NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Scottie James’ layup with 55.8 seconds left put Liberty ahead to stay and the Flames capped their first season in a new conference by topping Lipscomb 74-68 Sunday for the ASUN Tournament championship and their first NCAA Tournament trip since 2013.
A year after losing the Big South Conference tournament final on a 3 at the buzzer, Liberty won at packed Allen Arena in a game that featured 18 lead changes in the second half. The Flames won for the second time this season on Lipscomb’s home court.
Liberty (28-6) switched to the ASUN Conference for this season and split the regular season title with Lipscomb. The Flames earned their fourth NCAA Tournament bid overall and first since playing in the Big South.
The Flames, from Lynchburg, Virginia, were up 29-28 at halftime and never led by more than four.
Garrison Mathews, the ASUN player of the year, made a pair of free throws with 1:31 left to give Lipscomb its last lead at 66-65. James then scored, and Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz hit a 3 with 14.8 seconds remaining for a 70-65 lead. James added two free throws with 8.4 seconds to go for the final margin.
James led Liberty with 17 points. Pacheco-Ortiz added 16, Lovell Cabbil Jr. had 14 and Caleb Homesley 11.
Lipscomb (25-7) was trying to seal its second NCAA Tournament berth. The Bisons beat Florida Gulf Coast on the road last year in the ASUN Tournament championship game.
The Bisons led 28-20 with 4:52 left in the first half. Liberty scored the final nine capped by a layup by Cabbil giving the Flames a 29-28 halftime lead.
Matthews finished with 21 points, Rob Marberry had 18 and Kenny Cooper 14 for Lipscomb.
Liberty: The Flames play some of the best defense in the country, coming in ranked fifth nationally giving up just 60.5 points per game. They showed off just how disruptive they can be against Lipscomb.
Lipscomb: Now the Bisons have to sit, wait and hope that a NET ranking of 42 along with victories at SMU, then-No. 18 TCU, Navy and Vermont help them earn an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
NCAA Tournament bracket announcement on March 17.
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