Liberty falls to UNC-G on the road, 72-65

libertyLiberty was unable to overcome a poor first-half shooting performance, falling to former Big South foe UNCG, 72-65, Saturday evening, in Fleming Gym.

Liberty, who only connected on four field goals during the first half, cut an 18-point lead to as little as five late in the game. However, the Flames drop to 4-4 on the year as they were unable to get any closer during the waning seconds of the contest.

UNCG moves to 6-2 on the season after shooting 42.0 percent from the floor (21-of-50). The Spartans, Big South members from 1993-97, were paced by Marvin Smith, who scored 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the floor and 6-of-7 shooting from the line.

RJ White followed with 16 points (6-of-8 from the field), while Francis Alonso came off the bench to net 15 points, aided by a perfect 10-of-10 performance from the line.

Liberty ended the night shooting 40.4 percent from the floor (21-of-52). The Flames finished the first 20 minutes of play shooting 17.4 percent (4-of-23), while dramatically improving during the second half by shooting 58.6 percent (17-of-29).

Caleb Homesley led Liberty with 18 points and 10 rebounds, his second straight double-double. Ray Chen added 14 points off the bench, while Myo Baxter Bell chipped in 12 points, with 10 coming during Liberty’s attempted comeback.

Scoring was at a premium during the early parts of the game with the two teams committing five turnovers during the first five minutes. Smith staked the home team to a 5-0 lead on a three-pointer 17 seconds into the game and a layup at 16:43.

Lovell Cabbil got the Flames on the scoreboard knocking down a three-pointer from the top of the key at the 16:27 mark.

The Flames were held without a field goal over the next 9:50, allowing the Spartans to open up a 15-3 lead on a pair of free throw by Smith a 6:46. The Flames were 0-13 from the field during the near 10-minute stretch.

Homesley ended the drought with a layup at 6:37, jumpstarting the Flames’ offense. Liberty scored 12 of its 18 first half points during the final five minutes of play.

The Flames scored eight of their 12 points at the charity stripe during the closing minutes of the half, which saw the home team push its lead to 18 points on two different occasions. The first half also saw the two teams combined for 18 turnovers and UNCG take a 33-18 lead into the locker room at the break.

UNCG finished the opening 20 minutes of play by shooting 43.5 percent from the floor (10-of-23), including 4-of-10 from three-point range. Smith paced the way for the Spartans during the opening half with 13 points, followed by seven from White.

Liberty shot 17.4 percent from the floor during the first half, hitting on just 4-of-23 attempts from the floor. The visitors did knock down 8-of-10 attempts from the free throw line. Homesley led the Flames with seven points, followed by Chen four points at the free throw line.

Baxter-Bell got the Flames off to a better start during the second half, trimming UNCG’s lead to 13, 35-22, with a pair of baskets during the opening two minutes.

Following an old-fashion three-point play from White at 16:04, the Flames kept feeding Baxter-Bell in the low post, powering up a layup at 15:40 to keep the lead at 14, 38-24.

The Spartans pushed their lead to 16 points, 40-24, on back-to-back fast break layups by Diante Baldwin at 14:07. Liberty scored seven of the next nine points to trim the UNCG lead to 11 points, 42-31, on a Homesley three-pointer at 12:21.

The Flames continued to chip into the home team’s lead, using an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to six points, 47-41, on a layup by Brock Gardner with 8:52 left in the contest.

But that was as close as Liberty got down the stretch. UNCG took a 52-43 lead on a Baldwin jumper at 7:58 and sank a free throw after the media timeout.

The Spartans looked like they would hold a comfortable margin during the remainder of the game, thanks to hitting 12-of-18 free throws during the last eight minutes of play.

However, Liberty slowly whittled away at the deficit, cutting it to as little as five, 70-65, on a Cabbil three-pointer with 13 seconds left. But the visitors eventually ran out of time in their comeback effort.

The Flames will kick off a three-game homestand on Tuesday night when they host Furman. Tipoff from the Vines Center will be at 7 p.m.


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