Liberty wins double-OT thriller at Gardner-Webb

libertyLiberty pulled off the comeback twice to force a double overtime on the road at Gardner-Webb, after trailing by as many as eight points in overtime. Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz scored a career-high 28 points as Liberty defeated the Bulldogs 92-87 in double overtime.

“We had seven turnovers in the first half and we had four the rest of the way. That speaks to the composure we displayed,” head coach Ritchie McKay said. “We played well when our guys where in foul trouble and this was another great team win.”

After trailing in the final minute of both regulation and overtime, the Flames forced extra sessions. Liberty prevailed in double overtime, continuing its perfect road record in conference play. The Flames defeated Gardner-Webb (14-12, 7-6 BSC) to improve to 16-10 overall. The win surpasses last year’s Big South win total with an 11-2 record this season.

Liberty trailed by six points (60-54) with 58 seconds left in regulation and the Flames were able to fight their way back. Coming down to the wire, Liberty had a chance to tie the game with two seconds left in the game with two free-throw attempts and after making the first, Pacheco-Ortiz came up clutch, draining the second to tie the game. With two seconds left, Liberty was able to prevent Gardner-Webb from attempting a shot to force it into overtime.

Pacheco-Ortiz scored a career-high 28 points, hitting four three-pointers while also going 10-for-11 from the free-throw line. Four Flames scored in double-figures, including Ryan Kemrite (13), Myo Baxter-Bell (12) and Brock Gardner (11). The Flames hit 15 three-pointers at a 38.5 percent clip on the night.

Gardner-Webb’s David Efianayi tallied 27 points, while teammate Tyrell Nelson totaled 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Gardner-Webb jumped out to a seven-point lead (68-61) in overtime and was able to convert from the free-throw line to lead by three points (78-75) with 10 seconds left. A.C. Reid once again came through in the clutch for the second straight game, nailing a 27-foot three-point bank shot to tie the game and send it into double overtime.

In the second overtime, Liberty jumped out to a lead, leading by six (85-79) with 3:09 left. Gardner-Webb would tie the game with 58 seconds left, sinking a pair of free throws. However, Pacheco-Ortiz responded on Liberty’s next possession with an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Flames up 89-86 with 47 seconds left. The Flames sealed the win from the free-throw line making 3-of-4 free throws in the final 22 seconds to notch their sixth straight road win.

“I don’t know how to explain it. We have been in this position before and we fight back,” Pacheco-Ortiz said. “We always believe and we always just want to win the next possession.”

It was a defensive struggle to start the game as the first point of the game wasn’t scored until nearly two and a half minutes into the game. The Flames struggled with three early turnovers before the first media timeout but their defense was able to force four turnovers to stay in the game. Gardner-Webb started the game on a 7-0 run until A.C. Reid ended the run with a three-pointer at the 14:16 mark for Liberty’s first points of the game. After Gardner-Webb started the game on a run, Liberty responded with an 8-0 run to take a brief lead.

Liberty used the three-pointer to stay in the game at the beginning of the game with a trio of three-pointers in the first 10 minutes. After tying the game (13-13) at the halfway point of the opening period, Pacheco-Ortiz gave Liberty its first lead of the game at the 7:58 mark. After Reid made an impact off the bench to start the game, Josiah Talbert followed his lead with a 7-0 run by himself in two minutes to extend Liberty’s lead to 22-17.

It remained a tight battle to the end of the first half as Gardner-Webb cut Liberty’s lead to one point (25-24) with a minute left. The Flames held the Bulldogs to its third lowest output in a first half this season to go into the locker room with a 27-25 lead. Talbert ended the first half a perfect 3-for-3 from the field with a career-high seven points while Pacheco-Ortiz led the game with nine points. Seven different players scored for GWU in the first half but committed 10 turnovers. Liberty can thank its bench for keeping the Flames in the game during the first 20 minutes of play as they scored 16 of Liberty’s 27 points. Reid and Talbert combined for 13 first-half points.

With two lead changes and four ties in the first four and a half minutes of the second half, the offense picked up for both teams. After leading Liberty in the first half with nine points, Pacheco-Ortiz kept his offensive streak going at the start of the second half with seven points in the first six and a half minutes. Gardner-Webb was hot from the floor, shooting 70 percent in the first seven minutes of the second half. Through the beginning of the second half Gardner-Webb consistently held a three-point lead. With less than 10 minutes left Pacheco-Ortiz tied the game with a three-pointer, 45-45, for his first career 20-point game.

The Flames went through a scoring drought over two minutes as Gardner-Webb took a four-point lead (54-50) with less than five minutes remaining. After Liberty tied the game at the 2:50 mark, Gardner-Webb took a five-point lead with 2:15 left in the game.

Liberty will head back home to close out the week with a matchup against Charleston Southern this Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Vines Center

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