LYNCHBURG, Va. — The Liberty Flames came out of the gate on fire to open the 2017-18 regular season.
Liberty welcomed the Clarks Summit Defenders to town for their fifth meeting all-time. The Flames were a perfect 4-0 against the Defenders, and were looking to extend their winning streak while also kicking off the season with a win.
From the outset of the game, the Flames seized complete control of the game, and Clarks Summit didn’t put up much of a fight from the opening tip. An extended run to open the game blew things open before the halfway point of the first half, and Liberty had things on cruise control throughout the second half.
Behind a balanced scoring attack that saw 10 of the 11 players who checked into the game score at least two points, Liberty held down their home court to the tune of an 87-42 victory over the Defenders.
Right out of the gate, Liberty rattled off a 23-2 run that spanned almost eight minutes. Ryan Kemrite hit the Flames’ first field goal attempt of the season, a three ball, to kick start the run.
In total, six different Flames scored during the run, led by nine points from guard Lovell Cabbil.
Clarks Summit ended a scoring drought of close to five minutes when Will Smoot hit a jumper to end the Flames’ run, but the damage had already been done.
Smoot’s jumper started a mini 10-2 run for the Defenders that cut the Flames’ lead down to 15 points, at 25-10. But, Liberty responded and pushed their lead to 30 points at the break, at 48-18.
Early in the second half, the teams traded baskets, with John McCloskey hitting a three ball at the 17:17 mark to make the score 52-23 in favour of the Flames.
Then, Liberty rattled off another run to push the lead above 40 points. A 15-0 run, capped off by a three pointer from Elijah Cuffie, saw Liberty’s lead balloon to 44 points with 10:17 to play.
The rest of the game was merely a formality, as the Flames cruised to the 87-42 victory over Clarks Summit. It marks their fifth win in five tries against the Defenders all-time.
Guard Lovell Cabbil led the way for the Flames, scoring a game-high 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. He also added six rebounds in the win. Ezra Talbert added 13 points and seven rebounds of his own.
Freshman Keegan McDowell chipped in with 11 points and two steals in his regular season debut.
Preston Huckaby and Will Smoot paced the Defenders with 12 points apiece in the loss.
From here, Liberty (1-0) head on the road to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (0-1) on Tuesday night. The Demon Deacons are coming off of a two-point loss to the Georgia Southern Eagles in their opener.
– T. Bennett