Liberty wins Big South, going dancing with 20 losses
Conway, SC (Sports Network) - The Liberty Flames, a team that started the season with eight straight losses, are headed to the NCAA Tournament.
John Caleb Sanders had 27 points, Davon Marshall scored 20 on 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range and the Flames topped the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, 87-76, to capture their first Big South Tournament title since 2004.
Tavares Speaks supplied 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals for Liberty (15-20), the North Division's fifth seed.
The Flames tied the 2008 Coppin State squad for the most losses entering the NCAA tourney.
"We've been chasing lions all year and it's just humbling," Liberty coach Dale Layer said of his team. "You try to grind out in the face of adversity."
Saah Nimley paced five Charleston Southern players in double figures with 18 points. Jeremy Sexton scored 17 and Arlon Harper 14 for the Buccaneers (19-12), the South Division's top seed.
"Our guys are champions," Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh said after the loss. "No one can take away that we're the Big South regular-season champions, the South Division champions and are going to the NIT."
A back-and-forth first half ended with Liberty holding a 35-34 lead.
Following the break, the seesaw battle resumed until the Flames built a 10- point cushion. Consecutive layups by Sanders and Joel Vander Pol made it 58-48 with 10:27 remaining.
Liberty then scored eight straight points after Charleston Southern closed to within six. Tomasz Gielo hit a layup and followed up a Marshall trey with one of his own with 5:28 to play.
The Flames made their free throws down the stretch to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. Fifteen of Liberty's last 17 points came from the foul line.
Liberty shot 57.7 percent in the second half ... Charleston Southern lost despite committing only four turnovers ... Mathiang Muo had 12 points and Sheldon Strickland contributed 10 points for the Buccaneers ... The lead changed hands eight times in the first half.
03/10 19:01:33 ET
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