Round 1: Liberty 80, Mississippi St. 76
No. 12 seed Liberty erased a 10-point second half deficit to record the most historic win in athletics department history, as the Flames knocked off No. 5 seed Mississippi State 80-76, Friday afternoon, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The win pushed Liberty into the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four “March Madness” appearances.
With the game tied at 53-53 with 10:41 left to play in the second half, the Bulldogs scored the game’s next 10 points and held the Flames scoreless for nearly four minutes. A driving layup by Lamar Peters gave Mississippi State a 63-53 lead at the 7:18 mark.
A pair of free throws by Caleb Homesley at the 6:58 mark snapped Liberty’s scoreless streak and sparked a Flames’ 16-4 run that ended with a three-pointer by Homesley to give Liberty a 69-67 lead with 2:34 left in the contest.
Mississippi State briefly regained the lead on a pair of Robert Woodard free throws with 1:36 left, but Liberty scored the game’s next five points to take a lead it would never relinquish.
Key Stats and Notes:
The win was Liberty’s first in four appearances at the NCAA Tournament, following appearances in 1994, 2004 and 2013.
Liberty gives the ASUN Conference five NCAA Tournament wins since 2013 and eight total wins in conference history.
Caleb Homesley paced the Flames with a career-high 30 points, besting his previous career high of 23 points against fellow SEC foes Alabama earlier this year.
Homesley’s 30 points marked a new program history for single-game scoring by a Liberty play in an NCAA Tournament game.
The two teams combined to knock down 20 three-pointers (12 by Liberty and eight by Mississippi State), marking the fifth time this year Liberty has played in a game where the two teams hit 20 more or more combined three-pointers
Mississippi State tried to keep the Flames from scoring on the inside, recording eight blocks in the game, including seven during the second half.
For more information see this week's Altavista Journal.