In the program’s first ever triple overtime game, the Flames fell to UNCG, 76-75.
The Spartans’ Francis Alonso banked in a 3 pointer at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime, banked in another 3 pointer at the end of the 2nd overtime to send it to the 3rd OT, and then hit the game winner with 2 seconds left in the 3rd overtime.
“It’s tough that anyone would have to lose that one, that was a really good basketball game,” McKay said. “Two banked 3’s, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen two banked 3’s made in my 29 years, and then he made a running one-legger.”
Alonso finished the game with 36 points on 10/31 shooting from the field and 7/19 from 3 after struggling to just 5 points on 2/10 shooting in the 1st half.
Liberty used a 14-2 run near the end of regulation to take a 44-33 lead with 4:36 remaining, it was the largest lead either team had all game. The Flames went the final 4:36 of regulation and all of the first overtime period without a field goal. Lovell Cabbil would end the field goal drought at the 3:56 mark of the 2nd OT.
This was a very high energy game from two quality mid-major programs, both of whom have postseason aspirations. Both squads entered the game as two of the top defenses in the country. UNCG was allowing just 58.9 points per game entering Saturday’s game, while Liberty was holding opponents to 59.4 points per game, ranking 9th and 13th in the country in scoring defense, respectively.
“I’ve got to make sure we come back on Monday with the right perspective because sometimes its hard to measure your growth by the outcome of a scoreboard,” McKay explained. “I think our guys are really successful people, and our program is growing. I think there’s some really good things happening.”
Both teams struggled offensively, Liberty finished the game 19/58 from the field (32.8%) and 4/23 from 3 (17.4%) on the afternoon. The Spartans shot 24/79 from the field (30.4%) and 11/41 from 3 (26.8%).
Liberty had a large advantage in free throws, connecting on 33 of their 42 attempts for 78.6% compared to UNCG’s 17/27 shooting for 63%.
Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, Lovell Cabbil, and Ryan Kemrite, the Flames’ starting guards, were a combined 6-of-36 from the field and 2-of-18 from 3. This trio did combine for 36 points, aided by 22-of-23 free throw shooting.
Four Flames played over 40 minutes, led by James’ 48. Cabbil and Kemrite each played 47 minutes while Pacheco-Ortiz logged 44.
Scottie James led the Flames with 19 points and 15 rebounds, his 3rd straight game with a double-double, the first time a Liberty player has accomplished that since Andrew Smith did so in February 2014. He did foul out on a controversial call with 3:46 left in the 3rd overtime.
There were many questionable calls throughout the game, on both sides. “I’m not going to blame the loss on the referees,” Lovell Cabbil said. “If we won, I wouldn’t say anything bad about the referees. That’s just the how the game works sometimes.”
On a personnel note, walk-on guard Ryan Hiepler will not play this season as he intends to red-shirt this season.
Liberty has a quick turn around, as the Flames travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia State Monday night. The Panthers are 5-2 on the season and have won 20 or more games in 4 of head coach Ron Hunter’s 6 seasons with the squad.