Augusta Free Press

James’ double-double leads Liberty past Longwood

Liberty followed Scottie James’ lead on the road as the big man posted his seventh double-double of the season to help the Flames defeat Longwood, 67-55. James posted a career-high 28 points to go along with 11 rebounds as the Flames improve to 15-10 overall and 6-6 in the Big South.

The Flames’ defense was on point all day at Willett Hall, limiting Longwood (6-18, 3-8 BSC) to 34 percent (16-of-47) field-goal shooting throughout the game and forcing 16 turnovers, which translated to 16 points for the Flames. Caleb Homesley filled the stat sheet with seven points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a career-high five steals.

In a game where the three-point shot was not effective for the Flames (4-for-19, 21.1%) the team resorted to attacking inside. Liberty outscored Longwood inside the paint, 34-14, as the frontcourt of Liberty (Myo Baxter-Bell, James and Ezra Talbert) combined to go for 36 points and 13 rebounds. The Flames were clutch from the free-throw line shooting 82.6 percent (19-for-23) from the charity stripe, led by James with nine makes.

A slow start on offense plagued both teams to start the game as the teams combined to score five points on 2-of-14 shooting (Longwood led 3-2) in the first five minutes of the game. Liberty started to get things going on offense jumping out on an 8-0 run over the course of four minutes to take a 12-5 lead over the Lancers.

The Lancers came back to tie the game midway through the 1st half (12-12) and from then on both teams went back-and-forth as the game was tied seven times with seven different lead changes in the half. Liberty went on a 7-1 run to close out the half, to secure a 32-26 lead at halftime, as Talbert sent home a dunk right before the buzzer off a steal by Homesley.

As the offense took a while to develop a rhythm, Liberty’s defense was solid all throughout the half, forcing 10 turnovers. The Flames’ frontcourt provided the offense in the first half as Baxter-Bell, James and Ezra Talbert combined for 17 of Liberty’s 32 points. Liberty outscored Longwood 16-6 inside the paint and with five offensive rebounds, the Flames capitalized with 11 second-chance points. Providing a spark on offense, Liberty’s bench outscored the Lancers’ bench, 17-9, led by Baxter-Bell with eight points.

Extending their lead, the Flames opened the second half on a 10-0 run. Stellar defense sparked the second half run as Liberty did not allow Longwood to score in the first 4:50 of the second half. With 8:17 left in the game, Longwood cut Liberty’s lead to single digits (49-40) as Longwood’s Damarion Geter scored six points early in the half.

Sealing the win, Liberty’s defense locked up, limiting the Lancers to 15 points in the final eight minutes. From the 8:17 mark until 4:10, Liberty held Longwood to 1-for-6 from the floor as Liberty came away with its second straight win at Willett Hall.

The Flames will continue their road trip next week on Wednesday, when they travel to Charleston Southern. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Buc Dome.