ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Ahmad Thomas scored 31 points and ended the game with consecutive 3-pointers as UNC-Asheville broke away late to defeat Liberty 63-45 in Saturday's windup of the Big South Conference regular season.
UNC-Asheville (23-8, 15-3) is assured of no worse than a tie for first place in the Big South. Winthrop (14-3) faced last-place Presbyterian (1-16) later Saturday. Liberty (19-12, 14-4) fell out of a first-place tie into third place and also was denied its first 20-win regular season since 2008-09. Both teams get a bye into the quarterfinals.
Liberty closed to within 42-40 with just under nine minutes left when Myo Baxter-Bell sank two free throws. Within two minutes, however, the Bulldogs led by 10 after MaCio Teague's two free throws and six points from Thomas on a 3-pointer and a 3-point play. Liberty went scoreless for a critical four minutes.
UNC-Asheville shot 51 percent from the floor (24-47) and made 10 3-pointers while Liberty shot 30 percent and was just 3 of 24 from long range.
Baxter-Bell led the Flames with 18 points. Hot shooters in previous games were shut down: Ryan Kemrite five points on 2-for-7 shooting, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz five points, 1-for-6, and Lovell Cabbil five points, 1-for-9.