Liberty's win marked the Flames' first NCAA tournament victory in program history.
No. 12 seed Liberty upset No. 5 Mississippi State 80–76 in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament for the Flames' first March Madness win in program history.
Friday evening's upset marks the fifth time—2002, 2009, 2013, 2014 and now 2019—that a tournament has featured three No. 12 seeds defeating No. 5 seeds in the first round.
Liberty hung with the Bulldogs the entire game but amped up the effort in the second half, posting a late rally that started with a 10–0 run and erased an eight-point deficit, bringing the score to 69–67 with 2:39 to play.
Mississippi State responded with three points on free throws, retaking the lead by two with 1:21 remaining in regulation. The two teams went back and forth down the stretch, spending most of it at the free throw line.
Liberty junior Caleb Homesley finished with a career-high 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Lovell Cabbil Jr. added another 18 for the Flames in the win. Mississippi State's Quinndary Weatherspoon sunk 27 points on 6-of-12 shooting and a 13-of-16 mark from the line.
The Flames will face the winner of No. 4 Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Saint Louis on Sunday in the second round of the Big Dance.