CONWAY, S.C. - In the month of March, Liberty coach Dale Layer said coaches rely on "caffeine, adrenalin, and prayer." Well, get the man some coffee. The Flames are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.
John Caleb Sanders had 27 points, Davon Marshall added 20 off six 3-pointers and Liberty defeated Charleston Southern 87-76 to win the Big South Conference tournament and reach the NCAA tournament with a 15-20 record.
The only other team to make the tournament with 20 losses was Coppin Sate in 2008.
Marshall was named Tournament MVP after averaging 18 points a game throughout LU's four-game run to the title. He shot an astounding 70.8 percent from three-point land, connecting on 17 of his 24 shots from beyond the arc.
The Flames opened the season 0-8 and reached 20 losses in their next-to-last regular season game. But Liberty got hot at the right time with a five-game winning streak, the last four at the conference tournament to gain their first NCAA trip since 2004.
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. 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.
The Flames were a 16 seed in '04 and lost to St. Joseph's.
To see highlights and interviews from this game please click on the video player.
POTENTIAL DESTINATION ?
Given the fact that LU has 20 losses, they will likely play in one of the First Four games of the NCAA Tournament. Those four games are in Dayton, OH on Tuesday March 19th and Wednesday March 20th.
The Flames would likely be a 16 seed and face another 16 seed from a similar one-bid conference.
RETURN TO THE HILL CITY ?
Liberty Sports Information Director Eric Brown told ABC 13 Sports that the men's team would stay in Conway, SC to watch the Liberty women's team play in the conference tournament championship game against Longwood. Both teams would then return to Lynchburg on Monday.