DELAND, Fla. – Liberty’s second half struggles proved costly in Game 1 of the weekend series at Stetson, as the Flames drop the 66-59 contest to the Hatters. Liberty falls to 11-5 on the season and 3-2 in the ASUN Conference while Stetson improves to 4-5 overall and 2-1 in conference.
Blake Preston kickstarted Liberty’s offense scoring six points in the first three and a half minutes of the game. The Flames’ first 14 points of the game were inside the paint. Liberty’s defense was exceptional in the first half, forcing Stetson to shoot 33 percent from the floor. Liberty had six players score in the first half, led by Preston’s eight points. The Flames would go into the break with a 31-25 lead. Stetson’s 25 points is the second fewest points for Stetson has scored in a half this season.
Stetson was able to get back into the game and tie it up (42-42) at the 11:33-mark, erasing Liberty’s six-point lead and eventually taking the lead with 10 minutes left in the game. Turnovers proved costly for the Flames in the second half, committing nine turnovers, which led to 14 points for Stetson. Christian Jones (15 points) and Chase Johnston (12 points) took over for the Hatters in the second half, scoring 27 of Stetson’s 40 points in the second half to pull out the victory. Parker would score Liberty’s last 11 points of the game to try and mount a comeback but it wasn’t enough for the Flames.
Key Stats & Notes
· Elijah Cuffee moved to No. 33 on Liberty’s all-time scoring list with 854 career points, passing Mark Reed.
· Darius McGhee moved to No. 36 on Liberty’s all-time scoring list with 826 career points, passing Evan Gordon.
· Chris Parker scored a season-high 18 points.
· Liberty shot 46 percent from the floor, while Stetson shot 38 percent.
· This was the second game this season Liberty has outshot its opponent from the field and yet lost.
· Liberty outscored Stetson 38-24 inside the paint.
· Liberty’s 14 turnovers was tied for the most in a game this season for Liberty.
· Liberty made five three-pointers, the second fewest in a game this season.
Thoughts from Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“Their (Stetson) game plan was shoot the three, and if you don’t have it, drive it. They didn’t have one post up opportunity the whole night, so they shoot the three and we were late on a couple of contests. They continued to drive the ball, and they shot 21 free throws.”
Liberty will conclude tis weekend series with Stetson on Saturday, Jan. 16, at the Edmunds Center. Tipoff against the Hatters is set for 5 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN+.