Liberty is in the midst of a very good regular season so far this year. The Flames currently sit at 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the ASUN, which is good enough to be tied with three other teams at the top of the conference standings. Due to their strong play, Liberty is ranked in the top 70 of the NET and at KenPom, which would put the team in the discussion to be one of the best teams in school history if they continue their current pace.

Despite how good the Flames have been overall, the team has struggled away from home. In true road games so far this season, Liberty is just 1-3 including a loss the last time out against Eastern Kentucky in a conference game. Granted, the three teams the Flames have lost to on the road – Alabama, Oral Roberts, EKU – are a combined 42-13 this season. At home, those teams are a combined 29-1.

Liberty will attempt to improve its road record this season with two challenging games this coming week, as the Flames head to Jacksonville, Florida. The two-game road swing begins Thursday night at the Jacksonville Dolphins and again on Saturday afternoon against the North Florida Ospreys.

The Dolphins and Ospreys have been very good on their home floor, particularly against Liberty. Jacksonville has won all 21 games at Swisher Gym under head coach Jordan Mincy, including a 6-0 mark at home this season. That 21-0 home mark under Coach Mincy includes a 73-69 win over the Flames last year. The Dolphins upset over the Flames last season, came less than a month after Liberty blitzed Jacksonville, 88-49, at Liberty Arena.

“I have a really healthy respect for what Coach Mincy and his staff have done there,” said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. “They’ve built a winning culture and belief in an expedient fashion. That group knows and thinks they’re going to win the game.”

After advancing to the ASUN title game last year, the Dolphins were the preseason choice to finish second, behind Liberty, in the ASUN this season. So far this year, Jacksonville is 10-7 overall and 3-3 in conference play as they prepare to host the Flames Thursday evening at 7 p.m.

“They have a really good culture,” Liberty senior forward Kyle Rode said of Jacksonville. “They are defensive minded, similar to us. When you guard, it’s going to be a tough game. They are a really well respected opponent. Road wins are tough no matter who you play in conference.”

Following the game against Jacksonville, the Flames will stay in the area and begin preparation for its game less than 48 hours later against North Florida. Liberty has won three games all-time at UNF Arena, but those three wins came in the 2021 ASUN Tournament and not against the Ospreys. The Flames are 0-3 all-time against UNF on their home floor, including a 72-69 loss last year.

“That environment there, it gets rowdy,” Liberty senior guard Darius McGhee said of UNF Arena. “Their fans, their students are very passionate. Their players are very passionate. You can tell they love playing for their head coach. You combine all of that and it’s going to be tough. You have to bring your ‘A’ game, for sure.”

So far this season, North Florida is 7-11 overall and 2-4 in the ASUN. They have lost three straight games, all coming on the road. Despite their losing record, the Ospreys are 6-0 on their home floor this season.

“Matt Driscoll, I think, is one of the most underrated coaches in the league,” McKay said of UNF’s head coach. “If you take out the non-conference fundraising tour, he strategically and style-wise does a great job with his group.”

Liberty has been really good on their home floor, something that has become somewhat of a tradition. The Flames have been exceptional at Liberty Arena this season in conference games, winning all four contests by an average of 25.25 points. The closest margin of victory in those games has been 18. Now, they try to carry some of that success on the road, beginning with two places they haven’t found much success at recently.

“Throughout my years, I’ve never really put much stock in the historical part of the series,” said Coach McKay. “Each team is different. The way you are playing at the given time of the season is different. I’m not going there thinking, ‘Oh man, they haven’t lost at home in however many games or we haven’t won at UNF.'”

Being able to win on the road is a key element that championship teams develop. This week’s games for Liberty provides additional opportunities for growth as the team enters the stretch run.

“These games are going to be hard, but we need that,” McKay stated of this week’s road slate. “I go back to the year we won in the NCAA Tournament. Without those two games at Lipscomb, the ASUN Championship and regular season, and then we had two really hard games in the first and second round of the ASUN. We wouldn’t have beaten Mississippi State if we just hadn’t gone through adversity. I think our team is capable of handling and getting through the hard, but I know we will be tested Thursday.”