Liberty Makes NCAA Basketball Tournament With Record 20 Losses

Liberty University made the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament with a record-tying 20 losses after capturing its first Big South Tournament title since 2004.

Liberty, the Lynchburg, Virginia-based school founded by Baptist minister Jerry Falwell, upset top-seeded Charleston Southern 87-76 in the title game of the Big South tournament yesterday in Conway, South Carolina.

Liberty (15-20), which opened the season with eight straight defeats, equals Coppin State’s 2008 team, which went 16-20, for the most losses by a school in the NCAA tournament. The Flames are the 22nd team to make the tournament field with a losing record since 1955.

“You try to grind it out in the face of adversity,” Liberty coach Dale Layer said at a news conference. “A lot of men quit after losing eight straight. Not those guys in the locker room. They’ll never forget this and will never be the same because of it.”

Liberty won four tournament games in six days after failing to win more than three straight games at any point during the regular season.

Creighton University became the fifth school to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament by beating Wichita State 68-65 yesterday in the final of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Jahenns Manigat scored a team-high 16 points, including a basket with 11.5 seconds left in St. Louis, as the Bluejays (27-7) claimed their second straight MVC title.

Wichita State fell to 26-8 as Malcolm Armstead’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed, yet the Shockers still have a chance to get an at-large invitation to the NCAA tournament.

Florida Gulf First

Harvard University (19-9) earned a spot two days ago by beating Cornell University 65-56 to win its third straight Ivy League title. Florida Gulf Coast (24-10) claimed its first NCAA tournament berth in school history by winning the Atlantic Sun title and Belmont (26-6) won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title by beating Murray State 70-68 in overtime.

Five more automatic NCAA bids will be presented to tournament champions today in the Colonial, Southern, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Sun Belt and West Coast conferences.

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