Liberty (8-3) picked up its fourth consecutive win in a Tuesday afternoon game against Alcorn State (0-3) as the Flames won 108-65. It was the first time Liberty surpassed the 100 point mark in a game under Coach McKay during his second stint and the first since Feb. 19, 2013 when the Flames lost to Longwood, 102-101. The 108 points are the most Liberty has scored in a game since Jan. 2, 2010 when the team scored 110 points in a win over VMI.
“Our group is fun to watch,” Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay said after the game. “26 assists, they play for one another. Hardest job I have is trying to equitably distribute the minutes because there are a lot of guys who can contribute. When we are right offensively, we are tough because we can score at all three levels, have good shooters, and really unselfish guys.”
It was just the third game this season for the Braves who had 6 straight games canceled due to COVID related issues within the program before returning to action on Sunday at Houston.
The Flames got off to a strong start offensively with Blake Preston and Elijah Cuffee each scoring 6 points and Chris Parker getting in the paint for a layup as Liberty led 14-7 at the first media timeout of the afternoon at 13:27. Shiloh Robinson would add one of two free throws while Parker would get another layup as the lead was 17-12 at the under 12. The Braves made 2 of their first 5 three point attempts.
Alcorn State utilized 7 second chance points in the opening minutes to allow them to hang around. That was until the Flames went on a 9-0 run to seize control of the game at 28-16 with 9 minutes left in the first half. The run would extend to 12-0 on a Kyle Rode made three point bucket before the Braves made a three pointer to end the run. McGhee would get in on the action with a three pointer as Liberty’s lead was 34-19 at the under 8 media timeout.
The Alcorn State defense had no match for Liberty’s balanced and explosive offensive attack. The Flames could get open looks at will as Liberty scored on 13 of 15 possessions during an extended 31-8 run as the lead stretched to 50-24 at the under 4 media timeout. LU would finish the first half with 57 points, leading the Braves 57-33 at intermission.
The 57 points scored in the first half are the most ever under a Ritchie McKay led Liberty team and most by the Flames in a half since January 27, 2007 when the team scored 65 in the first half against VMI.
Liberty attempted 20 first half free throws, making 15 of them and shot 59% from the field and made 8 of 15 three point attempts in the first half led by McGhee’s four makes. He led the team with 12 first half points while Elijah Cuffee had 10 points while making 2 of his 3 three pointers. Chris Parker had 8 first half points and Blake Preston added 9 points and 6 rebounds.
The strong offensive performance continued into the second half as Liberty made its first 7 field goal attempts as the lead grew to 76-40 by the first media timeout of the second half. Kyle Rode scored 8 straight points in the opening minutes as he made a running jumper in the paint and two three pointers. Rode became the fourth Liberty player to reach double figures, joining McGhee, Cuffee, and Preston. Drake Dobbs scored the 100th point on a bucket at the 4:31 mark as Liberty led 101-60.
The Flames set a school record in a Division I game shooting 66% from the field. The Flames also made 18 of 30 (60%) three pointers on the afternoon led by McGhee who made 6 of 9 from behind the arc as he finished with 20 points. All five starters reached double figures as Cuffee finished with 16, as did Blake Preston who also had 9 rebounds and made all 7 of his field goal attempts. Kyle Rode added 14 points to go along with 9 assists while Parker had 11 points and 5 assists.
“I thought Blake’s presence in the post is mirroring some Scottie James like accuracy,” said McKay. “I think offensively we are trending upward.”
Liberty only committed two turnovers in the first half and finished the game with 9 as the team outscored the Braves, 32-11, in points off turnovers.
Liberty is now off for 10 days heading into Christmas break before the Flames begin conference play on New Year’s Day at Lipscomb. The Flames and Bisons will meet Friday night January 1st and again on January 2nd, both games to be played in Nashville. Lipscomb, the preseason ASUN favorites, are currently 4-5 on the season prior to their scheduled game Tuesday against Freed Hardeman.
“I think what has been a blessing in disguise is the depth we had has allowed us to not play our starters or heavy minute guys as much,” said McKay. “I think there is a development for those younger guys or inexperienced guys that coincides with offloading some of our high minute guys. That may change when league play starts because the games are significant and you’re positioning for seeding and trying to win a championship. We weren’t really in many close games after the first five, I think execution down the stretch will be something that we will play a lot of attention to when the break ends.”