Liberty falls to Winthrop on the road

libertyLiberty suffered its first loss on the road in the Big South this season on Saturday at the Winthrop Coliseum, falling to the Eagles 84-67. The Flames fall to 18-11 overall and 13-3 in conference.

Liberty’s Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz ended the game with a team-high 15 points while tying a career-high six rebounds. For the second straight game, Winthrop’s Keon Johnson scored 20-plus points with a game-high 24 points.

“That is why they (Winthrop) are a 21-win team. They have a very good team,” head coach Ritchie McKay said. “We are still in that process of becoming a very good team. Our guys battled today but we did some uncharacteristic things.”

The Flames got off to a slow start on offense as Winthrop went on a 12-2 run for the first five and a half minutes of the game. During Winthrop’s run Liberty was 1-of-7 from the floor while Roderick Perkins made two quick three-pointers. The Flames began to lock up on defense, limiting Winthrop to 1-of-5 from the floor after its run.

Liberty made just three field goals during the first 11 minutes, but in latter part of the first half, Pacheco-Ortiz got things going for the Flames. With three straight three-pointers, Pacheco-Ortiz was able to cut Winthrop’s lead to 11 points (31-20) with five and a half minutes left in the half.

Looking to make a run late in the half, the Flames cut the Eagles’ lead to single digits with less than two minutes left off a John Dawson layup. After exchanging baskets to end the half, Liberty would go into half trailing the Eagles 43-32.

Winthrop ended the half shooting 58.6 percent from the floor (17-of-29) led by Keon Johnson and Anders Broman with 11 points each. For the Flames, Pacheco-Ortiz scored a game-high 12 points in the first half to go along with a team-high five rebounds. Despite shooting 38.5 percent in the first 20 minutes (10-of-26), Liberty would end the first half making four of its last five field goals.

Liberty came out in the second half shooting 50 percent (3-of-6) from the floor during the first four minutes to stay within reach of the Eagles. When Liberty looked to trim the lead to single digits, Winthrop would respond with a bucket of its own to hold onto a double-digit lead. Looking to cut into the lead, Liberty held Winthrop without a field goal over a 3:15 span on missing four straight field goals but the Flames were unable to capitalize as they went on a two-minute scoring draught themselves.

As they looked to seal the win late in the game, Winthrop was solid on defense, limiting Liberty to 42.3 percent in the second half (11-of-26) to come away with the win.

Liberty will head home next week for its final home game during the regular season. On Thursday, the Flames will host in-state opponent Longwood. It will be Senior Night, where the Flames will honor Ray Chen and John Dawson. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Vines Center.

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