MELBOURNE, Fla. – Liberty picked up its first win of the 2020-21 season, defeating Mississippi State 84-73. The win gives Liberty its third win over an SEC school in the last three seasons and its fifth win over a Power Five school in the last four seasons.
Liberty couldn’t have asked for a better start on offense, as the Flames shot a perfect 5-5 from the three-point line to start the game, jumping out to a 15-11 lead by the first media timeout. Liberty made eight of its first 10 shots to start the game but the Bulldogs’ offense kept up with the Flames, shooting 60 percent in the first 10 minutes of the game. It was back-and-forth in the first half with eight lead changes but Mississippi State’s bucket with three seconds left in the half, gave the Bulldogs the 41-40 lead going into halftime. Darius McGhee and Elijah Cuffee lead the Flames with 11 points each while Mississippi State’s Tolu Smith led all scorers with 14 points.
The Flames got off to an exceptional start in the second half, opening the half on a 13-1 run, giving Liberty the 53-42 lead. With 7:42 left in the game, the Flames held their largest lead of the game (65-53) and the Bulldogs were able to cut the lead to single digits. Keeping the Bulldogs away from its lead, Liberty continued to stay hot from beyond the arc, making 10 three-pointers in the second half to come away with the victory. McGhee led all scorers in the second half, scoring 12 points shooting 4-6 from three-point range.
Key Stats & Notes
· Liberty’s 19 made three-pointers is the most in a single game for Liberty.
· Liberty shot 52 percent (28-53) from the field and 48 percent (19-39) from three.
· Liberty’s bench outscored Mississippi State’s bench 23-7.
· Liberty recorded 22 assists off 28 made field goals.
· Liberty had five players score double-figures.
· Darius McGhee led all scorers with a career-high 23 points.
· Chris Parker had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.
· Chris Parker’s 10 assists ties his career-high.
· Blake Preston scored a career-high 11 points.
· Elijah Cuffee tied his career-high in three-pointers with five.
Thoughts from Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“I am really proud of our group’s effort tonight. The Bulldogs are really physical so to go back-to-back nights against Power Five opponents, Elite Eight and Final Four coaches who have been at their programs for a while; I just thought our effort, although we were undersized and overmatched inside, I thought our effort to make it hard on them was really critical. When you record 22 assists it shows the character of this group and they responded after a tough night last night.”
Liberty will close out the first week of the season in Kansas City, Mo. to participate in the Hall of Fame Classic Powered by ShotTracker. To tipoff the tournament, the Flames will face South Carolina. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPNNews.