Moments after his 12th-seeded Liberty Flames shocked fifth-seeded Mississippi State in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, coach Ritchie McKay gave the glory to God.
McKay told a national TV audience his team could not have pulled off the upset “without a Christ-centered program.”
“We want to give God all the glory, obviously,” he said.
“That was as resilient as it gets.”
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 23, 2019
Ohio State all-time great Clark Kellogg followed up from the network set by calling McKay a friend and singing his praises.
Absolute X’s & O’s CLINIC by Liberty & Ritchie McKay. pic.twitter.com/UnmSvvstGB
— Half Court Hoops (@HalfCourtHoops) March 23, 2019
The Flames never gave up hope in the first-round game in San Jose, California, not even when Mississippi State took a double-digit lead and surrounded Liberty’s leading scorer, Scottie James.
The junior forward, ranked as the 97th best player of 4,000 at ValueAddBasketball.com, was named MVP of Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament after scoring 17 points on 7 of 10 shots and grabbing eight rebounds as the Flames beat Lipscomb in the title game to earn the trip to March Madness.
— ASUN Champion Barstool Flames (@barstoolflames) March 23, 2019
Liberty had an answer to Mississippi State’s strategy, as Caleb Homesley scored 30 points and Lovell Cabbil added 18, including four clutch free throws, to wrap up the 80-76 win.
CALEB HOMESLEY CANT MISS pic.twitter.com/CzEViiA1Qp
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 23, 2019
The Flames joined Baylor, another Christian team that scored a first-round upset, in advancing to the round of 32.
Liberty is one of only 17 teams in the nation with four upperclassmen (juniors or seniors) in the top 15 percent of all players (top 600) at Value Add:
• Central Florida
• Central Michigan
• Kansas State
• Michigan State
• Mississippi State
• Virginia Tech
While Abilene Christian’s Cinderella story of making the tournament in only their second year of eligibility ended at the hands of Kentucky, Gardner-Webb shocked No. 1 seed Virginia with a lead for much of the first half Friday before finally falling. Baylor scored a very impressive 78-69 win over a Syracuse team that rarely loses its first game in the tournament.
— Baylor Basketball (@BaylorMBB) March 22, 2019
With many of the traditional Catholic powers in the Atlantic 10 and Big East struggling this year, Gonzaga advanced and Villanova won a tournament game between Catholic schools with a win over Saint Mary’s.
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