SHILOH ROBINSON CONTINUES TO GROW
We’ve written about Shiloh Robinson off and on throughout this season, including a player feature a couple weeks ago, but each and every week, he pushes his game to another level. He recorded his first career double double last Thursday against Bellarmine with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Since the calendar turned to 2022, Robinson has set career highs in numerous categories including points (21), rebounds (12), field goals (7), field goal attempts (10), three point field goals (2), free throws (10), and free throw attempts (11).
Robinson came into the program as a freshman as a very athletic player with a high ceiling. He first began to touch his potential on the defensive side of the floor, but this season he has begun to see that growth carryover to the offensive side. Robinson is currently averaging 10.6 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 62.2% from the field and 41.5% from three.
“He is legitimately a good defender,” said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. “Having been at Virginia, I think I can say that with a little bit of credibility because of how many good defenders I’ve seen come through that program. Then, his commitment and dedication to his offensive improvement has been terrific. I think the sky is the limit for Shiloh. I think he continues to develop and emerge as a player and individually.”
VENZANT MAKING MAJOR IMPACT AS FRESHMAN
Under Coach McKay, Liberty has always had a strong perimeter defender on the team. It started with Lovell Cabbil, then Elijah Cuffee took over that mantle. This season, Joseph Venzant has stepped into that role as being one of the top defenders on the team and frequently getting the assignment of the opposing team’s top perimeter scoring option.
“His competitive desire to be great is tremendous,” said McKay of Venzant. “He’s got a willingness and an ownership on the defensive end that I think far exceeds any freshman that I’ve seen in this defensive system since I’ve been in the system. That will tell you how much I think of him. I love where he’s going. I think he’s a future all-conference player.”
ASUN TOURNAMENT LOOK AHEAD
If the ASUN Tournament began today, here’s what it would look like:
#3 West Central Arkansas vs #6 East North Florida…..Winner plays #2 East Jacksonville
#4 East FGCU vs #5 West Lipscomb…..Winner plays #1 West Jacksonville State
#3 East Kennesaw State vs #6 West North Alabama….Winner plays #2 West Bellarmine
#4 West Eastern Kentucky vs #5 East Stetson….Winner plays #1 East Liberty
The first round is on Tuesday, March 1. The top four teams get a bye into the quarterfinals which are on Thursday, March 3. The semifinals are on Saturday, March 5, and the championship is on Tuesday, March 8. All games are on ESPN+ except for the final which is on ESPN.
“Lipscomb, EKU, those are two of the teams that are better than what the eye indicates because they have yet to play with their full compliment of personnel,” said McKay. “This ASUN Tournament, when we get there, will be incredibly competitive because there’s going to be some 4, 5, and 6 seeds that are going to beat some people because of how talented they are and how well coached.”
MCDOWELL ONE OF THE TOP THREE-POINT SHOOTERS IN THE COUNTRY
We all know about the offensive exploits of Darius McGhee, but lost in all that noise is the stellar play of Keegan McDowell this season. McDowell currently ranks No. 6 in the country in three-point field goal percentage, shooting 46.0% from behind the three-point line.
In the past two games, Liberty wins over Bellarmine and Eastern Kentucky, McDowell made eight of 16 three-pointers as he averaged 16 points per game in the two games.
“The Jacksonville State game was his first day out of protocol,” McKay said of McDowell. “For him to do what he did in the road trip, just speaks to his commitment to it. Anything that Keegan does on the floor for us is only icing on the cake. I mean that sincerely. Having done this as long as I have, you just don’t get guys who are as terrific as leaders as he and Kyle Rode are. They are once in a generation. I mean that. The fact that it’s going in at a (46.0)% clip from three, he’s taking care of the ball, he’s defending better, all of that is a bonus.”
FLAMES PLAYING WITHOUT TRUE POINT GUARD
For the first time in a long time, the Flames are playing this season without a true point guard on the floor for the biggest duration of games. Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz manned that position for McKay and Liberty for four years as the program began to turn the corner into a consistent winner. Last year, the Flames turned to grad transfer Chris Parker.
This season, the role of point guard has fallen primarily on Darius McGhee and Kyle Rode. The Flames have also utilized Keegan McDowell, Joseph Venzant, Isiah Warfield, Micaiah Abii, and Brody Peebles at times to be the primary ball-handler on the floor.
It was expected that Drake Dobbs was going to be able to slide into that role this year, but things didn’t progress as expected for Dobbs in his second year in the program as he transferred to another school just ahead of conference play.
“It was an unintended consequence that Darius kind of took over,” said McKay of not having a true point guard. “He’s done a phenomenal job. To defend the way we ask Darius to defend, as well as leaning on him for points and creation of points for others, he’s having a player of the year/all-american candidacy type of year. We are a by-committee group, so I think it’s kind of evolved. I don’t know what our offensive numbers are, but I’m not so sure they’re not as high as they’ve ever been since we’ve been here. I think we’re doing okay, but we will see if we can’t keep improving and even trying to finish stronger than we have.”