HONOLULU, Hawaii – Liberty went toe-to-toe with Stanford in the Diamond Head Classic semifinals, Thursday afternoon at the Stan Sheriff Center. The Flames gave it their all, losing a nail biter, 79-76, to the Cardinal. Liberty’s Darius McGhee scored 41 points, tying the program’s Division I record held by Matt Hildebrand. The Flames fall to 8-5 on the season and will face either BYU or Wyoming in the third-place game.
After neither team scored for the first 2:32 of the game, Liberty was able to take the early lead in the contest, sparked by Darius McGhee scoring nine points in the first seven minutes of the contest as the Flames held a 13-5 lead at the 13-minute mark. Despite Stanford holding Liberty to a three-minute scoring draught, Liberty’s defense was able to step up, holding the Cardinal scoreless for nearly four minutes as well midway through the half. Stanford would go on an 18-6 run to close out the half and to tie the game at 36-36. McGhee led all scorers with 16 points. Liberty was able to force 12 turnovers in the first half that led to 12 points for the Flames.
Stanford quickly took the lead, opening the half on a 5-0 run. The Flame and Cardinal would go back-and-forth exchanging the lead five different times and tying the ball game three separate times within the first eight minutes of the half. After exchanging the lead, Stanford would take an eight-point lead (67-59) with 4:52 left in the contest and the Cardinal would never relinquish their lead. Liberty was able to shrink Stanford’s lead to one point (77-76) but Liberty was never able to take over the lead.
Key Stats & Notes
- Darius McGhee scored a career-high 41 points, recording his second career 30-point game and his 20th career 20-point game.
- McGhee’s 41 points ties the program’s Division I record of most points in a single game joining Matt Hildebrand who scored 41 on Feb. 19, 1994.
- McGhee’s 41 points ties the Diamond Head Classic record for most points in a game.
- McGhee moved to No. 17 on Liberty’s all-time scoring list with 1,330 career points, passing Scottie James.
- Liberty forced 23 turnovers, which led to 23 points for the Flames.
- Stanford shot 56 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range.
- Stanford had three players score double-figures led by Spencer Jones’ 25 points.
Thoughts from Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“That was a really hard-fought game and really proud of our guys. That was a highly intense, NCAA Tournament-like game with the level of physicality and the two teams battled each other, unfortunately we didn’t quite have enough tonight. I still feel like our guys are getting better and we will have another opportunity on Christmas.”
Liberty will now face the loser of the BYU vs. Vanderbilt game on Christmas, at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN2.