The Liberty University men’s basketball team capped an improbable run Sunday by knocking off top-seeded Charleston Southern in the Big South Conference tournament championship game, clinching an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The 10th-seeded Flames hung on to beat Charleston Southern 87-76. Liberty (15-20) started the season by dropping its first eight games.
The Flames will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, and third time overall. The Flames lost to St. Joseph’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2004, and fell to North Carolina in their only other appearance in 1994.
John Caleb Sanders had 27 points, Davon Marshall added 20 off six 3-pointers fo Liberty. Marshall and Sanders got things going in hurry over top-seeded Charleston Southern (19-12) with 3-pointers in the first 90 seconds -- and the Flames barely lost their outside touch. Marshall was 6 of 7 from beyond the arc and Liberty finished 9 of 18 on long-range baskets.
Saah Nimley had 18 points to lead the Buccaneers, who as the Big South's regular-season champs will play in the NIT.
Liberty’s run began Tuesday with a 78-61 win over Coastal Carolina. The Flames then edged No. 2 seed High Point on Thursday, and got past Gardner-Webb 65-62 on Saturday.
The Flames will find out who they will be matched up against on March 17 when the NCAA releases the tournament bracket.
CONWAY, S.C. (AP) -- As for the ladies, Tolu Omotola scored 16 points and top-seeded Liberty's women gave the school a double dose of Big South championship celebrations with their 15th league tournament title in the past 17 years after a 54-45 victory over Longwood on Sunday.
The Lady Flames (27-6) are perhaps the Big South's best bet in basketball, making their 15th NCAA tournament appearance since 1997 and their fifth in the past six years. They'll carry a 14-game win streak into the NCAA tournament.
The men, an 87-76 upset winner earlier over Charleston Southern, sat behind the basket at the HTC Center and soaked in their school's latest case of March Madness.
Omotola had nine points to spark a 17-8 run to start the second half as the Lady Flames took control.
Longwood (14-19) had cut a 15-point lead to 53-45 in the final seconds, but got no closer.