Men’s basketball: Liberty ends non-conference with loss to Houston

libertyLiberty concluded its non-conference schedule with a matchup against Houston. At the Hofheinz Pavilion, the Cougars had won their last eight games and on Wednesday night they extended the streak to nine games, defeating the Flames 77-54.

Overall, the Cougars move to 9-2 on the season, while the setback back, Liberty’s second in three days in the “Lone Star” state, drops the Flames to 5-8 on the year.

Returning to his hometown, Ryan Kemrite led Liberty with 15 points while fellow Texan Lovell Cabbil (Arlington, Texas) posted season highs with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Houston, who entered the game No. 3 in the country in three-point shooting percentage, finished the night hitting 13-of-30 attempts from behind the three-point arc (43.3 percent). Overall, the Cougars ended the game shooting 50.9 percent from the floor (28-of-55), marking fourth time a Liberty opponent has shot 50.0 percent or higher against the Flames this season.

Damyean Dotson and Rob Gray led Houston’s 23-point victory, each netting 22 points. Dotson also pulled down 11 rebounds, marking his second-straight double-double for the Cougars.

The Flames tried to keep pace with Houston’s stellar outside shooting performance, hitting 11-of-23 three-point attempts (47.8 percent). Eleven of the team’s 18 field goals in the game came from long range as Liberty finished the game overall shooting 40.9 percent (18-of-44).

Liberty grabbed its first lead at the 16:12 mark when Cabbil hit a three-pointer to put the Flames up 6-5. Houston retook the lead and began to make a small run led by Gray with back-to-back threes to put the Cougars up 16-8.

The Flames relied on its defense and the three-ball to bring them back into the game, holding Houston to just four points from the 11:58 mark to 7:55 left in the first half. On the offensive side of the ball, Liberty looked to make shots behind the arc. Back-to-back threes from A.C. Reid and Kemrite brought the Flames within one point (20-19) of the Cougars’ lead.

Once again, the three-pointer came in handy for the Flames’ offense as Kemrite hit a three with 5:34 left in the first half to give Liberty a 27-25 lead. The game continued to go back-and-forth as the two teams exchanged the lead four times within the last five minutes of the half. Kemrite would knock down a pair of free-throw attempts with seconds left in the first half to go into halftime trailing the Cougars 35-34.

The starting five of Liberty stepped up in the first half scoring 28 of the Flames’ 34 points led by Kemrite with 10 points. The Flames were efficient on offense shooting 57.1 percent from the field (12-of-21) and a sizzling 66.7 percent from three-point range (8-of-12) during the first 20 minutes of play. Despite the height advantage the Cougars posed, Liberty was able to hold its own, grabbing the same amount of boards as UH with 11 for each team.

Liberty got off to a solid start in the second with a three by Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz to tie the game just 30 seconds into the half that sparked an 8-2 run, resulting in a five-point lead for the Flames, 42-37, at the 17:59 mark.

Liberty had the challenge of battling foul trouble during the second half with the Flames being whistled for five fouls in the first 4:30 minutes, including Preseason All-Big South selection John Dawson picking up his third foul which forced the senior to the bench.

It looked like Houston was going to start to make a run going on a 5-0 run sparked by a three from Wes Vanbeck put the Cougars up 52-47, but Cabbil halted that spurt with a running floater and the foul to make it 52-50. After the media timeout at 11:59, Houston went on a 20-3 run to give them its biggest lead of the game 72-52 with 2:29 left in the game.

Following the Christmas break, the Flames will now head into Big South Conference play beginning on Thursday, Dec. 29,on the road at Presbyterian. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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