NCAA

No. 12 seed Liberty shocks Mississippi State to earn first-ever NCAA Tournament win

liberty-flames-dunk-miss-st-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

No. 12 seed Liberty shocks Mississippi State to earn first-ever NCAA Tournament win

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Caleb Homesley scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half and Lovell Cabbil hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:16 to play to send 12th-seeded Liberty to its first NCAA Tournament win in school history, 80-76 over fifth-seeded Mississippi State on Friday night.

The Flames (29-6) were making their fourth tournament trip in school history, but lost twice as a No. 16 seed and once in the play-in game. This year's team had more respect, a higher seeding and capitalized on the opportunity.

Homesley helped rally Liberty from a 10-point deficit in the second half by scoring 14 points in a span of less than five minutes. Cabbil then hit from long range to make it 72-70 and celebrated with an enthusiastic fan section that made the cross-country trip from Virginia for the game.

Liberty did the rest at the foul line to spoil the first tournament trip for Mississippi State (23-11) in a decade.

The Flames advanced to the second round of the East Region to play the winner of the game between Saint Louis and Virginia Tech.

Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 27 points to lead the Bulldogs and Reggie Perry added 21.

Cabbil finished with 18 points and Myo Baxter-Bell added 13.

Mississippi State appeared poised to take control when Peters started a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer and ended it with a layup that made it 63-53 midway through the second half.

The Bulldogs had used their superior size to control the paint on both ends and had broken open a tight game before the Flames responded. Homesley was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three foul shots. He then hit two from long range to cut it to 67-64.

Homesley also hit a backdoor dunk on a feed from Cabbil to make it a one-point game before hitting a long 3-pointer late in the shoot clock to put Liberty back on top 69-67 with 2:34 to play.

After three free throws from the Bulldogs, Cabbil's 3 provided the final lead change of the night.

BIG PICTURE

Liberty: The Flames showed early that they were poised to match up with a Power 5 team. They made seven 3-pointers in the first half and led by four points before Mississippi State scored the final six to lead 37-35 at the break.

Mississippi State: Coach Ben Howland's first recruiting class for the Bulldogs finished on a down note but had an impressive run building the program. Mississippi State went to the semifinals of the NIT last year and made the tournament for the first time since 2009 this year.

UP NEXT

Liberty advances to play the winner of the game between Virginia Tech and Saint Louis.

Click here to join NBC Sports Washington’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and compete against Wizards analysts Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos for a chance at great prizes.

Grand Prize: if you have the highest-scoring bracket in the NBC Sports Washington Bracket Challenge, you will win a 3-night trip for four people to Universal Resort, including round trip airfare, lodging, admission to Universal Studios and tickets to Blue Man Group.

Secondary Prize: If your bracket scores higher than both Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos, you win a coupon code for a free Jersey Mike's sub!

MORE NCAA TOURNAMENT NEWS:

UVA's Tomas Woldenstae's game-winner stuns Tar Heels in Chapel Hill

UVA's Tomas Woldenstae's game-winner stuns Tar Heels in Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Tomas Woldetensae scored 18 points and made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left to lift Virginia past North Carolina 64-62 on Saturday night.

Mamadi Diakite added 15 points for the Cavaliers (17-7, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won for the fifth time in six games.

Woldetensae's winning shot came after North Carolina's Christian Keeling made three free throws to give the Tar Heels a 62-61 lead with 10.3 seconds left. Keeling had been fouled by Woldetensae while attempting a 3-point shot.

Casey Morsell and Kihei Clark each scored 10 points for Virginia. The Cavaliers won back-to-back games against North Carolina in Chapel Hill for the first time in program history.

Garrison Brooks scored 20 points to lead North Carolina (10-15, 3-11), which lost its fifth consecutive game.

Cole Anthony added 17 points for the Tar Heels, but his half-court heave at the buzzer wasn't close. Keeling scored 11 points.

North Carolina lost despite shooting 50% from the floor against the Cavaliers, who entered the game with the nation's top scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers have returned to their winning ways just in time. Virginia's NCAA Tournament chances were fading a month ago during a three-game losing streak, but the Cavaliers have gone 6-2 while grinding out five wins by five points or fewer since then.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels remained winless in February, starting off their second month in a row with five consecutive defeats. They are one loss away from clinching their first losing record for a regular season since 2001-02.

UP NEXT

Virginia: The Cavaliers host Boston College on Wednesday night, looking to avenge the Eagles' 60-53 win in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 7.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels play Monday night at Notre Dame, which they defeated 76-65 on Nov. 6 in each team's season opener.

MORE NCAA NEWS:

P.J. Horne's career night carries Virginia Tech past Pittsburgh

P.J. Horne's career night carries Virginia Tech past Pittsburgh

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- P.J. Horne scored a career-high 18 points to lift Virginia Tech to a 67-57 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Horne hit 6 of 9 from the floor, including a career-high four 3-pointers for the Hokies (15-10, 6-8 Atlantic Coast Conference), who snapped a five-game losing streak. Jalen Cone added 12 points and four 3-pointers for Virginia Tech, which hit 12 3-pointers in the game.

Au'Diese Toney and Justin Champignie scored 12 points each to lead the Panthers (15-11, 6-9), who lost for the fifth time in the past seven games.

Horne, who came into the game averaging 7.1 points per game, made 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions in the final 3:30 to help the Hokies hold off the Panthers. Virginia Tech led by as many as 19 in the second half before Pittsburgh cut the lead to 59-53 on a layup by Abdoul Karim Coulibaly with 3:21 remaining.

Horne, though, hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 3:06 to go to push the Tech lead to 62-53, and after another Coulibaly layup with 2:51 remaining, Horne connected again, hitting a 3-pointer from the same spot to give the Hokies a 65-55 lead. Pittsburgh got no closer.

Xavier Johnson finished with 11 points for Pittsburgh, which shot just 35% (21 of 60) in losing its fifth straight road game.

BIG PICTURE

Pittsburgh: Securing an NCAA Tournament berth is probably a bit much to ask of this young squad, but an NIT bid is certainly an attainable goal. However, the Panthers need to find a cure for their first-half woes, particularly on the road. Pittsburgh entered the game shooting 32.4% in the first half of its previous five road games (four losses) and continued the trend Saturday, shooting 26.9% in the first half in falling to the Hokies.

Virginia Tech: A week off certainly did wonders for the Hokies, who desperately needed a win after dropping five straight games. Like the Panthers, the Hokies probably aren't going to make the NCAA field unless they can make some noise in a brutal upcoming stretch. Tech plays Miami on Wednesday, then takes on Duke (road), Virginia (home) and Louisville (road).

MORE TERPS NEWS: