Defense late keys Liberty in win over North Florida

liberty basketballLiberty faced its toughest test so far in ASUN Conference play as the Flames hosted North Florida at the Vines Center in front of a crowd of 4,958 on Saturday.

For the first time this season in conference, the Flames trailed at half but Liberty was able to lock up on defense to pull out the 70-64 win over the Ospreys.

Liberty improves to 16-4 overall and 5-0 in the ASUN, while North Florida drops to 9-11 overall and 3-2 in conference.

For a program that prides itself on defense, the Flames had to raise its level of play on the defensive end against a very talented offensive team in North Florida. With the game tied with five minutes left to play, Liberty held the Ospreys to just five points during the remainder of the contest.

North Florida shot 1-9 during the final five minutes, while also committing three turnovers. While frustrating UNF on offense, Liberty in return got to the free throw line in the final five minutes, converting 7-10 from the charity stripe to come out with the win. Liberty held North Florida to just 34.6 percent shooting (9-26) from the field during the second half.

“It was a grind, no doubt about it,” Liberty coach Ritchie McKay said. “I think and know we can play better, but I think North Florida had a lot to do with it. They have a little bit of a different system, where they run people off the three-point line and they make it tough. This was a good win because of the adversity we faced. The atmosphere was terrific. Our students were as good as they’ve been since I’ve been back. They were phenomenal and I hope this gets noticed on social media because they were worth five or six points.”

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