For the fourth time in school history, Liberty is going to the NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 seed Flames defeated the No. 1 seed Lipscomb 74-68 to claim the ASUN Championship.
Liberty is the first league team to win the ASUN Final in its debut tournament since the 1997-98 season. The Flames (28-6, 14-2 ASUN) now have tied their school record with 28 wins on the season. Liberty's Lovell Cabbil Jr., Caleb Homesley and Scottie James were named to the ASUN All-Tournament team, while James was also named the ASUN Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Lipscomb came out firing to open the game, sparked by Kenny Cooper (eight points and four rebounds) and Ahsan Asadullah (six points and seven rebounds). The pair combined for 14 of Lipscomb's 28 first-half points and 11 of its 19 rebounds. The Flames were down by eight points (24-16) with six minutes left in the first half, but responded by ending the half on 13-4 run to go into the break with a 29-28 lead. Liberty had a balanced offensive attack with eight players scoring, led by Scottie James with seven points and five rebounds.
The offense picked up in the second half for both teams, as Liberty shot 53 percent (16-30) in the second half while Lipscomb shot 68 percent (15-22). The game went back and forth with 23 lead changes. The Bisons held a one-point lead (66-65) with 1:31 left in the game, but the Flames responded on the next possession, taking the lead thanks to a Scottie James layup with 56 second left. After forcing a stop on defense, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz made it a four-point lead (70-66) with 17 seconds left, knocking down his second three-pointer of the game from the corner. James would seal the win after making a pair of free throws with eight seconds left in the contest to give the Flames the victory.
Key Stats & Notes
Thoughts from Coach McKay
"This isn't just coach-speak, Casey Alexander and his staff are phenomenal coaches. They are really hard to prepare for because of the quality of play they exude on the court. It is tough to lose a game like this and I have been in their shoes. They have had an incredible year and I think they are NCAA Tournament at-large worthy. The quality of our opponent today necessitated our best. I knew they were going to do some things offensively and defensively that create some small incisions, but I was so proud of how our guys weathered the storm. I think that this was a game where you needed a break or two down the stretch and we were fortunate enough to get one."
The Flames will now have the week off until the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, March 17th. Liberty's selection and seeding will then determine when and where they will play. The selection show will take place at 6 p.m. ET and the show can be seen on CBS.