Down by 10 points with less than seven minutes to play against a more accomplished opponent, Liberty didn’t give in a bit. Instead, the Flames just kept getting the ball to Caleb Homesley.

Homesley scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half, and Lovell Cabbil hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:16 to play to send 12th-seeded Liberty to its first NCAA Tournament win, 80-76 over fifth-seeded Mississippi State on Friday night.

“Everybody on the team believed we were going to come back,” Homesley said. “It was just a matter of time that we were going to make a run.”

Liberty celebrates during the second half of a first round game against Mississippi State in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Liberty celebrates during the second half of a first round game against Mississippi State in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The Flames (29-6) were making their fourth tournament trip in school history, but lost twice as a No. 16 seed and once in a play-in game. This year’s team had more respect, a higher seeding and capitalized on the opportunity. Liberty advanced to the second round of the East Region to play the winner of the game between Saint Louis and Virginia Tech.

Homesley helped rally Liberty from a 10-point deficit in the second half by scoring 14 points in a span of less than five minutes.

“He took over. He’s done that on occasion for us. He’s had spurts,” coach Ritchie McKay said. “When he starts to feel good about his shot, he’s such a dangerous offensive player.”

Liberty guard Caleb Homesley, left, dunks over Mississippi State guard Robert Woodard during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Liberty guard Caleb Homesley, left, dunks over Mississippi State guard Robert Woodard during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Cabbil then hit from long range to make it 72-70 and celebrated with an enthusiastic fan section that made the cross-country trip from Virginia for the game.

Liberty did the rest at the foul line to spoil the first tournament trip for Mississippi State (23-11) in a decade.

Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 27 points to lead the Bulldogs and Reggie Perry added 21.

Mississippi State guard Lamar Peters, left, celebrates after scoring during the second half against Liberty in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Mississippi State guard Lamar Peters, left, celebrates after scoring during the second half against Liberty in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

“It’s just a tough, tough pill, tough one to swallow, especially the way we had that lead late in the game,” coach Ben Howland said.

Mississippi State appeared poised to take control when Peters started a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer and ended it with a layup that made it 63-53 midway through the second half.

The Bulldogs had used their superior size to control the paint on both ends and had broken open a tight game before the Flames responded. Homesley was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three foul shots. He then hit two from long range to cut it to 67-64.

Mississippi State guard Tyson Carter shoots over Liberty guard Caleb Homesley during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Mississippi State guard Tyson Carter shoots over Liberty guard Caleb Homesley during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Homesley also had a backdoor dunk on a feed from Cabbil to make it a one-point game before hitting a long 3-pointer late in the shot clock to put Liberty back on top 69-67 with 2:34 to play.

After three free throws from the Bulldogs, Cabbil’s 3 provided the final lead change of the night.

“We just have an incredible belief throughout this entire team,” Cabbil said. “Even when we got down by 10, everyone was still yelling, ‘We can get back into this.’ Down the end we were able to get some critical stops, a couple of charges, some big-time 3s.”

Liberty guard Lovell Cabbil Jr., right, shoots over Mississippi State forward Aric Holman during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Liberty guard Lovell Cabbil Jr., right, shoots over Mississippi State forward Aric Holman during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Cabbil finished with 18 points and Myo Baxter-Bell added 13.

BIG PICTURE

Liberty: The Flames showed early that they were poised to match up with a Power 5 team. They made seven 3-pointers in the first half and led by four points before Mississippi State scored the final six to lead 37-35 at the break.

Liberty fans cheer during the second half of the team's first-round game against Mississippi State in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Liberty fans cheer during the second half of the team’s first-round game against Mississippi State in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Mississippi State: Howland’s first recruiting class for the Bulldogs finished on a down note but had an impressive run building the program. Mississippi State went to the semifinals of the NIT last year and made the tournament for the first time since 2009 this year.

ICE WATER

Liberty ranked 12th in the nation this season in foul shooting, making 77.1 percent. So it was no surprise the Flames were able to ice the game at the line, making 8 of 10 in the final minute.

Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland yells during the second half against Liberty in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland yells during the second half against Liberty in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

BLOCK PARTY

The Bulldogs had seven blocked shots in the second half as Aric Holman and Abdul Ado made things difficult for the Flames on the interior, forcing them to rely on outside shots.

UP NEXT

Liberty players celebrate during the second half against Mississippi State in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Liberty players celebrate during the second half against Mississippi State in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Liberty advances to play the winner of the game between Virginia Tech and Saint Louis.

___

Liberty forward Myo Baxter-Bell, left, drives to the basket past Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Liberty forward Myo Baxter-Bell, left, drives to the basket past Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry during the first half of a first-round men’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Mississippi State guard Lamar Peters watches during the second half of the team's game against Liberty in the first round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Mississippi State guard Lamar Peters watches during the second half of the team’s game against Liberty in the first round of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)