LYNCHBURG, Va. — Coming into Sunday, the UNC Asheville Bulldogs have reigned supreme over the Liberty Flames, having won their previous 12 meetings.
Thanks to 15 made three pointers as a team, the Bulldogs cruised to the 84-68 win over the Flames on the road, continuing their dominance over their Big South Conference foes.
As a team, the Bulldogs shot 62.5% (30-of-48) from the field, and 62.5% (15-of-24) from beyond the arc. They also picked up 20 assists on their 30 made field goals. For the Flames, they 41.1% (23-of-56) from the field, and just 27.8% (5-of-18) from three point range.
With the win, the Bulldogs have now won four of their last five games in Big South play while the Flames have dropped four straight after a three game winning streak.
The veteran duo of Kevin Vannatta and Ahmad Thomas led the way for the Bulldogs in the win. The pair scored 23 points apiece to pace an offensive attack for UNC Asheville that saw four of its starters score in double figures. Vannatta recorded seven rebounds and four assists, while Thomas added six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Raekwon Miller (12 points) and Macio Teague (11 points) rounded out the balanced attack for the Bulldogs’ starters.
Liberty was led by forward Scottie James, who scored a team high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds in a losing effort. Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz added 10 points and two rebounds, while Ryan Kemrite chipped in with 12 points.
Guard Lovell Cabbil recorded six points, four rebounds, and four assists on the day. With the four rebounds, he became the 45th player in school history to record at least 300 rebounds for his career.
The Bulldogs opened the game by scoring the first five points, and extended their lead with a 13-2 run overall. Vannatta capped the run, which spanned a little over three minutes, with one of his five made three-pointers on the afternoon.
Liberty found themselves down by 18 points with under seven minutes to play in the first half, at 36-18, and they were never able to recover. The Flames shot just 35.5% from the field in the opening frame, while the Bulldogs shot 67%. UNC Asheville held a 51-32 lead at the break, and never looked back.
The Flames outscored the Bulldogs by three in the second half, 36-33, but it wasn’t enough to make a dent in the lead that UNC Asheville had built over the first 20 minutes. On the afternoon, the Bulldogs never trailed, and cruised to the 84-68 win over the Flames, pushing their winning streak to 13 games against Liberty.
With the win, UNC Asheville (12-9, 5-3) earned a split over their two game road trip, and have now won four of their past five outings. They return home to host the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs on Wednesday night.
The loss was the fourth straight defeat for Liberty (12-9, 3-5), who now find themselves in eighth place in the conference and three games out of first spot. The Flames host the Campbell Fightin’ Camels on Tuesday night before heading on the road for one game on Saturday.
– T. Bennett