Liberty (4-3) jumped out to an early lead and picked up a win Saturday evening over Delaware State (1-5), 80-53.
“I was really appreciative of our effort,” said head coach Ritchie McKay. “I thought defensively we were hard to play against. Obviously, a couple of shots went in offensively. I think the first half we had 16 assists on 19 baskets, I always like to see that. When you’ve got #2 on the court and he’s on your team and wearing one of your uniforms, you’ve got a chance to run good offense.”
The Flames were 10 of 16 from behind the arc in the first half, including four triples from Darius McGhee. It helped lead the team to a 49-26 lead at the halftime break. Liberty shot 65.5% from the floor in the first half. The second half would be more of the same as Liberty coasted to the win.
McGhee led the team with 23 points while Brody Peebles added 12 and Shiloh Robinson chipped in 10. Liberty outscored Delaware State, 34-14, in points in the paint and 23-5 in points off turnovers.
The Flames will return to Liberty Arena on Friday, Dec. 2 against Maryland Eastern-Shore. The Hawks are currently 2-4 on the season following their loss at Virginia on Friday night. They play against Lehigh on Wednesday before traveling to Lynchburg.
DARIUS MCGHEE PASSES 2,000 POINT MARK
With a three pointer in the first half of the game, Darius McGhee became the fourth member of Liberty’s career 2,000 point mark. Karl Hess is the all-time leader in scoring with 2,373. He is followed by Larry Blair with 2,211 and Bailey Alston’s 2,115.
McGhee entered tonight’s game needing just 11 points to reach the mark. It didn’t take him long to get there. The two-time reigning ASUN Player of the Year had 18 points in the first half on 7 of 10 shooting and 4 of 6 from three. He would finish the night with 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting and 5 of 8 from three.
“2,000 points is a lot of points,” said McKay. “You combine his high school points he is over 5 grand now. That kid can really score the ball. Every accolade he receives or milestone, plateau that he accomplishes, I am standing up and clapping my hands. I want to celebrate him. He did what is uncommon in this day and age of NIL and instant gratification. I’m really happy for him. It speaks volumes of his ability, but also it was mentioned in the locker room by one of his teammates that he did it and that shows what kind of a room that is in there.”
HOT SHOOTING HELPS FLAMES TO WIN
In the two games played at the Cancun Challenge earlier this week, Liberty shot below 40% from the field. In the opener against Northwestern, the Flames were 34% from the field and 30% from three. In Wednesday’s win over Bradley, Liberty shot just 38.2% from the floor and 31% from three.
The team broke out of the cold shooting slump in a big way, especially in the first half. The Flames made 19 of 29 shots (65.5%) from the field and made 10 of 16 (62.5%) from three. Liberty would finish the game shooting 52.5% from the field and 13 of 29 from three (44.8%).
TRUE FRESHMEN SHINE
Colin Porter scored 8 points and dished out 5 assists to go along with 3 rebounds in 25 minutes. He was 3 of 4 from the field and 2 of 3 from behind the arc. Zach Cleveland, a fellow true freshman, also had strong showing. He finished with 8 points on 3 of 3 shooting from the field and 8 points and a team-high 7 assists with zero turnovers.
“Colin is a good player,” said McKay. “He keeps making deposits into his experience bank. That’s going to be something that we will withdraw plentiful from. I think he’s got a level of maturity and a composure about him that reminds me of a freshman that we had at UVA that kind of made the turn for us in London Perrantes. I like what he’s doing out there. He’s really popular with his teammates, that’s always a worthy thing when you’re a point guard.”
Both Porter and Cleveland have inserted themselves into the rotation this season, with Porter in the starting lineup and Cleveland pushing for minutes off the bench every night. There will be some ups and downs throughout the year as is typical for freshmen, but hopefully as the season matures so will they.
“Zach went from a DNP against Bradley to, I thought, a really good game tonight,” McKay said. “We’ve seen flashes of that throughout the fall and even some in the early season. Between he and freshman comrade Colin Porter and Ben Southerland, he’s going to be a really good player for us too, I really like the youth that we have in our program.”
POST GAME PRESS CONFERENCE