and can be seen on ESPN2.