Men's College Basketball
Preview
Liberty vs Mississippi State
When: 6:00 PM ET, Thursday, November 26, 2020
Where: Titan Field House, Melbourne, Florida

One team looking to improve on defense meets another seeking an offensive boost when Liberty and Mississippi State lock horns in the third-place game of the Space Coast Challenge on Thursday night in Melbourne, Fla.

The Flames (0-1) had no answer for Purdue's 7-foot-4 Zach Edey in a 77-64 loss to the Boilermakers in the opener of the four-team, two-day tournament on Wednesday.

In the first-round nightcap, the Bulldogs (0-1) shot just 30 percent overall and connected on just four of 13 3-point attempts in a 53-42 loss to Clemson.

The Thursday game is a rematch of Liberty's 80-76 upset of Mississippi State in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The win was Liberty's first-ever in NCAA Tournament play.

Guard Caleb Homesley, hero of that contest with 30 points, has since graduated, but the Flames do still have two regulars from that 29-win team, including junior guard Darius McGhee, who paced Liberty with 21 points in the loss to Purdue.

The Flames surprised the Bulldogs with 12-for-25 accuracy on 3-pointers two seasons ago, and it will be no shock if they come out firing from beyond the arc in the rematch. Liberty fired up 32 3-point attempts against Purdue, making 11.

Coming off a school-record, 30-win season, Liberty coach Ritchie McKay at least accomplished one of his goals in the loss to the Boilermakers: He got 10 players into the game on opening night.

"We have five of our top 11 who have never played a game for Liberty," he said. "When you have 10 or 11 guys, this is as deep as we've been. My biggest problem is going to be managing those minutes."

Mississippi State got 12 points Wednesday from sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. and a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double from Western Kentucky transfer Tolu Smith.

Depth was an issue for the Bulldogs, however, as their other seven players who got playing time combined for just 18 points on 7-for-24 shooting.

The 42-point team total was 10 fewer than Mississippi State totaled in any game last season en route to a 20-11 campaign.

Smith was just happy to get on the court in a Bulldogs uniform after having sat out last year.

"It is a great feeling," the 6-foot-10 forward said on season's eve. "It's been a long journey. Coach has a lot of expectations for me."

--Field Level Media

Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Neutral Day Night Conf
Liberty 0-1 L1 0-0 0-0 0-1 0-1 0-0 0-0
Mississippi State 0-1 L1 0-0 0-0 0-1 0-0 0-1 0-0
Last Meeting
Liberty Mississippi State
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
3/22/19 LIB 80 MSST 76 80 23 46.2 76 32 48.1
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Liberty C. Homesley 30 62.5 5
Mississippi State Q. Weatherspoon 27 50.0 13
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Liberty S. James 6 2 4
Mississippi State R. Perry 10 2 8
Assists Player  
Liberty L. Cabbil Jr. 5
Mississippi State L. Peters 5
Season
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Liberty D. McGhee 21 35.0 3
Mississippi State T. Smith 12 37.5 6
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Liberty K. McDowell 6 0 6
Mississippi State T. Smith 10 4 6
Assists Player  
Liberty D. McGhee 4
Mississippi State D. Stewart Jr. 2
Quickchart Matchup
blue bar Liberty Off vs  red bar Mississippi State Defense
blue bar 64.0 Points For
red bar 53.0 Points Against
blue bar 40.4 FG%
red bar 35.2 FG%
blue bar 24.0 Reb
red bar 35.0 Reb
red bar Mississippi State Off vs  blue bar Liberty Defense
red bar 42.0 Points For
blue bar 77.0 Points Against
red bar 30.0 FG%
blue bar 58.5 FG%
red bar 41.0 Reb
blue bar 32.0 Reb