EditorsNote: Adds Virginia Tech as next opponent
Liberty junior Caleb Homesley scored 14 points in the final seven minutes en route to a career-high 30 as the 12th-seeded Flames roared back to upset Mississippi State 80-76 Friday in an East Region game in San Jose, Calif.
Homesley led the comeback from a 10-point deficit, but the fifth-seeded Bulldogs regained the lead at 70-69 on Robert Woodard’s two free throws with 1:37 to go.
Liberty’s Lovell Cabbil Jr. then came up clutch.
He hit a 3-point shot for the lead and went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 14.2 seconds to help Liberty earn the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.
The Flames (29-6) advance to play No. 4 Virginia Tech, which comes off a 66-52 win over No. 13 Saint Louis, on Sunday.
Liberty’s Myo Baxter-Bell finished the scoring with two free throws with 3.6 seconds left for a four-point lead.
Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 27 points for Mississippi State (23-11) and backcourt mate Lamar Peters added 21. Weatherspoon, a senior, hit 2,000 points in his career with a 3-pointer in the first minute of the second half.
Cabill finished with 18 for the Flames, who also got 13 from Baxter-Bell. Homesley was 10 of 16 from the field, including 5 of 11 from beyond the arc.
The game was tied at 53 midway through the second half, at which point neither team had led by more than six points.
Mississippi State quickly changed that. Peters’ 3-pointer from the right corner ignited a 10-0 run that spanned less than two minutes.
Homesley then went to work. He made three free throws after being fouled behind the arc. He hit two 3-pointers. He dunked off an assist from Cabbil. Another trey from Homesley gave Liberty a 69-67 lead with 2:39 left.
Mississippi State had multiple six-point leads in the first half but couldn’t separate from Liberty, which took its first lead at 26-24 on Homesley’s 3-pointer with 5:30 before halftime.
The Bulldogs regained the lead on Peters’ transition 3-pointer at the 1:10 mark, and Weatherspoon added a free throw for a 37-35 advantage at halftime as Mississippi State ended on a 6-0 run.
Liberty is making its fourth appearance in the NCAAs, the first since 2013 and its first as something other than a No. 16 seed.
—Field Level Media