JACKSONVILLE, Fl. (WFXR) —
For the first time in program history, Liberty has reached four straight conference championships, as the Flames defeated Stetson, 77-64, Friday afternoon at UNF Arena. History was made for Liberty’s Elijah Cuffee, becoming the program’s all-time winningest player, recording his 103rd career win and is the first player in program history to make a conference championship all four years he has been at Liberty.
Both teams started the game efficient on offense as both the Hatters and Flames each made six of their first 10 shots. As both teams went back-and-forth in the first half, the Flames ended the half on a 10-0 run, holding the Hatter scoreless for the final 3:42 of the half to take a 34-26 lead at the break. Chris Parker and Elijah Cuffee led the way for the Flames on offense, scoring eight points each. Christian Jones led the way for Stetson scoring 10 points.
Early in the half Stetson would go on a 9-0 run to cut Liberty’s lead to a single possession (38-37); however, Liberty countered by slowing the game down to hold onto its lead. Midway through the half (9:10) Stetson once again cut Liberty’s lead to one-point (47-46) and would eventually take the lead off a Chase Johnston three-pointer with eight minutes left in the game. With Liberty down late in the game, Darius McGhee caught fire scoring six straight points, helping Liberty regain the 63-57 lead with 3:44 left in the game and the Flames never looked back. Liberty ended the game on a 27-10 run during the final seven and a half minutes of the game led by Blake Preston scoring eight points and McGhee adding six points to go along with four assists during that run.
Key Stats & Notes
- Elijah Cuffee won his 103rd career game at Liberty, becoming Liberty’s all-time winningest player.
- Liberty extends its winning streak to 11 games, tied for the third longest streak in the country.
- Cuffee passed Alex McLean on Liberty’s all-time scoring list, moving to No. 31with 956 career points.
- Darius McGhee recorded a career-high nine assists.
- McGhee moved to No. 28 on Liberty’s all-time scoring list, with 1,019 career points, passing Mike Goad.
- Blake Preston posted his fourth double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
- Liberty shot 57 percent from the field while limiting Stetson to 41 percent.
- Chris Parker led Liberty with 16 points.
- Liberty’s bench outscored Stetson’s bench 18-9.
- Liberty outscored Stetson 38-20 inside the paint.
Thoughts from Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“First, I would like to congratulate a really well-coached and hard-playing Stetson team. They always give us trouble and I love their program and its culture, and they have some terrific young guys, including Christian Jones. If that is his (Jones) final collegiate game, what a wonderful career he had. As far as our guys, what I was proud of is we had a 10-point lead in the second half and they had the advantage at 54-50 and we could have gone in the wrong direction. When you are the No. 1 seed, I think there is an added pressure to you getting the desired outcome and it just doesn’t happen like that in college basketball, especially when you are on a neutral floor. The way we played from that point on I thought is a reflection of the kind of young men that are in our program.”
For the third straight season Liberty will play in the ASUN Championship but for the first time during that run, it will be a new opponent as the Flames will face the No. 5 seed, North Alabama at UNF Arena.
Since North Alabama is still in its four-year Division I transition period and ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, Liberty has locked the ASUN’s automatic berth.