Kennesaw St. went to its first NCAA tournament since the ASUN title

KENNESAW, Ga. – Terrell Bourdain scored 19 points and made a free throw with less than a second left to lead Kennesaw State to a 67-66 win over Liberty on Sunday, giving the Owls their first Atlantic Sun Conference championship and first trip. to the NCAA tournament.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Kennesaw State under fourth-year coach Amir Abdur-Rahim. The Owls finished with a 1-28 record in 2019-20 – Burden’s freshman season and first under Abdur-Rahim. They went 5-19 in Abdur-Rahim’s second season and 13-18 last year. The Owls now bring a school record 26-8 mark into their first Big Dance.

Kennesaw State can attribute its win to the defensive work of Liberty’s Darius McGee, the ASUN Player of the Year and the conference’s all-time leading scorer. McGee made just 6 of 21 shots from the floor and was 0-for-11 from beyond the arc. McGhee averaged 22.7 points per game, but finished with 14. Kyle Rhode had a career-high 23 points for the Flames (26-8). The senior made 9 of 14 shots with four 3-pointers.

Chris Youngblood hit all seven of his free throws and scored 16 for Kennesaw State. Demond Robinson recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Stroud added 12 points and six boards.

Rhode hit two 3-pointers and scored 11 to lead Liberty 29-27 at halftime.

Kennesaw State fought back to take a 48-43 lead on Simeon Cottle’s 3-pointer with 10:54 left in the game. The Owls put the Flames up 53-51 at the 7:43 mark before Rhode hit a 3-pointer to cap an 8-0 run. Youngblood answered with a 3-pointer, a Borden layup and Kennesaw State took the lead.

Colin Porter buried a 3-pointer to pull Liberty within 66 with 23 seconds left. Porter was fouled driving to the basket with seven-tenths of a second left. He made the first one go ahead and intentionally missed the second one to run out the clock.

The competition marked the first time that the game at the KSU Invitational Center was broadcast on national TV channels. The Owls completed their victory in front of an arena record crowd of 3,805.

Liberty entered the game 3-0 in its previous trips to the ASUN title game.

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