Liberty scored just 14 points and shot 23.1% from the field in the 2nd half as Stetson knocked off the Flames, 48-43. It’s the first time as an ASUN member Liberty has dropped consecutive games following the team’s loss to North Florida Thursday night.
Liberty came out strong early, looking to avoid the team’s first back-to-back losses since February 2018. Elijah Cuffee and Darius McGhee each got on the board with early three-pointers to give the Flames a 6-0 lead. Caleb Homesley would pick up two quick fouls before the 16 minute mark as he went to the bench for the half before attempting a field goal.
The Flames continued its hot shooting from behind the arc as McGhee hit his 2nd and Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz got in on the action to push the team’s lead to 14-5. It would grow to 11 at 16-5 following a Scottie James jumper with 10:58 left in the first half.
That bucket were the first points of seven straight from James as he helped the Flames maintain the lead. McGhee would hit two more three pointers to push the Liberty lead to its highest of the game at 27-13 at the final media timeout of the first half.
Liberty would go into the locker room with a 29-18 lead. The Flames made 6-of-14 from three point range while limiting the Hatters to just 1-of-7.
McGhee led the team in scoring with 12 points while James added 12. Cuffee and Pacheco-Ortiz each added 5 points as they were the only four Flames to get in the scoring column in the first half.
The Hatters wouldn’t go away quietly as they opened with a 10-0 run to cut the Liberty lead to 1 before Homesley would finally get on the board with a three-pointer as the Flames led 32-28 at the first media timeout of the 2nd half.
With McGhee dominating on the offensive end of the floor the last few games, Stetson head coach Donnie Jones elected to go to a box-and-one defense on the explosive guard. It was successful for several possessions as the Hatters stayed within one possession of the Flames.
Homesley picked up two fouls on one possession, giving him four for the game, as he went to the bench with Liberty clinging to a three point lead, 36-33, with 7:30 left to play.
The Flames would miss seven consecutive field goals after Stetson went to the junk defense, allowing the Hatters to take their first lead of the game with less than 6 minutes left. It was 39-36 at the 4:53 mark. It would grow to 5 after the timeout as Stetson lead 41-36 at the final media timeout of the game.
Liberty would finally end the scoreless drought as Scottie James and then Elijah Cuffee got buckets for the Flames sandwiched by a Stetson bucket as their lead was cut to 3 with 1:49 left.
Elijah Cuffee had a clean look from three to tie at the 1:10 mark but missed. After getting a defensive stop, Scottie James missed his shot at the rim. The Hatters would then make two free throws to extend the lead to 5 before Pacheco-Ortiz got in the paint, scored, and got fouled. He would miss the free throw with 11 seconds left as the lead stayed at 3. However, Stetson lost the ball out of bounds on the rebound.
After an official’s review, Caleb Homesley missed a three pointer from the left corner, and Stetson rebounded and would make a pair of free throws to ice the game.
The 43 points are the fewest Liberty has scored in a game since the season opener in 2012-13 when the Flames fell at Richmond, 84-42, on November 9th.
Darius McGhee finished with 12 points, but he was not able to even attempt a field goal in the second half. Scottie James finished with 7 as did Pacheco-Ortiz. Homesley had just 3 points and Liberty only had 2 bench points, from Shiloh Robinson.
After a brief two game road trip, the Flames return home this week to face Kennesaw State on Thursday night at 7. The Owls are currently winless in ASUN play.