Late Liberty rally falls short in loss to Princeton
Liberty used a 16-2 run over a six-minute span to close a 15-point gap to one point on a Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz three-pointer with 1:41 left to play. Following a basket by Myles Stephens with 46 seconds left, Liberty missed a chance to tie the game on an A.C. Reid three-point attempt with 19 ticks left on the game clock.
The loss, Liberty’s fourth in the last five games, drops the Flames to 4-6 on the season. For the second game in a row, the Flames showed a marked second-half shooting improvement (54.2 percent/13-of-24), allowing them to finish the game shooting 46.0 percent (23-of-50).
Ryan Kemrite paced the way for the Flames, netting 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Pacheco-Ortiz added 14 points and Caleb Homesley scored 13 points before leaving the game in the second half with an injury.
Princeton evens its record to 4-4 on the year and moves to a perfect 4-0 in matchups with the Flames. The Tigers finished the game hitting 17-of-37 three-point attempts to establish a new opponent Vines Center record for three-point field goals.
Princeton came into the game averaging 9.1 three-point field goals per game.
Aaron Young came off the bench to lead Princeton with a career-best 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, all coming from beyond the three-point arc. Stephens also had a career game with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor and 4-of-5 from long range.
The Tigers got off to an 8-3 start following back-to-back three-pointers from Steven Cook at the 18:32 and 17:54 mark. Liberty scored the game’s next five points, tying the game at 8-8 after a Brock Gardner trey from the wing at 16:20.
Princeton knocked down its seventh field goal of the game at 10:39, six of which were three-pointers, pushing its lead to 21-11 after triple from Spencer Weisz.
Homesley kept the long-range battle going, hitting on consecutive three-pointers to cut Princeton’s lead to 24-17 with a three from in front of the visitor’s bench at 8:20.
Liberty started to find is touch from beyond the three-point arc when Reid and Pacheco-Ortiz hit consecutive three-pointers to cut the deficit to four points, 27-23, at 6:32.
Princeton held the Flames without a field goal for a three-minute span, pushing its lead to 35-24 following a layup by Cook with 1:34 left to play.
Liberty scored four of the last six points of the half, trimming the halftime deficit to 37-28 on layups by Kemrite (1:16) and Pacheco-Ortiz (0:18).
Princeton finished the opening 20 minutes of play shooting 46.4 percent from the floor (13-of-28), including 10-of-22 from three-point range. Young came off the bench to pace the Tigers with 15 points, followed by 12 points from Cook.
Liberty was held to 38.5 percent shooting during the first half (10-of-26), including 6-of-15 from long range. Homesley was the Flames’ leading scorer with 10 points.
The Tigers continued to find success from three-point range, opening up 10-point lead, 46-36, following a Young three-pointer, Princeton’s 13th of the contest.
Myo Baxter-Bell pulled the Flames within five points, 46-41, at 12:39 by powering up a layup and connecting on the following attempt from the charity stripe.
Princeton scored the game’s next eight points, pushing its lead to 54-42 on its 15th three-pointer of the game at 10:21 by Cook to set the new opponent Vines Center record.
The Flames continued to battle during the remainder of the second half, trimming the deficit to eight points, 61-53, following a four-play play from Kemrite. The junior knocked down a three-pointer from the baseline and followed with a free throw at the 5:54 mark.
Just over a minute later, Reid found Gardner heading to the basket and the freshman threw down a dunk to pull Liberty to within six points, 61-55, with 4:34 left in the contest.
Following a Gardner layup at 2:28, Liberty capped its 16-2 run when Pacheco-Ortiz hit a deep three-pointer from the top of the key at the 1:41 mark.
Princeton would not allow the Flames to complete the rally, as a dunk by Stephens with 46 second left and a pair of free throws from Devin Cannady with 14 second remaining sealed the Tigers’ road victory.
The Flames will wrap up a three-game homestand next Friday when they host Clarks Summit in the Vines Center. Tipoff for Liberty’s final non-conference home game of the season is set for 7 p.m.