No. 12-seeded Liberty hunting for another upset vs. Virginia Tech

Frank Doyle | Sat. Mar 23 2019, 03:03 pm

Toronto native Nickeil Alexander-Walker poured in 20 points to pace the Hokies to their first NCAA Tourney win in 12 years. Next up are the Liberty Flames on Sunday.

The Virginia Tech Hokies are about to find out that there’s no quit in the No. 12-seeded Liberty Flames. The Flames earned the first NCAA Tournament win in school history on Friday night over Mississippi State as a 7-point underdog. Early odds aren’t giving Liberty much respect in Sunday’s tilt with Virginia Tech. The Flames opened as 8.5-point underdogs with early action backing the favourite.

Underdog tag doesn’t bother Liberty Flames

There’s a lot of fight in Liberty though. It didn’t look good when the Flames were down 10 points in the second half on Friday, but Caleb Homesley and Co. wouldn’t go away. Homesley finished with 3o points on the night, dropping 22 of those after halftime, while Lovell Cabbil Jr. added 18. The Flames hit 12 treys on 24 attempts from outside and shot 80 percent from the charity stripe to secure the win down the stretch. Liberty has now covered the number in four of its last five.

Hokies use big first half to advance to Round of 32

Virginia Tech wasted little time putting Saint Louis on the ropes in the opening round. The Hokies used a 10-0 run early to open up a 19-6 lead midway through the first half and went into the break with a 40-18 advantage. From there, they defended the perimeter well and hit their free throws to cruise to 66-52 win, their first NCAA Tournament win in 12 years. Toronto native Nickeil Alexander-Walker poured in 20 points and grabbed six rebounds to pace the Hokies. Justin Robinson returned from a foot injury to give the team a big boost off the bench. He finished with nine points and three rebounds in 28 minutes of work.

Liberty vs. Virginia Tech prediction

These teams squared off back in November in a pre-season exhibition game that Virginia Tech won 86-70. While the Liberty have certainly improved since then, the Hokies are looking much better now that Robinson is back. He’s a floor general and does a lot of little things that don’t always show up on the score sheet. Defence should be the difference here. Each of these teams ranked in the top 10 in the country in scoring defence, allowing fewer than 62 points per game, but Virginia has obviously faced much stiffer competition playing in the loaded ACC.

Virginia Tech 66, Liberty 62

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