Second-half struggles plague Liberty in loss
Leading at half, Liberty could not seal the win struggling on offense in the second half while Radford shot 50 percent and was able to pull away past the Flames 63-50. With one game left in the regular season, Liberty falls to 17-13 and 8-9 in the Big South while Radford improves to 18-12 and 11-6 in conference.
“We cannot be in game 30 of the season and play like that. That is embarrassing,” head coach Ritchie McKay said. “They (Radford) got anything they wanted in the second half.”
Controlling the paint outscoring the Flames 30-14, Radford was led by Ed Polite Jr. with a game-high 24 points, shooting 70 percent (7-10) from the field including 15 points and six rebounds in the second half. Liberty had three players in double-figures led by Scottie James with 15 points. Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz (10) and Ryan Kemrite (13) were the two other Flames’ to join James in double-figures. Lovell Cabbil tied for the game-high in assists (6) but the rest of the Flames were only able to dish out three assists.
The Flames got off to a sluggish start on offense scoring just two points in the first six minutes and 53 seconds of the game. Liberty was able to stay in the game as they too frustrated Radford’s offense forcing four turnovers in the first eight minutes of the contest. After the game was tied three times, Radford went on a 13-2 run to take a 23-12 lead making six straight field goals. Donald Hicks took over in the first 11 minutes of the opening period, scoring seven points, shooting a perfect 3-3 from the field.
Cutting Radford’s lead to single digits, Liberty’s defense was able to hold the Highlanders scoreless for three and a half minutes that resulted for the Flames to go on a 7-0 run. Liberty would close out the half strong, outscoring Radford 16-7 in the final 4:39 of the half. During that stretch, James would make a trio of three-pointers, which was a career-best. To take the lead going into halftime, Kemrite would finish a tough layup with four seconds left on the clock to give Liberty the 32-30 lead.
James led all players in the first half with 11 points followed up by Kemrite with nine points. Radford controlled the paint in the first half outscoring the Flames 14-8. Both teams were turnover-prone in the first half as Liberty committed eight and Radford recording six. The difference maker for Liberty in the first half was the three-point shooting as the Flames shot 66.7 percent (6-9) from beyond the arc.
As the game remained tight early in the 2nd half, Radford would take the lead at the 17-minute mark and extend its lead to five points (45-40) with 13:24 left in the game. Midway through the half, Liberty went on a scoring draught for over nine and a half minutes and Radford went on a 16-0 run to take a 57-40 lead.
Liberty would continue to struggle in the second half as they shot 28.6 percent (6-21) while Radford shot 50 percent (12-24) in the final period.
The Flames will close out the regular season at home on Saturday, Feb. 24th, against High Point. Before the 2 p.m. tipoff against the Panthers, the Flames will recognize its two seniors, Zach Farquhar and Ryan Kemrite.