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CIT Bracket 2017: Liberty advances to second round

Welcome to March. Officially.

NCAA Basketball: Liberty at VCU Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought Monday was the lull before the start of the madness, you were wrong.

There was tournament basketball on the day after Selection Sunday. Liberty beat Norfolk State 73-64 in the first round of the CIT, formally kicking off the non-league tournament portion of the postseason.

So let us be the first second to officially welcome you to March!

The Flames, who had the fourth most efficient offense in the Big South, blistered Norfolk State by shooting 53.2 percent from the field. This was fueled by career-high point totals from Ryan Kemrite (30 points) and Lovell Cabill (25 points). Both players should return next season.

Liberty ran out to a 32-22 halftime lead, and while the Spartans were able to crack the Flames’ defense for 42 second half points, it wasn’t enough. Norfolk State senior Jonathan Wade led the way with 22 points and six rebounds, and the loss closes the book on his solid career, which included all-MEAC first team honors this season.

This was the Flames first postseason appearance since they lost to North Carolina A&T in 2012-13’s First Four of the NCAA Tournament. It was also the program’s second postseason victory - the first being a CIT opening round win against Rider in 2008-09.

The CIT does not follow a straight bracket format, as the quarterfinals are re-seeded. Thus, Liberty will await its next opponent from this field.

After a third place regular season finish, the Flames were upset by Radford in their Big South Tournament opener. Norfolk State beat South Carolina State and Howard before falling to North Carolina Central in the MEAC Tournament championship game.

The game also seconded as the second annual “John McLendon Classic,” which honors basketball pioneer John McLendon and celebrates historically black colleges and their basketball tradition. More can be read on McLendon and the event here.