The Liberty Flames defeated Kennesaw State, 76-59. With the win, the Flames move to 24-6 on the season and 13-2 in the ASUN. The 24 wins sets a program record for most wins in a single season as a Division I member, besting the previous mark of 23 wins in 2009 and 1997. The only time Liberty has ever won more than 24 games in a single season, was in 1980 when the Karl Hess led Flames won 28 games.
The win also gives the senior class (on senior night no less) 80 wins over the past 4 seasons, besting the previous 4-year mark of 79 set from 1983-86. Lovell Cabbil now owns the honor as being part of the winningest senior class in school history.
Elijah Cuffee and Lovell Cabbil connected on three pointers on consecutive possessions to spark a 6-0 Liberty run as the Flames took an early 9-5 lead at the first media timeout of the game. Out of the break, Cabbil would find the range again to push the run to 9-0, followed by a Caleb Homesley bucket in the paint. The run continued as it went to 14-2 as the Flames extended the lead to 17-7.
As was announced late last week, Kennesaw State head coach Al Skinner is coaching out his last few games as the Owls head coach. The long-time coach stated he was stepping down at the conclusion of the season.
Elijah Cuffee had been struggling from the floor the last several games, shooting 12-for-38 over the previous 6 games. He opened the game with a strong offensive performance, scoring 6 points while making his first 2 shots of the evening.
“It feels really good,” Cuffee said of knocking down his shots. “I’ve been frustrated with my shot the last couple of games. It feels good to see it finally go back in.”
Liberty hit a cold patch, making just 1-of-8 field goals over a stretch of several minutes that allowed KSU to cut the Liberty lead to 3 at 26-23.
The teams would exchange buckets the rest of the way, with Liberty going into the halftime break with a 33-29 lead. Cabbil led the Flames with 9 points, Cuffee added 8, while Caleb Homesley added 7 including 2 jaw-dropping dunks.
Liberty opened the 2nd half with an 8-0 burst in the opening 90 seconds to push the lead to 12 at 41-29. Elijah Cuffee connected on three pointers on the first two possessions followed by a Scottie James dunk in transition. Just like the first half, Liberty went on a 14-2 run, this time pushing the lead to a game high of 16 points by the first media timeout of the 2nd half.
The Flames learned its lesson from Saturday’s loss at North Florida, pushing the double digit lead out of reach with an 11-0 run to go up 20 at 58-38. The run would continue, as it extended to 15-3, and forced Coach Skinner to call a timeout with the Owls trailing by 21 and 7:43 left in the game.
With 3:25 left in the contest, Caleb Homesley got to the bucket and scored his 1,000th and 1,001st career points.
Liberty would cruise to a final margin of 76-59.
“For myself, our players, anyone that’s in our family, we felt like we disappointed Flames Nation,” McKay said of the loss Saturday at North Florida. “I feel like our guys have done some magnificent things this year, (but) we didn’t do what it takes to win. I think we did do what it takes to win for about 28 minutes tonight, and hopefully we can continue to get back to that.”
The Owls outpaced the Flames in the first half with 8 2nd chance points compared to Liberty’s 0. It would finish 14-8 in KSU’s favor.
Caleb becomes the 2nd Liberty player to score his 1,000th career point this season, as Lovell Cabbil did so in the season opener.
All 5 Liberty starters reached double figures, the first time that has happened this season, paced by Homesley’s 17. Cuffee added 16, the most points he has scored since December 1st against Georgia State when he scored 19. Scottie James chipped in 13, while Cabbil finished with 12 and Georgie had 10.
The Bisons escaped Monday night with a 4-point win over NJIT on senior night. With the win, Lipscomb moved to 13-2 in ASUN play with their season finale Friday night at North Alabama. If the Flames and Bisons both win Friday night, the teams’ will finish with a share of the ASUN regular season title at 14-2.
Liberty concludes the season Friday night at NJIT. The 8-7 Highlanders need a win to clinch a share of 3rd place in the regular season standings. The Flames need a win to clinch at least a share of 1st place. Liberty beat NJIT, 77-57, in the programs’ first-ever meeting on February 2nd in Lynchburg.