Sluggish Liberty downs Central Penn, 62-48
The win, Liberty’s fourth in five games at home this year, upped the Flames’ record to 4-3 on the season. Following the loss, Central Penn falls to 7-3 on the year and 0-2 against Big South opponents after losing 91-69 to Radford on Nov. 16.
Liberty’s pressure defense kept the visiting Knights out of the offensive flow the entire 40 minutes of play. Central Penn came into the game averaging 91.9 points per contest. On the night, the visitors were held to 14-of-55 shooting from the floor, which including a span of nine minutes without a field goal late in the second half.
Central Penn’s 25.5 percent shooting night marked Liberty’s lowest opponents’ field goal percentage since Kentucky Christian shot 25.4 percent from the field in an 84-45 Flames victory, Jan. 8, 2008.
Liberty finished the game shooting 35.3 percent from the floor and an uncharacteristic 5-of-26 from three-point range (19.2). The Flames came into the game ranked No. 14 in the country in three-point field goals made per game (10.3) and were looking to hit 10 or more treys in four consecutive games for the first time in program history.
Caleb Homesley paced the way for Liberty with 15 points, while recording his first collegiate double-double with a career-high 11 rebounds. Ryan Kemrite and Myo Baxter-Bell followed with 12 points each with Baxter-Bell scoring 10 of his 12 during the final 20 minutes of play.
Central Penn’s limited offense was paced by Tyrie Orosco who scored 13 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. The senior was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line with all eight shots from the charity stripe coming during the second half.
Homesley jumpstarted Liberty’s offense on the night, knocking down a pair of field goals to stake the Flames to a 5-0 lead at the first media timeout (15:32).
The Flames’ pressure defense slowed down the Knights’ high-powered offense early on. The visitors missed their first eight attempts from the floor and did not get on the scoreboard until a putback by Orosco with 14:54 left to play in the opening half.
A three-pointer by Kemrite from the wing at 13:23 and a dunk by Baxter-Bell at 12:22 pushed Liberty’s lead to 10-2 at the eight-minute mark of the first half.
The Knights started to find their shooting touch following the midpoint of the half. Orosco sank a three-pointer at the 8:53mark, capping a 7-0 run for Central Penn and pulling the visitors within one, 10-9.
Despite back-to-back three-pointers from Homesley and Kemrite, Central Penn kept within striking distance of Liberty following a floating layup by Tyree Tucker in the lane with 4:27 left to play. Under a minute later, Daylin Davis powered his way into the lane for another layup to tie the game at 18-18 with 3:46 left in the first.
Central Penn took its first lead of the game on a three-pointer from Dupont at 2:14 and capped a 10-0 run when Dupont hit one of two from the line at 1:37 to give the visitors a 22-18 edge.
The Flames finished the closing seconds of the first half with Kemrite and Homesley hitting all four of their free throw attempts to knot the score at 22-22 going into the break.
Liberty finished the first half shooting 28.0 percent from the field (7-of-25), including 18.8 percent from three-point range (3-of-16). Homesley paced Liberty with nine points, while Kemrite followed with eight points.
Central Penn’s high-powered offense was limited during the first half, shooting 33.3 percent from the field (9-of-27). The Knights’ top scorer was Tucker with six points.
A pair of turnovers by Central Penn led to layups for the Flames to open the second half. The second came on a steal by John Dawson and a two-point basket by Brock Gardner to give Liberty a 26-23 lead at the 17:38 mark.
Baxter-Bell scored six of Liberty’s first eight points of the second half, giving the Flames a six-point lead, 29-23, on an old-fashion three-point play at the 16:00 mark. The redshirt freshman continued to keep the margin at six points with another layup at 10:27.
Foul trouble started to become a factor late in the game with both teams being in the bonus with 10 minutes left to play and the two teams combining for 31 second-half fouls.
Lovell Cabbil, who missed the last two games with an injury, drove the lane at 7:10 for a layup to push the lead to six, 42-36, with 7:10 left to play. Liberty held Central Penn without a field goal for the next 9:11 and took a 10-point lead, 53-43, on a Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz three-pointer with 2:38 left to play in the contest.
Liberty scored nine of the game’s final 14 points during the final 91 seconds of the contest to seal the victory. The closing stretch including a fast-break layup by John Dawson, a pair of free throws from Brock Gardner and Cabbil and Pacheco-Ortiz’s second trey of the contest.
The Flames return to the court on Saturday when Liberty travels to Greensboro, N.C., to face the Spartans of UNCG. Tipoff from Fleming Gymnasium is set for 7 p.m.