East Region No. 12 Liberty entered Friday’s matchup with No. 5 Mississippi State without an NCAA tournament victory to its credit. That changed thanks in large part to Caleb Homesley, who scored 30 points to lead the Atlantic Sun tournament champion Flames to the 80-76 victory in San Jose.
Liberty is the third 12-seed to win a first round game in this year’s tournament, joining Oregon (South Region) and Murray State (West). This is the first time in five years that three 12-seeds have won their first round games in the same NCAA tournament.
Mississippi State had no answer for Homesley, who shot 10-for-16 from the field (5-for-11 from three) and also accounted for four rebounds. Lovell Cabill Jr., the winningest player in Liberty program history, hit a three-pointer with 1:21 remaining that gave Liberty a 72-70 lead. The Flames would score their final eight points from the foul line, with Cabill and Myo Baxter-Bell responsible for seven of them.
Cabill Jr. finished the game with 18 points, five assists and two steals, and Baxter-Bell chipped in with 13 points and four rebounds off the bench.
Playing in his final college game Quinndary Weatherspoon paced the Bulldogs with 27 points, with junior guard Lamar Peters sinking four three-pointers and adding 21 points. Robert Woodard II added 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench, but Mississippi State shot 8-for-22 from three and was outscored by 12 points from beyond the arc.
The double-digit seed has won each of the first three games in San Jose, with No. 13 UC Irvine and No. 12 Oregon winning South Region games during the afternoon session. Next up for Liberty will be a matchup with either No. 4 Virginia Tech or No. 13 Saint Louis on Sunday.