Liberty took control of first place in the ASUN Conference Thursday night with an 82-77 win over North Florida. The Flames improved to 25-3 overall and 11-2 in the ASUN while North Florida drops to 18-11 and 11-3 in conference.
The first 12 minutes of the game went back-and-forth with five lead changes but midway through the half, Liberty would go on an 8-0 run for the 24-18 lead. Caleb Homesley (13 points) and Scottie James (10 points) got things going to kick start Liberty’s offense scoring 21 points in the half. Darius McGhee would then get hot to end the half, scoring nine points in the final eight minutes of the half. Liberty would end the first half making 11 of its last 12 field goals to go into the break with a 40-31 lead. Liberty ended the half shooting 62 percent (18-29) from the field, including 30 points inside the paint. Despite shooting just 38 percent (12-31) in the half, North Florida stayed in the game with five offensive rebounds and 21 points from three-point range.
Liberty continued to be effective on offense to start the second half, as it jumped out to a 12-point lead (48-36) lead with 16 minutes left in the game. JT Escobar was hot all night and kept North Florida in the ball game in the second half with 15 second half points, including a trio of makes from beyond the arc. Late in the game, North Florida was able to cut it to single digits but Liberty was able to make enough free throws to come away with the victory.
Key Stats & Notes
- Liberty extends its school-record home winning streak to 19 games and improved to 13-0 this season.
- This was the sixth time Liberty has scored 80-plus points this season and fourth against a Division I opponent.
- Caleb Homesley moved into a tie with George Sweet on liberty’s all-time scoring list at No. 12 with 1,422 career points, surpassing former teammate Lovell Cabbil.
- Homesley scored a game-high 28 points.
- This was Homesley’s 11th 20-point game of his career.
- Homesley made a career-high 11 free throws off a career-best 15 attempts.
- Scottie James posted his fifth double-double of the season and 27th of his career, which is tied for No. 4 in school history with Alex McLean.
- Liberty outscored North Florida 44-22 inside the paint.
- Liberty shot 62.1 percent (18-29) in the first half, the best first half this season.
Thoughts from Head Coach Ritchie McKay
"I was really proud of our group tonight. Flames Nation was fantastic tonight; what a great crowd and a really good college basketball atmosphere. They made a huge difference. They (North Florida) are really good and in the first half we defended terrifically well and in the second half we didn’t do as good of a job and they had a lot to do with that. We did enough to finish the game and that is saying a lot because North Florida is a very good team.”
Liberty will play its final home game of the regular season on Saturday, Feb. 22, when they host Stetson. It will be Senior Day for Myo Baxter-Bell, Caleb Homesley, Scottie James and Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz as tip-off is set for 5 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.