The Liberty Flames are just scratching the surface of what they can be.
Entering Monday night’s contest with the Georgetown Hoyas, the Flames were enjoying their hottest start since 1991. Ritchie McKay’s unselfish unit has used its depth, inside-out offensive attack, and strong man-to-man defensive principles as the catalysts to its hot start. Although Liberty fell to the Hoyas, 88-78, rest assured that the Flames will be in the mix to compete for top honors in their first year in the ASUN.
Frequent ball reversals from Liberty’s steady-shooting perimeter, including sharp basket cuts, allow the Flames to play mostly a four around one style offense. Scottie James does an exceptional job of moving with the ball from box to box, which creates opportunities for these guards to have the space to create off-the-bounce or spot up. James isn’t just a low post threat, he is also one of the many players who can step out and shoot it with range. Often when James does step out, this generates Liberty’s backdoor cuts, since teams have to respect how well they shoot.
Senior guard Lovell Cabbil Jr. headlines the guard offensive attack, however they have several individuals who can shoot it with consistency, including two-time ASUN Newcomer of the Week, freshman Darius McGhee. Seldom will you see the ball stick, as consistent precision of player and ball movement leads to high-percentage attempts. When James leaves, you will see them still commit to four around one, but when Myo Baxter-Bell on the floor, the post will extend more into the high post area. They will look to push tempo when they have numbers and shooters let in fly in transition.
Building walls around the paint by using the well-known pack line defense is the general philosophy for Liberty. The Flames have plenty of length aiding in being able to cover ground when closing out on the perimeter. Trying to force teams into tough, contested shots has put the Flames in the top 10 in scoring defense so far this season. One of the main principles is what occurs when the ball is caught on the block by an offensive player. They believe in the immediate strong double, mostly big-on-big, using swift rotations to help protect the paint. They really do an excellent job of team rebounding and limiting dribble penetration.
This is a veteran group that truly understands how to play with each other. On both ends of the floor, you can see how connected they are, the belief they have in their system, and the reflection of the leadership. Stats don’t always tell the story because the calmness of junior point guard Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz keeps this team organized. Swingmen Caleb Homesley and Elijah Cuffee make them dynamic offensively and allow them to defend multiple positions with toughness even when undersized. Liberty will continue to improve, thus putting itself in a nice position to be among the teams talked about in high regard in the ASUN.