March 7, 2021 Jacksonville, Fla.
For the third straight season, Liberty is crowned ASUN Tournament Champions, as the Flames defeated North Alabama 79-75 in the ASUN Championship game, Sunday afternoon at UNF Arena.
Liberty clinches the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 23-5 overall record. Liberty’s Darius McGhee was named the ASUN Tournament MVP and was also named to the ASUN All-Tournament Team along with Chris Parker and Kyle Rode.
In the first two minutes of the game Liberty jumped out to a 10-1 lead, shooting a perfect 3-3 from the field and 3-3 from the charity stripe. Liberty started the game 6-10 from the field while holding North Alabama to 3-10 as the Flames held a 20-12 lead midway through the half. Darius McGhee was filling the stat sheet all throughout the first half, scoring a game-high 13 points to go along with four rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. Liberty would go into the break with a 41-31 lead.
North Alabama was able to come all the way back and tie the game (62-62) with 8:03 left in the game, as the Lions held McGhee scoreless for the first 13 minutes of the second half. North Alabama would take its first lead of the game at the 4:23 mark off a Mervin James three-pointer to go up 70-69. McGhee responded for the Flames with a big three-pointer as the Flames retook the lead with four minutes left in the game and the Flames never relinquished the lead. North Alabama cut it to a two-point lead (74-72) and with a minute left in the game Kyle Rode hit a three-pointer to make it a two-possession game and secure the win.
Key Stats & Notes
- Elijah Cuffee won his 104th career game at Liberty.
- Liberty extends its winning streak to 12 games, which is the third longest streak in the country.
- For the second time in his career, Darius McGhee was named to the ASUN All-Tournament Team.
- Liberty had four players score in double figures led by McGhee with 21 points.
- McGhee recorded his 11th 20-point game this season.
- Liberty is the first team in ASUN history to win six ASUN Championships (Three regular season titles & three tournament titles) in three consecutive seasons.
- Liberty is the second team in ASUN history to win three straight ASUN Tournament titles.
- Liberty is a perfect 9-0 in the ASUN Tournament.
Thoughts from Head Coach Ritchie McKay
“That was a special effort by North Alabama. Their players and their coaches made a great run. That team has an incredibly bright future. Tony (Pujol) does an outstanding job and they play incredibly hard. They really believe; they believe in each other and believe in their system, so I am proud of our group that we were able to endure that second half. I thought UNA had an edge to them that was tough, and we responded and this group has done that continuously And obviously pleased to win a championship because they are really hard to come by.”
Liberty will now turn its attention to the NCAA Tournament and see who the Flames will face in the first round. Selection Sunday is set for March 14th at 6 p.m. and can be seen on CBS.
COURTESY LIBERTY ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS