Liberty defeats Charleston Southern for sixth straight win

libertyLiberty remained in a tie for first place in the Big South Conference after a 76-69 win over Charleston Southern, Saturday afternoon, in the Vines Center.

The win extends the Flames winning streak to six games as they improve to 17-10 overall and 12-2 in conference. Myo Baxter-Bell tied a career-high with 19 points while Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz dished out a career-high eight assists.

“This is new territory for us. We’re in a tie for first place,” head coach Ritchie McKay said. “We’ve had some tough nights but if we’re right, we can beat anyone. We are continuing to add some layers to our defensive system in order to give us a chance.”

For the first time since Jan. 11, Liberty out rebounded its opponent pulling down 36 rebounds while holding CSU to 30 boards. Liberty was also able to limit the Bucs to 16 points in the paint and 37.5 percent from the field (21-of-56). Cortez Mitchell led Charleston Southern (8-17, 4-9 BSC) with a game-high 23 points all in the second half.

Both teams started the game efficient on offense combining to shoot 7-of-9 from the floor in the first four and a half minutes of the game. Liberty grabbed its first lead of the game (9-8) at the 17:21 mark of the first half when Baxter-Bell drove the paint for a layup. The redshirt freshman was effective on both ends of the court to start the game with six points in the first three minutes as well as not allowing Charleston Southern to score in the paint during the first 14 minutes and 18 seconds minutes of the game.

Baxter-Bell and Ryan Kemrite led Liberty’s offense, scoring the team’s first 15 points as Kemrite started the game 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, helping Liberty jump out to a 15-11 lead. While Baxter-Bell and Kemrite kick-started the offense, the team was playing exceptional defense, holding CSU on a scoring draught for four minutes and 38 seconds.

As the Flames continued to use the three-point line in their favor in the first half, shooting 50.0 percent in the first 20 minutes (6-of-12), Liberty held CSU on a two-minute scoring draught midway through the first half to extend its lead to 33-19 sparked by back-to-back dunks from Baxter-Bell.

Charleston Southern made a 10-0 run to come within six points (33-27) of Liberty’s lead with 1:42 left in the first half. Liberty quickly responded with four quick points during the final 1:26 to go into halftime with a 37-27 lead.

It was the tenth time Liberty has held a Big South opponent to 30 points or less this season during the first half. Baxter-Bell ended the first half with a game-high 14 points with Kemrite right behind with 12 points. The Flames displayed great ball movement in the first half as they made 12 field goals off 11 assists. Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz tied his career high in assists in the first half alone with six dimes.

“Defensively we got rolling and started to make some shots,” Baxter-Bell said. “I was able to get a couple of touches early to get my confidence up and after that it was a matter of us executing on offense. Our mindset on defense is hold them to one shot and contest that shot. I think we did a good job of that tonight.”

It was an even battle starting in the second half as both teams scored 11 points in the first six and a half minutes. Pacheco-Ortiz surpassed his career high in assists just three minutes into the second half, dishing out his seventh assist to Baxter-Bell to put Liberty up 43-30. Charleston Southern cut it to single digits at the 10:30 mark and cut it to five points (52-47) off a three-pointer by Cortez Mitchell.

The roles were reversed in the second half as Charleston Southern used the three-pointer to get back into the game, making five threes during the first 15 minutes led by Mitchell with 23 points in the second half alone.

Stepping up for the Flames was Lovell Cabbil with 12 points during the second half to help maintain Liberty’s lead and the eventual victory. Liberty locked down after CSU came within four points (64-60) with four and a half minutes left and held CSU to a 3:02 scoring draught. The Bucs were 0-of-6 in its last six field goal attempts.

Liberty will have another quick turnaround in its next game as they host High Point. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Vines Center.


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