The Liberty Flames (14-4) have been away from the Vines Center since their December 15 win over Kentucky Christian. The Flames were 4-2 during their six game road trip, with 18 points wins over conference foes Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson, and a 15 point route of UCLA, the program’s first win over a PAC-12 opponent. Tonight the Flames hosted their first ASUN conference game and won, 69-53 over the Jacksonville Dolphins (8-10), moving to 3-0 in ASUN conference play.
Both teams started the game slow, and the score was 6-5 Jacksonville after only five minutes of play. After the next seven minutes of play, the Flames went on an 11-2 run, capped off by a huge block by Scottie James, and the Flames led 16-8 at the under 12:00 media timeout. Early in the first half, both teams also struggled shooting the ball, and the Flames were 2-7 midway through the first half.
Despite the early shooting woes and an uncharacteristic six first half turnovers, the Flames led in points off turnover, 11-3. With just under four minutes remaining in the first half, the Flames were able to slow the game down and control the pace, but Jacksonville kept the score close, 28-22. Junior forward Myo Baxter-Bell was another bright spot for the Flames, shooting 4-4 with 8 points off the bench. Junior guard Caleb Homesley led both teams with 10 points and 7 rebounds, and last season’s ASUN Freshman of the year, JD Notae, led the Dolphins with 9 points. After the first half buzzer sounded the Flames lead Jacksonville 35-24.
The second half started slowly for both teams, and the score was 39-29 at the under 16:00 media timeout. Typically an early spark off of the bench, Freshman guard Darius McGhee scored his first points with 15:20 remaining in the second half. McGhee would finish with only 6 points, but his excellent on-ball defense kept him on the court for the majority of the second half.
With under 10 minutes remaining in the game, both teams were playing stifling defense, and despite poor shooting on both sides, the Dolphins clawed their way back to within six, 47-41 Flames. At the 9:10 mark, Homesley achieved a double-double for the game, and would finish with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
With seven minutes reaming in the game, Jacksonville had outscored the Flames 18-12 in the second half, but the Flames would go on a 14-5 run to stretch the lead to 61-46 with under three minutes to play. During the run, the Flames scored on eight strait possessions, and Junior forward Scottie James, who scored 10 of 14 points, capped off with the emphatic dunk that Flames fans expect each game. James’ effort on the offensive boards contributed exceptional energy as the Flames pushed the lead almost out of reach for the Dolphins to mount a comeback. James would finish the game with 18 points and 9 rebounds (5 offensive), one rebound shy of a double-double.
The Flames scored 46 of their 69 points in the paint, and dominated in points off turnovers 21-3. The Flames led in second chance points 14-6, as well as, points off the bench 18-15. Despite poor shooting early (especially from three), the Flames finished shooting 49.1% for the game and 33.3% from three.
Liberty will return to action on January 16 (Wed), as they take on Kennesaw State University at 7:00 pm. The Owls are 3-14 (0-2) on the season and are coming off a 90-70 loss to Jacksonville this past Wednesday (Jan. 9).