NCAA

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

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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.

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Jamion Christian, GW basketball receive commitment from Jameer Nelson's son Jameer Jr.

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Jamion Christian, GW basketball receive commitment from Jameer Nelson's son Jameer Jr.

The George Washington University men's basketball team landed the son of longtime NBA point guard Jameer Nelson Tuesday. 

Jameer Nelson Jr., a 2019 guard out of Pennsylvania's Haverford School, decommitted from his father's alma mater (Saint Joseph's) following the news that Phil Martelli would not return for the 2019-20 season. 

This marks first-year head coach Jamion Christian's second commitment since being named head coach of the Colonials after one year at Siena College. 

Nelson Sr. played in the Association from 2004 to 2018, including 10 seasons in Orlando. The point guard averaged a career-best 16.7 points per game during the 2008-09 campaign. 

The 10 moments that defined Zion Williamson's lone year at Duke

The 10 moments that defined Zion Williamson's lone year at Duke

Duke Blue Devils freshman sensation Zion Williamson officially announced on Monday what everyone knew was coming: the 6-6 forward will be foregoing his final three years of collegiate eligibility and declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft.

Williamson is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick. He announced his intention to enter the draft via his Instagram.

While he spent just one year at Duke, and the Blue Devils fell short of expectations when they fell to the Michigan State Spartans in the Elite Eight, Williamson's lone season in a Blue Devils uniform was nothing short of spectacular. 

Here are the 10 most memorable moments from his Duke career, in chronological order.

1. Debuting with a bang.

The then-No. 4 Blue Devils blew out the then-No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats 118-84 in the opening game of the 2018-19 season. All three of Duke's heralded freshman -- Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish -- scored over 20 points in the win. 

Williamson went 11-13 from the field en route to 28 points in just 23 minutes. Barrett finished with 33, and Reddish added 22 as well.

  

The dynamic duo of Williamson and Barrett, who both would eventually become All-Americans, was born.

2. Dropping a 27-16-6 slash in his home debut.

In the first regular season home game, Williamson put on a show for the Cameron Crazies.

The freshman led all scorers with 27 points, and added 16 rebounds, also a game-high, in a 94-72 dominant win over Army.

He also had a season-high six blocks, and became the first Duke player under Coach Mike Krzyzewski to score 25-plus points, 15-plus rebounds, and 5-plus blocks in a game.

3. Two jaw-dropping dunks against Eastern Michigan.

The Williamson hype-train continued into the third game of the season against Eastern Michigan, where Williamson had two of his most impressive dunks of the season in the 84-46 thrashing of the Eagles.

Here's the first, an allep-oop from Reddish. Look how high his head is.

The second, with the game well in hand, Williamson unleashed a right-tomahawk dunk that was very reminiscient of early LeBron James days.

4. Steal and 360 dunk against Clemson.

In a season full of highlight plays, Williamson's dunk against Clemson might be near the top of them all.

Just take a look for yourself:

5. Block on Virginia's DeAndre Hunter.

While the Virginia Cavaliers ended up having the last laugh, as they were crowned National Champions last Monday, the Blue Devils got the better of them in both meetings this season.

In the team's second meeting with Duke up seven late in the second half, Virginia forward DeAndre Hunter looked like he had an open three-point shot from the baseline to cut the lead to four. Then Zion entered the picture.

Williamson used his world class athleticism to contest Hunter's shot, sending it several rows into the Virginia crowd. 

6. Infamous shoe incident.

When the then-No. 1 Blue Devils hosted the then-No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels in the most hyped-up college basketball game in quite some time, the cheapest tickets were $2,989 each for a pair of them.

Unfortunately, those who were in attendance, including President Barack Obama, only caught a glimpse of the freshman sensation. WIlliamson lasted just 36 seconds before having to exit the game with a leg injury after literally bursting through his left shoe when trying to plant.

Obama even pointed it out.

The Tar Heels took advantage of Williamson being out, as Carolina forward Luke Maye exploded for 30 points and 15 rebounds in the 88-72 victory over Duke.

7. Return from injury, perfect from the field against Syracuse.

Williamson missed the next five games with an MCL injury, and Duke struggled in his absence. The Blue Devils went 3-2 over that stretch, with losses coming to Virginia Tech and North Carolina, again. They barely squeaked out a road victory over Wake Forest, who they defeated by 22 earlier in the season.

But Williamson returned for Duke's ACC Tournament campaign, and turned in arguably his most impressive performance of the season in a 84-72 victory over Syracuse.

Zion went a perfect 13-13 from the field, scoring a game-high 29 points, and added 14 rebounds as well.

8. Sweet, sweet revenge against UNC.

After missing the practically the entire first matchup and all of the second against the rival Tar Heels, Williamson and the Blue Devils got their revenge against Carolina in a 74-73 victory in the ACC Tournament semi-finals.

Williamson led Duke with 31 points (more than double than any other Duke player) and 11 rebounds in the victory. He put the Blue Devils ahead for good with a tip-in following his own miss with 31 seconds to go.

Both UNC's Coby White and Nassir Little had a chance to win it at the end, but neither could convert.

Zion got his revenge, and Duke advanced to the ACC Championship game.

9. Bounce Pass against Florida State.

The Blue Devils faced off with the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC Tournament Championship, after Florida State pulled off the upset over Virginia in the semi-finals.With Duke up by five early in the second half, WIlliamson used his dominant left hand to thread the needle between two Seminole defenders to find Tre Jones for the layup. 

Williamson showed he could do it all with one of the best passes of the college basketball season. Duke ended up winning 73-63 to take home the tournament crown.

10. And-1 against UCF.

The UCF Knights had given the No. 1 overall seed Blue Devils everything they could handle during their second round matchup in the NCAA Tournament.

The Blue Devils were on the verge of getting upset, down three points with 14 seconds remaining when Williamson came to the rescue.

Zion missed the free throw, but Barrett was able to corrall the rebound and put Duke ahead by one on the put back layup.

The Knights still almost pulled off the upset, but two final attempts rolled off the rim, and Duke lived to see another day.

While Williamson may be headed to the NBA, he provided college basketball fans with a whole lot of thrilling moments; moments that NBA fans will enjoy for years to come.

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