SAN JOSE, Calif. — Mississippi State’s season ended Friday evening in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as it fell to 12-seeded Liberty 80-76 at the SAP Center.
With the loss, the Bulldogs finish their season with a 23-11 record, while the Flames improve to 29-6. Liberty will take on No. 4 seeded Virginia Tech on Sunday in the second round.
The game between the Bulldogs and Flames was tight throughout the first half with the Bulldogs holding a small lead up until the 5:30 mark. MSU started the game with an 8-2 lead after Lamar Peters knocked down a 3-pointer and a steal from Reggie Perry lead to Peters getting fouled on a fast break and knocking down a free throw.
Sate led 18-12 before the Flames made a layup followed by a 3-pointer to cut the Bulldog lead to just one point at 18-17. The Flames took their first lead of the game at the 5:30 mark when Caleb Homesley knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 26-24. Liberty led by as much as four points before State responded and regained a 36-35 lead on a Peters 3-pointer. Quinndary Weatherspoon then made a free throw to give the Bulldogs a 37-35 lead, which was the score when squads went into the halftime break.
Liberty tied things up at 37-37 to start the second half before a Weatherspoon 3-pointer made it 40-37. MSU held a six point lead with 18:04 to go in the game, but Liberty once again came back to tie things up at 46-46.
After things were knotted up at 53-53, MSU built its lead up to 10 points after a Peters 3-pointer followed by a 3-pointer from Tyson Carter. Weatherspoon then hit a pair of free throws and Peters made a layup to give the Bulldogs a 63-53 lead with 7:18 to go. However, Homesley was clutch down the stretch and brought Liberty back to within a single point at 67-66 after a Homseley dunk. He then followed that up with a 3-pointer to give the Flames a 69-67 lead with 2:34 to go.
MSU regained a 70-69 lead on a pair of free throws from Robert Woodard II with just 1:36 left, but the Flames answered on the ensuing possession with a 3-pointer from Lovell Cabbil Jr. to take a 72-70 lead. Liberty then hit a pair of free throws to increase the lead to 74-70. The Flames made nine of their 10 foul shots in the last 48 seconds and went on to win 80-76.
Weatherspoon led the Bulldogs with 27 points on 6-of-12 shooting, He also knocked down 13 of 16 shots at the charity stripe. Peters added 21 points, including four 3-pointers, to go with five assists in the game. Perry finished with five points and 10 rebounds.
For the Flames, Homesley led the way with 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including five 3-pointers. Cabbil joined him in double figures with 18.