Liberty torches Bellarmine, advances to ASUN semifinals

Flames McGhee pours in 29 pts in 30 minutes

Liberty University basketball (WSLS)

Lynchburg, Va. – Liberty’s Darius McGhee’s electric 26-point first half helped propel the No. 2 seed Flames to a 76-56 victory over No. 8 seed Bellarmine, Tuesday night in the ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship quarterfinals at Liberty Arena.

Liberty advances to the ASUN Tournament semifinal round, where it will face No. 3 seed Eastern Kentucky (20-12), who defeated No. 6 seed North Alabama 73-48 tonight.

McGhee was 9-of-11 from the field and 8-of-10 from the floor for 26 points and had five assists and two steals in the opening 20 minutes. In the first half, he moved into second place in NCAA history for career three-pointers made and is now up to 514 career makes from long distance. With his fourth three of the night, he also broke his own program record for single-season threes. McGhee made 142 threes last year and has 147 triples this season.

McGhee made nine three-pointers in the game, matching his own program record, and finished with 29 points. Freshman point guard Colin Porter joined McGhee in double figures with 11 points in his first postseason game.

Liberty improves to 11-1 all-time in the ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship. The Flames are 5-1 all-time against the Knights and won all three meetings this year.

No. 1 seed Kennesaw State (24-8) will meet No. 5 seed Lipscomb (20-12) in the other semifinal, Thursday night.

Thoughts From Head Coach Ritchie McKay:

”It’s really hard to advance in the postseason, so I’m grateful that we played the way we did. I have a ton of respect for Bellarmine, how difficult they are to guard and how much toughness that team plays with. That’s a group that came in last year and walked out of here with a win and ended our season. There was no revenge, just a ton of respect in our approach. I thought our guys handled it really professionally.”

Box Score Highlights

Liberty Individuals: Darius McGhee 29 points, 10-16 FG, 9-14 3FG, 6 assists, 3 steals; Colin Porter 11 points, 3-3 FT; Kyle Rode 9 points, 3-4 FT, 4 assists; Joseph Venzant 7 points, 3-3 FG, 7 rebounds

Bellarmine Individuals: Alec Pfriem 13 points, 5-6 FG; Garrett Tipton 12 points, 5-7 FG, Peter Suder 10 points, 4-7 FG, 2 steals; Ben Johnson 10 points

Key Team Stats: Liberty shot 56 percent from the floor (28-of-50) in the game and shot 70.8 percent (17-of-24) in the opening half. Bellarmine finished the night at 46.9 percent (23-of-49), but the Flames held the Knights to 37 percent shooting (10-of-27) in the second half. Liberty outrebounded Bellarmine 31-22 on the night and held edges in assists (15-7) and fast break points (13-0). The Flames improve to 13-2 in games when they shoot 50 percent or better. Liberty connected on 13-of-29 three-pointers (44.8 percent) and held Bellarmine to 27.8 percent (5-of-18) from long distance.

Turning Point:

Bellarmine came out of the gates fast, taking a quick 6-2 lead in the opening 1:55. Darius McGhee caught fire beginning at the 15:57 mark of the first half and knocked down his three to give Liberty a 10-8 edge. McGhee made a layup at the 15:12 mark and then drilled threes on back-to-back-to-back possessions at the 14:44, 14:14 and 13:44 marks. His last triple in that sequence was his program-record setting 143rd of the season. McGhee made his next three at the 11:43 mark for a 24-14 Liberty lead, his fifth of the half, giving him 510 career threes and allowing him to pass Fletcher Magee (509 threes, Wofford, 2019-19) for second place in NCAA history on the all-time three-point list.

Leading 26-22 with 8:32 to play in the half, the Flames finished the half on a 22-9 spurt. McGhee’s teammates helped build the lead back up to nine, as a three from Joseph Venzant and baskets from Isiah Warfield and Kyle Rode made it a 33-24 home lead. McGhee made his sixth three of the half for a 36-24 Flames edge at the 4:33 mark and made two more in the half. His eighth and final three of the frame dropped in with six seconds to send Liberty into the locker room with a 17-point edge, 48-31.

Key Stats & Notes

McGhee’s final stat line was 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 9-of-14 from the three-point line. The redshirt senior guard added six assists and matched a game high with three steals.• McGhee scored 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three-point range in the first 8:17 of the• Zach Cleveland grabbed a career-best and game-high eight rebounds in only 12:39 of action.• Joseph Venzant tallied seven points on 3-of-3 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. The guard has now recorded six or more rebounds 13 times this year.• Isiah Warfield finished the night with six points and matched a career high with three steals.• The Flames bolster their record to 17-1 at Liberty Arena, this season.• Liberty improves to 11-7 all-time as a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament play. The Flames are now 18-13 all-time in quarterfinal conference tournament games. Liberty is 34-25 all-time in conference tournament play.• The Flames defeated the Knights by 20 points two times (tonight and Feb. 9) and 17 points once (Dec. 29) this year.

Up Next

Liberty has advanced to the ASUN Championship semifinals, where it will face No. 3 seed Eastern Kentucky (20-12) on Thursday evening. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Liberty Arena.

The Flames and Colonels split the regular season, with each team winning on its home court. Liberty topped EKU 83-73 on Feb. 11 at Liberty Arena. The Flames fell 62-59 to the Colonels on the road on Jan. 8 in what was their first ASUN loss of the season at the time.