NCAA Basketball

Liberty beats N. Alabama 79-75 for third straight ASUN title

(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Darius McGhee scored 21 points and eight rebounds and top-seeded Liberty held on for a 79-75 win over North Alabama on Sunday in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championship game.

Liberty (23-5), which has won 12 consecutive games, has won each of the last three ASUN regular season and tournament titles - the first program to in conference history to do so.

Kyle Rode made 6 of 8 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Flames.

Mervin James hit a 3-pointer to give North Alabama (13-11) its first lead of the game at 70-69 with 4:23 to play but McGhee answered with a 3 and the Flames led the rest of the way.

James finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. C.J. Brim added 15 points, Payton Youngblood had 14 points and four steals, and Jamari Blackmon scored 11 for the fifth-seeded Lions.

North Alabama reached the title game for the first time since beginning its transition to Division I in the 2018-19 season. The Lions won two national championships, made five Final Four appearances and advanced to the Elite 8 eight times at the D-II level.

Liberty went into the game assured of a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Lions are ineligible until they complete their four-year transition to D-I.

Blake Preston and Keegan McDowell scored 10 points apiece for Liberty.

The Flames led by as many as 12 points and had a 56-45 lead with 13 minutes to play. North Alabama made 9 of 12 from the field, including 3 of 3 from behind the arc, and had three steals during a 25-13 spurt over the next eight minutes.

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Updated March 7, 2021

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