In a game that featured 56 fouls, and went nearly two and a half hours, the Liberty Flames fell to UNC Wilmington by a score of 87-76.  Monday night’s game was one of the ugliest in recent memory, as the Flames were only able to muster 29.6% shooting in the first half, as well as 40% from the free throw line in the opening period.  Offensive flow was a problem for much of the game, as Liberty looked stagnant and aimless with the ball in their hands.  Liberty turned in a solid first half defensive performance, however much like the William & Mary game, the Flames’ defense faded in the second half and Liberty lost its third straight game.

Drew Smith slams one home in the Flames' loss to UNCW

Drew Smith slams one home in the Flames’ loss to UNCW

The Seahawks got out to an early lead, and never relinquished it, led by the solid Guard play of Addison Spruill and Tanner Milson.  Spruill scored 24, and Milson 23.  Despite the Flames’ woes, the game never got out of hand.  The Seahawks led by as much as 12, and Liberty cut the lead to 4 points several times in the second half.  Ultimately though, Wilmington was able to trade buckets with LU and hit their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.

The Flames were paced by Senior Guard Davon Marshall, who dropped 24 points on 8 of 15 shooting.  J.C. Sanders was the only other Liberty player to hit double digits, with 13 points.  For a team returning so many players from last season, Liberty seems to lack an offensive identity, or even basic organization on that end of the court.  The reintroduction of Antwan Burrus certainly changes the chemistry on the floor a bit, but having a more reliable inside presence shouldn’t be hurting the Flames.

UNC Wilmington was able to shoot 62.5% from the field, and 82.6% from the free throw line in the second half. Despite the poor shooting effort by the Flames in the first half, the lack of defense in the second half is what ultimately caused Liberty’s demise last night.  There were too many open lanes, and too many second chance buckets for the Flames to come back.

Davon Marshall led the Flames with 24 points Monday night.

Davon Marshall led the Flames with 24 points Monday night.

The rule changes for this basketball season are obviously becoming an issue across the board, and this game was a great example.  The 56 fouls ground the flow of the game to a halt, and the changes seem to have players and coaches confused by what is a foul and what is acceptable defensive play.  This is a story that will continue to evolve over the course of the season.  Hopefully the issues are resolved early and Liberty can find a way to utilize these changes to their advantage.

As has been our mantra for a year now, Liberty is not going to win many games played in the 70’s and 80’s.  The Flames nearly gave up 90 last night.  Liberty will have to find a way to play defense for 40 minutes, and limit second chance points to win many games with this team.  The Flames travel to Charlottesville Saturday for a tough road test against UVA.

Box Score