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Three-point shooting pushes Liberty past UMass-Lowell

libertyA pair of three-pointers by A.C. Reid with just under 10 minutes to play gave Liberty the final momentum swing it needed in an 84-77 win over UMass Lowell, Monday evening inside the Vines Center.

With the win, Liberty evens its record at 2-2 on the year and 1-1 in the Indiana Classic. The loss drops UMass Lowell to 1-4 on the season and gave the River Hawks their third setback in a row during the Indiana Classic.

The Flames hit a season-best 14 three-point field goals in the game and shot 43.8 percent from behind the arc (14-of-32). After hitting only 5-of-14 shots from the charity stripe against Indiana, Liberty connected on 22-of-28 shots from the line to seal its second win of the season.

The Flames were paced by Ryan Kemrite who missed his career high by one, leading all scorers with 21 points. The junior was 4-of-9 from the floor and hit 11-of-12 from the free throw line.

Caleb Homesley came off the bench to score 19 points, including back-to-back buckets following Reid’s key three-pointers to keep the Flames ahead on the scoreboard.

John Dawson followed with 15 points, while Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz added 11 points. Dawson and Homesley pulled down seven rebounds each to lead Liberty.

The River Hawks had five players score in double figures led by 19 points from Matt Harris off the bench. Tyler Livingston followed with 13 points, followed by 12 from Ryan Jones and 11  apiece from UMass Lowell’s leading scorer Jahad Thomas and Cameron Wolter.

The Flames opened up a 9-5 lead early in the contest when Homesley took a pass from Pacheco-Ortiz and scored on a layup to cap a 5-0 run for the Flames at 14:42.

The River Hawks scored eight of the game’s next 10 points to reclaim a two-point lead, 13-11, on a three-pointer from the wing by Harris at the 11:51 mark.

Jones pushed the visitor’s lead to four points, 18-14, with 9:21 left to play in the opening half. The sophomore guard hit three straight free throws after getting fouled on a shot attempt from behind the three-point arc with time expiring on the shot clock.

The River Hawks used Liberty’s fifth turnover of the half to open a five-point lead, 23-18. After a Dawson giveaway, Thomas found Livingston open for a three-pointer at 6:42.

The Flames responded to the River Hawks’ basket with eight unanswered point to reclaim the lead at 26-23 on Homesley’s first three-pointer of the game at the 3:58 mark.

The game of runs continues with the River Hawks going on an 8-0 spurt over a two-minute span. UMass Lowell matched its largest lead of the first half on a layup by Jones with 1:56 left to play before halftime for a 31-26 lead.

After Thomas knocked down a pair of free throws with 58 seconds left play to push the visitor’s lead to seven, 33-26, the two teams combined for three trios as the clock ran out.

Dawson and Livingston traded three-pointers within 13 seconds of each other, while Reid knocked down a shot from behind the arc with two seconds left to trim UMass Lowell’s lead to 36-32 at the break.

After missing four of its first six shots from the field, UMass Lowell was able to adjust and shoot 54.5 percent from the field during the first half (12-of-22). Livingston led the River Hawks with 13 points, while Logan Primerano collected five rebounds.

Liberty shot 37.9 percent from the field during the opening half (11-of-29) and was led by Kemrite’s seven-point effort.

During the first two minutes of the second, Dawson connected on a pair of three-pointers. The senior’s second from the top of the key knotted the game at 40-40 with 17:48 left to play.

Just over a minute later, Kemrite gave Liberty its first lead of the second half on a pair of free throws only to have the River Hawks regain the lead at 46-42, as Jones and Harris hit three-pointers 16 seconds apart. Wolters the pushed visitors’ advantage back to six points, powering a layup through at 14:32 to give UMass Lowell a 53-47 lead.

Kemrite hit Liberty’s 10th three-pointer of the contest right in front of the Flames’ bench, ending a four-minute scoreless span for the Flame to trim their deficit to three with 11:58 left, 56-53.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Reid and two key defensive stops on the other end of the floor allowed the Flames to take a 64-60 lead into the 7:54 media timeout. The first stop was a Homesley block, while the second was a charge taken by Kemrite to preserve the home team’s edge.

Long-distance shots continued to fall for both teams as the game remained close. Harris briefly knotted the contest with a trey at 5:39 only to see Liberty regain the lead, 70-67, on a Homesley trey just 20 seconds later.

UMass Lowell used four free throws from Harris to regain the lead, 71-70 with 3:55 remaining, only to have a tip-in by Homesley give Liberty a one-point edge one minute later.   Homesley continued to provide the Flames with key baskets down the stretch, hitting layups at 2:54 and 2:09, allowing Liberty to pull away for good. With 1:31 left, Pacheco-Ortiz sealed the victory for the Flames, knocking down Liberty’s 14th and final trey for a 77-71 Liberty lead.

Three more free throws from Harris and a three-pointer from Isaac White allowed the visitors to get within five points on two occasions in the closing minute of the contest, but Liberty hit its final five attempts from the charity stripe to close out the win.

The Flames play their third of four games in the Indiana Classic on Wednesday afternoon, when Liberty hosts Mississippi State. Tipoff for the game is slated for 2 p.m.

The Vines Center will also host a neutral site game for the Indiana Classic, as UMass Lowell squares off against Mississippi Valley State, tomorrow night at 6 p.m.