Terrell Burden scored 19 points and made a free throw with less than a second left to help Kennesaw State beat Liberty 67-66 on Sunday. This gave the Owls their first Atlantic Sun Conference championship and their first trip to the NCAA tournament.
Kennesaw State has come a long way since Amir Abdur-Rahim took over as coach four years ago. The Owls had a 1-28 record in 2019-20, which was Burden’s first season and Abdur-first Rahim’s season as coach. In Abdur-second Rahim’s year, they went 5-19, and last year they went 13-18. Now, the Owls will go to their first Big Dance with a record-setting 26-8 record.
Kennesaw State won because of how well it defended against Liberty’s Darius McGhee, who is the all-time leading scorer in the ASUN and the player of the year. McGhee only made 6 of 21 shots from the field, and he missed all 11 shots from beyond the arc. McGhee came in averaging 22.7 points per game, but he only scored 14 points in the end. The Flames’ Kyle Rode scored 23 points, which was his career high (26-8). The senior made 9 of 14 shots and four 3-pointers.
Kennesaw State got 16 points from Chris Youngblood, who made all seven of his free throws. Demond Robinson had his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Stroud also scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
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At halftime, Liberty was ahead 29–27 because Rode made two 3-pointers and scored 11 points.
With 10:54 left in the game, Simeon Cottle made a 3-point shot to give Kennesaw State a 48-43 lead. The Owls were in the lead until Rode made a 3-pointer at 7:43 to end an 8-0 run that put the Flames ahead 53-51. Kennesaw State took the lead back with a 3-pointer from Youngblood and a layup from Burden.
With 23 seconds left, Colin Porter made a 3-point shot to tie the score at 66 for Liberty. When Porter drove to the basket with 0.7 of a second left, he was fouled. He made the first one to take the lead, but he missed the second one on purpose to waste time.
It was the first time that a game at the KSU Convocation Center had been shown on national TV. The Owls won in front of a record-setting crowd of 3,805 people.
Liberty had never lost in the ASUN championship game before.