You’ve read the recap. Now, let’s take a look inside the numbers of Liberty’s Thursday win over North Florida.
- One of the more interesting stories around the game actually centered on two great friends on opposite sides of the court. My great friend and colleague Damien Sordelett featured UNF guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa and Liberty guard Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz and their ties to their home and upbringing in Puerto Rico. You should read Damien’s copy, but I wanted to share with you Georgie’s thoughts on playing against Ivan — in front of family and friends from back home — and what their friendship means to him.
“My best friend from back home (was here). We’ve been playing together since we were kids. It was great. They actually surprised me. I didn’t even know they were coming. I was so happy. I haven’t seen them since the summer. Being there with my parents and my friends was a great feeling. I enjoyed it a lot.
“It’s great. (My family and friends) know (Gandia-Rosa). We played together against him when we were back home. They grew up watching us play together and against each other. The same love they’ve got for me, they have it for him, too.” – Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz
Gandia-Rosa was still on the floor speaking with the traveling contingent when we finished our media obligations. You’d be hard-pressed to find two better kids anywhere — or two more fun to watch.
- A number of the statistics from Thursday’s game actually somewhat inform each other. Liberty tends to rely on paint touches, while North Florida thrives on perimeter shooting. The first number centers around free throw shooting. LU made six times more free throws than UNF. The Flames attempted five and a half more charity shots than the Ospreys. LU went 24-for-33, while UNF was just 4-for-6. Liberty hit 22-of-31 in the closing 20, while UNF did not even go to the line in the first half.
“I think, for us, we’ve just gotta get in the gym and start hitting more free throws. We knew it was gonna come to a game like that towards the end. We knew that they wanted to shoot a lot of threes toward the end, and it was just gonna be a free throw game. We just had to step up and knock them in.” – Caleb Homesley
Homesley tried more free throws (15) and made more (11) than in any other game this season. The redshirt senior from Indian Trail, North Carolina, came into the game shooting just 56.1 percent from the stripe, but had a significantly more successful game when his team needed him.
- “EQ” was a big topic in Thursday’s press availability. No, this didn’t have anything to do with sound — this was Liberty’s emotional quotient. Homesley and Ritchie McKay both addressed it in their remarks.
“Our EQ — we talked about our emotional quotient. We talked about it the whole time leading up to this (game) in our preparation. We knew they were gonna hit big shots. It was (more about) can we move on to the next play, execute, and not worry about that shot that went in? They’re a good team, so they’re gonna hit those. They work on them, so they’re gonna hit those. I thought we did a good job at rallying back and going on to the next play.” – Homesley
“Our EQ — emotional quotient — is high. I know it’s not a statistic that people can measure, but we pay a great deal of attention to it, and I think that’s just our group. It was very uncharacteristic for us to miss down the stretch (the Flames missed six free throws at one point). We’re a really good free throw shooting team — a good shooting team. It was good to have that kind of adversity. I think on the other side of hard is usually what you want. We’ve gotta keep getting to that other side.” – McKay
- Liberty capitalized on North Florida’s 1-3-1 zone, flashing cutters to the tin and making short two-point tries in the space between defenders and the bucket. Damien asked McKay about his team’s success about the zone, to which he replied, “We got some good shots.” McKay then joked about Damien knowing the game plan, leading to laughs in the room.
- McKay elaborated a bit more on the things his program charts — again back to EQ — and one of the criteria he mentioned centers around “how frequently or infrequently we turn it over.” The Flames committed just six turnovers Thursday, leading to one Osprey point. The turnover total tied with the January 30th victory over Kennesaw State for LU’s second-lowest total on the season. The lowest turnover total by LU was a paltry four in a 55-48 victory over Navy earlier this season.
- I don’t have an official number on this — and I forgot to ask Liberty’s oracle/SID Steven Gonzalez this before I left the building — but I’m fairly assured there are very few games in which a team has hit 10 straight shots and gone over eight minutes without a field goal in the same contest. LU accomplished the feat Thursday.
- On a personal note, Liberty is down to just one regular-season game in the Vines Center, plus whatever postseason games it hosts. I’m from Lynchburg, and grew up playing games in that arena, had my high school graduation there, and have gone on to cover games there. Liberty Arena will open next door — and, at least partially connected to the Vines — before next season. I’ve mentioned many times that I don’t pull for teams in doing what I do, but it will be at least a little bittersweet to see the change.
- Finally, the Hustle Stats:
- Points in the paint: Liberty 44, North Florida 22
- This was a 30-10 Liberty advantage at the half. UNF’s 41 three-point tries — and 17 makes — helped facilitate a lot of the result in this stat, as well.
- Points off turnovers: Liberty 7, North Florida 1
- UNF committed just 10 turnovers and Liberty six. Even still, we were surprised on press row that there were that many. Just a high-level game.
- Second-chance points: North Florida 10, Liberty 10
- Fast-break points: Liberty 4, North Florida 3
- Bench points: North Florida 11, Liberty 8
- Points in the paint: Liberty 44, North Florida 22
LIBERTY 82, NORTH FLORIDA 77
NORTH FLORIDA (18-11, 11-3 ASUN): Aminu 5-6 0-0 10, Hendricksen 3-7 1-2 10, Escobar 10-17 0-0 26, Gandia-Rosa 8-11 3-4 17, Sams 1-9 0-0 3, Balogun 0-2 0-0 0, James 0-0 0-0, Burkhardt 2-4 0-0 6, Adedoyin 0-0 0-0 0, Endicott 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 28-59 4-6 77.
LIBERTY (25-3, 11-2): James 7-10 2-4 16, Homesley 8-14 11-15 28, McGhee 4-9 0-2 9, Cuffee 1-3 1-2 4, Pacheco-Ortiz 4-8 8-8 17, Baxter-Bell 1-1 2-2 4, Rode 2-3 0-0 4, Reed 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-48 24-33 82.
Halftime — Liberty 40-31. 3-Point Goals—North Florida 17-41 (Hendricksen 3-7, Escobar 6-12, Gandia-Rosa 4-10, Sams 1-7, Burkhardt 2-4, Endicott 1-1), Liberty 4-13 (Homesley 1-3, McGhee 1-3, Cuffee 1-2, Pacheco-Ortiz 1-4, Rode 0-1). Fouled Out — Aminu (UNF), Sams (UNF), Baxter-Bell (LU). Rebounds —North Florida 29 (Aminu/Hendricksen 6), Liberty 29 (James 10). Assists —North Florida 19 (Gandia-Rosa 9), Liberty 17 (McGhee 4). Total Fouls —North Florida 22, Liberty 11. Technical — NA. A —5613.