The Liberty Flames dropped its first contest of the 2018-19 season, falling to Vanderbilt 79-70.
Liberty and Vanderbilt went back and forth the first 20 minutes of action, with 3 ties and 4 lead changes. The Flames began the game by getting Scottie James the ball in the paint, proving Liberty wasn’t intimidated by the taller Commodores. James scored 8 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting in just 9 minutes. He checked out of the game at the 11 minute mark of the first half with 2 fouls and did not return the rest of the half.
With Vandy leading 21-20 when Scottie checked out, the Flames continued to matchup well against their SEC counterparts. Liberty regained the lead and pushed it to 27-23, primarily thanks to the play of true freshman Darius McGhee. McGhee had 7 points, 3 steals, 2 rebounds, and 1 block in 13 first half minutes. He did much of that work against potential NBA lottery pick and fellow true freshman Darius Garland.
The Commodores would respond with an 11-0 run to claim their largest lead of the first half at 34-27. The run was stopped by a Lovell Cabbil 3-pointer as Vanderbilt went into the locker room with a 37-33 lead. The Flames shot just 4-for-16 from 3 during the half.
Liberty stayed within striking distance, trailing by just 1 point with just over 11 minutes left in the game. Vanderbilt then went on an extended 18-2 run to seize control of the game at 64-47 at the 6:48 mark. 5 star freshman point guard Darius Garland dominated the game, scoring 33 points on the evening.
On what was likely the Flames’ last opportunity to make a push, Keenan Gumbs missed 2 technical free throws after he was fouled hard by Vanderbilt’s Matt Ryan. Ryan was called for a technical and a flagrant and was ejected from the game on the play. The free throws would have cut the lead to 9 and Liberty got possession.
The Flames struggled shooting from range tonight, going just 7-for-26 from 3 for 26.9%.
Vanderbilt got to the line 28 times compared to Liberty’s 16 free throw attempts.
Lovell Cabbil led the team with 16 points. Darius McGhee had his highest point total this year with 15 points while also adding 3 rebounds and 3 steals. Scottie James had 12 points and 9 rebounds. Myo Baxter-Bell finished with 8 points and 5 rebounds.
Liberty returns home this weekend for two games as part of the Commodore Classic, beginning with Alcorn State on Friday at 2pm. The game will be televised on ESPN+. The Flames will then face Savannah State on Sunday at 2pm.