CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Darius McGhee scored 27 points and Liberty outscored East Carolina by 13 in the second half Friday afternoon on the way to a 74-64 non-conference victory at the Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout inside the Spectrum Center.
The Pirates (8-3) held a three-point lead at the break, but shot just 32 percent in the second half while the Flames (7-4) drained 15 of 27 (55.6 percent) on the way to the comeback victory. The squads ended up even on the glass with 36 rebounds apiece, but ECU turned the ball over 15 times and was outscored 38-24 in the paint.
McGhee torched the nets for 16 points in the second frame, a total which included a couple of clutch three-point field goals down the stretch. Kyle Rode and Blake Preston added 12 and 10 in the contest while Shiloh Robinson fell just short of a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Vance Jackson paced East Carolina with his third double-double of the season, tallying 15 points and 10 rebounds. Tristen Newton scored in double figures for the 14th-straight game, also collecting a team-high 15, while J.J. Miles was the third Pirate in double digits offensively with 11 points.
“After a good start, I thought our shot selection was questionable,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “That really changed the complexion of the game. The way they shot the ball and maneuvered on offense after halftime was very impressive. They threw the ball inside and that really bothered us. I’m very disappointed with the way we played for a 10-minute stretch there in the second half.”
A couple of triples by Jackson helped ECU stake to an early 10-2 advantage with just over three minutes gone. The Pirates would push the margin to double digits at the 10:24 mark when Miles connected on a three, but Liberty started to chip away at the deficit and force a handful of East Carolina turnovers.
Robinson would drop in a layup with 4:36 to play in the stanza to give the Flames their first lead of the afternoon, however, it was short lived as Jackson responded with a bucket of his own to put the Pirates back on top. ECU would hold the upper hand by as many as six before settling for a 35-32 halftime edge.
Jackson and Miles both netted a team-best nine for East Carolina in the initial 20 minutes while McGhee scored 11 for Liberty. The Pirates hit 14 of 33 attempts from the floor (42.2 percent) and limited the Flames to 38.2 percent (13 of 34). ECU won the rebounding battle 23-18 and recorded nine assists.
A pair of Suggs free throws extended the Pirate lead to 42-37 a couple of minutes into the second frame, but East Carolina suffered through a lengthy scoring drought from which it ultimately could not recover. Liberty would net 12-straight points to surge ahead 49-42 with 14:17 remaining in regulation before Alanzo Frink hit a nice turnaround jumper at the 12:33 mark to cut the Flames’ advantage to 51-48. Liberty pushed the lead right back eight with five-straight points and the Pirates were unable to come closer than four the rest of the way as the Flames salted the game away at the line.
ECU closes out its non-conference slate Tuesday, Dec. 21 when it hosts Southern Miss at Noon.