Late Free Throws Send Liberty Past Winthrop, 73-70

Flames Roster
Lovell Cabbil (3) scored a team-high 19 points on Tuesday night, leading Liberty to the 73-70 win over Winthrop. (Source: Liberty Athletics)

ROCK HILL, SC. — Lovell Cabbil scored a team-high 19 points to go along with five assists, and Isaiah Williams hit a pair of free throws in the closing minute to seal the deal on a 73-70 win for the Liberty Flames over the Winthrop Eagles on Tuesday night.

Tuesday marked the first of two meetings between the Flames and the defending champions in the Big South Conference. Liberty was looking to keep pace atop the conference standings with the Radford Highlanders, while the Eagles were simply looking to get back to .500 in conference play.

Winthrop had Liberty’s number last season, sweeping the regular season series against the Flames with a pair of double-digit victories. The Flames had their sights set on some retribution on Tuesday on the Eagles’ home floor, and they didn’t disappoint.

While the Eagles would open up a 14-2 lead just over five minutes into the game, the Flames would claw their way back and neither team would lead by more than eight points the rest of the way. The game came down to the wire, and it was ultimately won at the free throw line.

With nine seconds left in the game, Williams grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled. He hit both free throws, giving Liberty the 71-70 lead. Ryan Kemrite would pad the lead with a pair of free throws with two ticks on the clock, and Liberty picked up the 73-70 victory on the road.

The win for Liberty was their first in Rock Hill, SC since 2004.

Cabbil was 7-of-14 from the field on the night, and pulled down five rebounds to go with his 19 points and five assists. Williams added 10 points in 15 minutes of action off the bench, but none bigger than the two free throws to give the Flames the late lead.

Caleb Homesley chipped in with 13 points on the offensive end, and racked up three steals on defense.

For the Eagles, Adam Pickett had himself a highly effective night from all areas of the floor. He was 6-of-7 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free throw line, finishing with a game-high 21 points. Pickett also had seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, and three blocks.

Bjorn Broman had 14 points and three assists, while Xavier Cooks chipped in 15 points and seven assists in the loss.

Winthrop opened the game on a 14-2 run, holding the Flames to just a single basket over the first seven-plus minutes of the night. Eight of Pickett’s game-high 21 points game in the opening run for the Eagles. It wasn’t until the 12:06 mark that the Flames would hit their second field goal, a jumper from Cabbil to make the game 14-4 in favour of the home side.

From there, it was a back-and-forth game for the remainder of the evening. Winthrop would see their lead diminish in the first half, only to retake a seven point lead shortly thereafter. Three free throws from Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz gave the Flames a shot of momentum heading into the break, as Liberty only trailed by four.

In the second half, the Flames opened up an eight point lead of their own. A three pointer from Kemrite with just over 13 minutes to play gave the Flames their biggest lead of the night, at 49-41.

Much like the Flames did in the first half, Winthrop hung tight and kept things interesting right down to the final buzzer. That’s when Williams came up with the biggest play of the night.

After a missed three pointer from Cabbil, Williams grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled on his way to the basket. He calmly made both free throws with just nine seconds left on the clock, pushing Liberty ahead by one, at 71-70. After a miss from Pickett on the other end, his only miss of the day, Kemrite hit another pair of free throws to seal the deal for the Flames.

Liberty overcame a sluggish start to pick up their first win on the road at Winthrop since February 18th, 2004.

Tuesday marked the third straight win for Liberty (12-5, 3-1), giving them their third three-game winning streak of the season. They will look to make it four straight wins on Friday night when they return home to host the Longwood Lancers.

On the contrary, the loss was the third straight defeat for Winthrop (7-8, 1-3). The Eagles have just two wins over their last seven outings. They will look to get back to .500 on the year when they visit the Charleston Southern Buccaneers on Friday night.

– T. Bennett