Liberty (15-7, 6-1) bounced back just 48 hours after dropping its first game at home in three years with a 65-50 win over Kennesaw State (9-12, 4-4) on Monday night from the KSU Convocation Center in Kennesaw, Georgia.
“I felt like our guys responded great to a loss against a really good Jacksonville State team,” said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. “Mentally prepared and I thought had a real intention-ality on both ends of the floor against a really good Kennesaw team. We knew the danger that the Owls present and we responded accordingly. Really pleased with our balance in our attack on the offensive end.”
With the sour taste of defeat freshly in their mouths, the Flames wasted little time rinsing that taste out and getting back in the win column. Liberty had a slow offensive start in the opening minutes, but would quickly find their groove and build a comfortable margin.
Darius McGhee led all scorers with 16 points. He was one of four Flames in double figures as Shiloh Robinson chipped in 14 points and 4 rebounds, Kyle Rode had 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists, and Blake Preston finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
The Flames continue their three game road trip on Thursday with the first of two games played in Kentucky. Liberty plays at Bellarmine at 7 pm on ESPN+. The Knights are currently 13-9 overall and 7-1 in ASUN play with their only loss coming at Jacksonville State.
“We’re halfway through a tough stretch,” McKay continued. “It’s game three in six days. Now, we’ve got three more in seven days. We will try to get some rest and try to prep for Bellarmine.”
Here are our three main takeaways from today’s game:
BUSINESS LIKE MINDSET IN THE BOUNCE-BACK
It wasn’t a good feeling around the Liberty men’s basketball program over the past couple of days since that loss to Jacksonville State on Saturday night. The team obviously took it to heart, and they came out at Kennesaw State with one goal in mind – getting back in the win column – and they did just that.
“We’re just kind of getting back to form,” McKay stated. “This is a no excuse program, but we lost a little bit of our rhythm when we couldn’t practice. Some guys had COVID and are still recovering from it. What I’m impressed with is our guys response to losing our home winning streak. Now, Jacksonville State will be in all the Bracketology stuff. You feel like you let your fan base down when you are not in first place anymore. For these guys, that’s taxing. They want to please. That’s their character. The mental approach and preparation for the game, the removal of interference about not measuring up, our guys did a great job of that. They played with a joy and excitement tonight that I think was really mature.”
EFFICIENT OFFENSE, STRONG DEFENSE
It was a total team effort on both ends of the floor in the win. The Flames finished the game shooting 53% from the field and 48% from three while also holding the Owls to 38% shooting from the field and just 17% (4-23) from three- point range.
“We had some really good performances,” said McKay. “Joseph (Venzant) got in foul trouble, I thought Isiah (Warfield) did a great job coming in. Obvioiusly, Blake (Preston) and Brody (Peebles) gave us great minutes too off the bench. Really good team effort. Our defense is what we try to hang our hat on. I thought it was pretty good tonight.”
MCGHEE MOVES INTO TOP 10 ON SCORING LIST
Guard Darius McGhee continues his assault on the Liberty record books, moving up to No. 10 on the all-time program scoring list. He surpassed Larry Jackson Monday night just one game after passing former teammate Caleb Homesley. McGhee now has 1,548 career points in a Liberty uniform.
He finished the game with 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting and 4 of 7 from behind the arc to go along with 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Liberty’s all-time three point king has made 90 triples this season, marking the fifth most in a single season in program history. He trails the program record of 107 set by Davon Marshall in 2012-13. McGhee is fourth on the list with his 93 three-pointers a season ago.
CLOSING THOUGHT FROM MCKAY
Coach McKay had a closing statement that he had for all of Flames Nation:
“I feel like it’s a narrative that isn’t talked about much…It’s really, really hard to win games at the level that our guys have done over the years. We have the best fans in the country, but I also think you can take things for granted. Our guys have been living by this quote this year – ‘It’s really hard to be grateful for what you feel entitled to.’ We’ve got to get rid of, as a program, thinking that we’ve got to be perfect to do what we want to do. Jacksonville State is one of the best teams we’ve played all year. I don’t need to go down the list – BYU, Stanford, Iona, Missouri, LSU – we’ve played some really good teams. So, it’s good for us to have really good conference opponents because that can only make us better, but our expectation as a program is to keep getting better. Yeah, of course we want to win, but not to feel like we’ve let everyone down cause we’re 5-1 in the league. That’s not us. We’re trying to glorify God in what we do, win as many games as we can along the way, but we want to get better as people, players, and as individuals.”