Liberty (18-13, 7-9) defeated Western Kentucky (19-11, 8-8), 82-79, in front of 3,023 fans at Liberty Arena for the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon.

“Really, really hard fought game,” said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. “They are a very good team and incredibly well coached. I thought our guys resiliency this afternoon was really good. Can’t think of a better way to send Kyle Rode off in his last home game than with a 31-point performance. Really pleased with our guys and how hard they battled. It was necessary in order to beat a team like the Hilltoppers.”

On Senior Day, Liberty 5th year senior Kyle Rode tied his career high with 31 points as he helped the Flames to the win. Liberty fell behind by as many as 8 points in the first half, but would come storming back to regain the lead, 36-32, at intermission. In the second half, the Flames pushed the lead to as high as 10 points but Western Kentucky, who finished in third place in the conference standings, would not go down easily, staying within striking distance until the final horn.

Rode also tied his career high with 7 made triples, connecting on his 12 attempts. Fellow senior, Shiloh Robinson chipped in a season high 14 points on 4 of 5 shooting in 22 minutes played. Colin Porter had 15 points and 6 assists while Kaden Metheny finished the afternoon with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Zach Cleveland, who only scored 4 points on 2 of 3 shooting, had 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Liberty got to the free throw line a season high 31 times, connecting on another season high 23.

Liberty now turns its attention to the 2024 CUSA Tournament which begins Tuesday night in Huntsville, Alabama. Seeding scenarios will be finalized later Saturday afternoon once all conference games have been completed, check later today for the finalized bracket.


Rode was determined to keep his team in the contest, shooting at a very good clip and being very aggressive throughout the afternoon. He hit timely shots and eclipsed the 20 point plateau early in the 2nd half, his 5th 20-point game of the season. The only other time the senior forward reached 30 points was when he scored 31 earlier this season in a win over Wichita State. It was his last game played at Liberty Arena, and he had an all-time performance on senior day.

“I’ve thought about this day for a long time,” McKay said following the game. “I can’t give you the words and gratitude that I have for Kyle Rode. I’m not sure they exist. I think the young man has been exemplary in every facet of representation, just a special, special person. There won’t ever be one I get to coach like him. I love him, so happy that he got to end his career at Liberty Arena the way he did tonight. He was determined not to let us lose.”

Robinson, who has come off the bench the entire season after spending much of his career as a starter, scored a season high 14 points. He made 4 of 5 shots including 1 of 2 threes and 5 of 7 from the free throw line.

“If Shiloh had a divisive personality, showed his frustration, or exuded some kind of frustration of unmet expectation, we wouldn’t be here,” McKay stated. “We would have been a fractured, divided house. Not once. Not once. I was happy he played as well as he did tonight. I thought I’d leave him in there because his consistency on defense was great.”


Western Kentucky went on a 13-2 first half run to push their lead to eight midway through the first half. It came during a stretch where the Flames scored just two points in about 7 minutes of game action. Liberty would not flinch, answering with 11 straight points to regain the lead. The home team would maintain the lead for most of the rest of the contest, including the entire second half.

“I think it’s a testament to what we’ve been through,” McKay said of his team’s resiliency. “We keep telling them it is a bumpy road to better and we hit these potholes we’ve been battling, whether it’s our own unmet expectations or those of others and our own frustrations or regret about what we didn’t do or how we made a mistake. I think it’s a reflection of our guys’ continual pursuit.”


There are currently three CUSA games being contested on this Saturday afternoon, the final day of the regular season and there are many unknowns remaining about how next week’s conference tournament will shake out. Entering Saturday, all the Flames knew was a loss would find them in the 8/9 play-in game on Tuesday night while a win could see Liberty as high as the 4-seed.

In a league as tightly contested as Conference USA is, having to win four games on the path to a championship would be very difficult. Liberty greatly improved its chances to ensuring it would only have to win three in Huntsville next week.

“I was going to empty the tank of the starters tonight because I thought it would be next to impossible to win four games, especially against this level of competition,” McKay said of trying to avoid the play-in game. “It puts us in a little better spot. I think our group is of the belief that we are getting better. We are fixated on that improvement. I hope it carries over. We will see what happens next week in Huntsville.”