Liberty picked up its 2nd straight win and 2nd win in as many tries against Winthrop this season with a 77-61 win Thursday night.
Coach McKay utilized a 3-2 zone for the first few possessions of the game, something that he hasn’t done since he returned to Liberty from Virginia 3 years ago. It helped the Flames jump out to an early lead against the Eagles, the opposite of what happened in Rock Hill a few weeks ago during the team’s first meeting as Winthrop led 14-2 early.
Scottie James, who was battling the flu when the teams met in Rock Hill, had just 4 points against Winthrop last meeting. He had 6 points by the first media timeout tonight. James went on to finish with 21 points which ties his career high. He also added 8 rebounds and a career high 3 blocks.
Liberty led for the entire game, and after taking an 11 point lead into the halftime break led by double digits for most of the 2nd half. After Winthrop cut it to 9 with about 4 minutes left in the game, Caleb Homesley connected on a corner 3 to give the Flames a 12 point lead at 64-52 with 3:50 to play. That bucket sparked 8 straight points the redshirt-sophomore scored for the Flames. Homesley finished the game with a season high 16 points on 5/7 shooting from the field and 4/5 from 3.
Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz rounded out the Flames double figure scorers as he finished with 14 points including a perfect 5/5 from the charity stripe.
Liberty was 16/18 for 88.9% from the free throw line compared to Winthrop’s 8/16 mark. Liberty also shot 50% from 3 as they connected on 11 of 22 threes. The Eagles were 9/26 from 3 for 34.6%.
True freshmen Keegan McDowell and Elijah Cuffee again got the start. This pair combined for 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. McDowell set a new career high with 6 rebounds.
Ryan Kemrite connected on 1 of his 2 three pointers on the evening as he now has 225 for his career, just two shy of tying the program record of 227 held by Larry Blair. He finished with 7 points.
On offense, it was the Xavier Cooks show all night as the Big South Preseason Player of the Year scored 15 of his team’s first 19 points. He finished the game with 21 points before being ejected in the final minute after picking up his 2nd technical foul for arguing with the officials.
Lovell Cabbil made his return to game action after missing the previous 2 games with a right knee injury. He was injured on the final play against Winthrop earlier this season and tried to fight through the injury through the next 4 games. The junior guard finished the night with 6 points on 1/8 shooting from the field.
The Flames are back in action Saturday at Longwood. Liberty, sitting at 5-6 in conference play, will be looking to avenge the Lancers’ upset that began the team’s 5 game losing streak.