“That was a resilient effort by a group of incredible young men,” head coach Ritchie McKay said. “I am so proud of them. When guys were afforded the opportunity, they stepped up.”
With the Flames down 70-69 with 39 seconds left in the game, Liberty looked to take the lead and with nine seconds left Isaiah Williams forced Anders Broman to commit a foul. Sending Williams to the line, the redshirt freshman came up clutch with two free-throws to give Liberty the one-point lead (71-70). Liberty would get two stops on the defensive end and a pair of Ryan Kemrite free-throws gave Liberty the three-point win. Winthrop, the defending Big South champion, falls to 7-8 overall and 1-3 in conference.
“Isaiah is such a unique player because he is tough and he is a warrior,” McKay added. “He wants to do what is right and to his credit he is making winning plays.”
The victory is Liberty’s first at the Winthrop Coliseum since Feb. 18, 2004. Lovell Cabbil led the way for the Flames with a team-high 19 points and five assists to go along with five rebounds. Joining Cabbil in double-figures was Caleb Homesley (13), Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz (11) and Williams (10). The Flames were efficient on the glass out-rebounding the Eagles 38-27 throughout the game. The Flames capitalized off second chance opportunities scoring 13 points off 14 offensive rebounds.
“We just believed in the next guy up. We believe in each other and anyone from our bench can come in and contribute,” Cabbil said. “It means a lot to get my first win here but now we have to get ready for Longwood.”
While Liberty’s offense struggled to get things going to start the game shooting 1-5 from the field, the Eagles jumped out to a 9-2 lead as they shot 4-5 to open the first half. The Flames’ offensive woes plagued the team early going scoreless for 4:52 as Winthrop held a 14-2 lead, its biggest lead of the game.
Getting in a groove on offense, Liberty went on a 8-0 run, holding Winthrop scoreless for nearly four minutes to come within four points (14-10) of Winthrop’s lead. Liberty continued to turn up the heat on defense limiting the Eagles to just 1-8 shooting during a six minute span. Myo Baxter-Bell tied the game at the eight minute mark at 17-17. After exchanging a few buckets, Winthrop went on a 6-0 run to regain a 26-19 lead with 3:52 left in the first half. Liberty would close the gap to end the half on a 7-3 run to go into halftime trailing 33-29.
Winthrop’s starters provided the offense in the first half scoring all 33 points as the Flames did not allow a player from the Eagles’ bench to score. The Eagles were led by Adam Pickett as one of two players to record double-digits in the first half with 10 points shooting a perfect 3-3 from the field and 4-4 from the free-throw line.
Cabbil led all scorers with 13 points, shooting 5-9 from the field, including a trio of three-pointers. The Flames out-rebounded the Eagles 20-14 in the first half. As the Flames tightened up on defense to end the half, Liberty forced 10 turnovers, including seven steals.
Liberty’s defense opened the second half holding Winthrop scoreless for the first three minutes as they took the lead for a brief moment off a three-pointer by Isaiah Williams. After Winthrop held a 39-35 lead at the 15:49-mark, Liberty went on a 14-2 run over the course of three minutes to take a 49-41 lead.
The game of runs continued as Winthrop countered with a 12-0 run to take the lead 51-49 with 10 minutes left in the game. Liberty was able to stay within reaching distance of Winthrop’s lead midway through the 2nd half before making their late run to close out the game. As the Flames ended the game on a 10-0 run, Winthrop went 0-6 from the field to close out the contest.
The Flames will return home to close out the week when they host in-state opponent Longwood. Tipoff against the Lancers is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, at the Vines Center.