Liberty drops road contest at Charleston Southern

liberty basketballLiberty looked for its fourth straight win Wednesday night Charleston Southern but could not overcome the Buccaneers three-point shooting as the Flames fell to CSU 87-75.

The Flames (15-11, 6-7 BSC) shot 53.3 percent (24-45) from the floor but committed 17 turnovers while the Buccaneers (10-14, 5-8) shot 60.9 percent (28-46) led by Travis McConico with a career-high 23 points and a game-high 24 points from Cortez Mitchell. It was Liberty’s second loss this season where the Flames have shot over 50 percent for the game.

“They (Charleston Southern) got threes and layups,” head coach Ritchie McKay said. “They had not fear of our defense and they did whatever they wanted. We will have to go back tomorrow at practice and make sure we are better defensively.”

Ryan Kemrite made history becoming Liberty’s all-time leader in three-pointers with 229 career makes. Ending the game with a team-high 15 points, Lovell Cabbil became the 26th player in school history to score 900 career points. Cabbil ended the game with 903 career points.

Starting the game 80 percent from the floor (4-5), the Flames jumped out to a 12-6 lead sparked by five points in the first four minutes from Scottie James. Charleston Southern countered with an 8-0 run to take the lead, holding Liberty scoreless for nearly three minutes. The Buccaneers continued to shoot lights out in the first half making six of their first eight three-pointers as they extended their lead to 15 points (33-18) with 5:12 left in the half sparked by a 13-0 run.

The Flames would attempt to cut into CSU’s lead and held the Bucs scoreless for over two minutes. Going on an 8-0 run, Liberty cut the lead to single digits (33-26) late in the half. Liberty would make four of its last five field goals to go into halftime trailing 37-31.

Charleston Southern’s bench was the difference maker in the first half outscoring Liberty’s 22-9 led by McConico with 12 points. The Buccaneers ended the first half shooting 65.2 percent (15-23) and 58.3 percent from three (7-12) in the first half as seven different players scored.

James led the way for Liberty with nine points, shooting 4-5 from the field to go along with three rebounds. The Flames shot 55 percent (11-20) in the half while also going 60 percent (6-10) from three-point range.

After fighting and crawling to come within the Buccaneers’ lead, the Flames would tie the game at the 8:26-mark off a pair of free throws by Cabbil and would take the lead (61-59) with 7:45 left in the game off two makes from the charity stripe from Homesley. Charleston Southern would respond by holding the Flames scoreless for over two minutes to retake a five point lead (66-61) with 5:38 left in the game.

The Bucs would the win converting 18-22 free throws in the second half to come away with the win. Charleston Southern would end the second half shooting 61.9 percent (13-21) led by Mitchell with 16 points.

The Flames will close out this week’s play at home on Saturday, Feb. 10, against Gardner-Webb. Tipoff versus the Runnin’ Bulldogs is set for 7 p.m. at the Vines Center.