In its first season as a member of the Atlantic Sun, Liberty closed out Lipscomb with a 74-68 road win on Sunday to clinch the league’s autobid into the NCAA tournament. Coming off of back-to-back 20-win seasons and CIT appearances, the Flames took the next step for their program by knocking off its new conference rival in front of a packed crowd.
Junior forward Scottie James paced Liberty with 17 points and eight rebounds, also becoming Internet Famous for a preposterous flop in the game’s final minutes. Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz buried a critical three-pointer to give the Flames a four-point lead with under a minute left as the junior guard finished with 16 points.
CONFERENCE: Atlantic Sun
COACH: Ritchie McKay
RECORD: 27-6, 14-2 in the Atlantic Sun
- KENPOM: 64
- NET: 63
PROJECTED SEED: In our latest NBC Sports bracket, Lipscomb was projected to get in as a No. 12 seed and Liberty’s numbers are only slightly worse. That means the Flames could be in the No. 13 or No. 14 seed range with the chance to potentially ascend if things go crazy during Championship Week.
NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: Relying heavily on six players as the core rotation, Liberty is led by three standout scorers. Junior forward Scottie James (13.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg) is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder while also shooting 67 percent from the floor this season. Junior wing Caleb Homesley (12.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and senior guard Lovell Cabbil Jr. (11.5 ppg, 43% 3PT) can also fill it up.
BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: Liberty’s two road wins at Lipscomb (including Sunday’s victory) were both classified as Q1 victories. The Flames also earned a true road win at UCLA during non-conference season. Going 18-0 against Q4 opponents, Liberty deserves credit for not having any truly horrible losses. A road loss at North Florida (189) is the worst loss of the year for Liberty.
STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: One of the slowest teams in the country in terms of tempo, Liberty prefers to play the game at a snail’s pace. And with a remarkable 56.1 effective field goal percentage (12th in the country), Liberty plays slow and practices good shot selection. With McKay being a former assistant at Virginia under head coach Tony Bennett before returning to Liberty, it makes sense that the Flames would try to mimic some things the Cavaliers have used so effectively.
HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: Making three NCAA tournament appearances before this (1994, 2004, 2013), Liberty has had some decent teams and players in recent times. Before transferring to Duke, Seth Curry started his career with the Flames. Veteran college basketball official Karl Hess is also a Liberty basketball alum as he’s the program’s all-time leading scorer.
FINAL THOUGHT: Liberty hasn’t received as much national attention as Lipscomb has this season, but the Flames have been right in the Atlantic Sun picture with the Bisons the entire time. Winning two out of three games (both on the road) against Lipscomb this season, Liberty is a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly heading into March.
Related slideshow: 2018-19 college basketball season (Provided by imagn)