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WBB Game Day Central: No. 4 seed Purdue
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No. 13 seed Liberty (27-6, 16-2 Big South) will begin its 15th NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship appearance Sunday at 12:10 p.m., when the Lady Flames square off with No. 4 seed Purdue (24-8, 10-6 Big Ten) at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. Sunday's winner will meet either No. 5 seed Louisville or No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee in the second round, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The "Starting Five" - Liberty's Top Tournament Storylines
1) Sunday's game should feature a nice battle between Purdue's offense (ranked in the top 30 nationally for FG pct., 3FG pct. and FT pct.) and Liberty's defense (ranked in the top 30 nationally for FG pct. defense and 3FG pct. defense).
2) Both teams captured their conference's tournament title, as Liberty won its 15th Big South Championship crown and Purdue claimed its ninth Big Ten Tournament championship.
3) In 2005, Liberty reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. Like that team, the 2012-13 Lady Flames boast five seniors, are seeded No. 13 and will open the NCAA Tournament against a Big Ten foe on a neutral-site court.
4) Sunday's game will be the Lady Flames' first contest against a Big Ten opponent since March 20, 2005. That day, No. 13 seed Liberty recorded its first NCAA Tournament victory with a 78-70 upset win over No. 4 seed Penn State in College Park, Md.
5) Liberty redshirt seniors Devon Brown and Tolu Omotola are both nearing career milestones. Brown sits 20 points shy of 2,000 for her career, while Omotola needs 19 points to reach the 1,000 mark.
Liberty vs. Purdue At a Glance
Series Record: First meeting
Liberty Head Coach: Carey Green
Overall Record (Seasons): 337-109 (14th Season)
Record at Liberty (Seasons): Same
Record vs. Purdue: 0-0
Purdue Head Coach: Sharon Versyp
Overall Record (Seasons): 277-143 (13th Season)
Record at Purdue (Seasons): 160-78 (Seventh Season)
Record vs. Liberty: 0-0
Notes and Anecdotes
• Purdue shoots well, ranking No. 10 nationally in free throw percentage (77.3), No. 19 in three-point field goal percentage (35.7) and No. 26 in field goal percentage (43.4).
• Meanwhile, Liberty is strong defensively. The Lady Flames sit No. 7 in the nation for field goal percentage defense (33.3) and No. 30 for three-point field goal defense (26.8).
• Both teams come into the NCAA Tournament on a positive note, after Liberty claimed the Big South Championship title the same day (March 10) that Purdue won the Big Ten Tournament crown.
• Liberty's 15 Big South Championship titles are the most of any conference member, while Purdue has won a league-high nine Big Ten Tournament championships.
• During the last 17 seasons, Purdue has made 16 NCAA Tournament appearances while Liberty has appeared 15 times. The Boilermakers and Lady Flames are two of only 11 teams to have qualified for at least 15 of the last 17 NCAA Tournaments, while Liberty is the only mid-major program which can make that claim.
• Liberty is 1-2 all-time against Big Ten members, with the lone victory coming against Penn State in the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
• Purdue has also played only three games against Big South foes, going 2-1. The loss came at home against Gardner-Webb on Dec. 21, 2009. Liberty defeated the Runnin' Bulldogs in that season's Big South Championship title contest.
• Women's basketball will be the third head-to-head team sport which has featured a Liberty-Purdue matchup. Liberty is 1-5 all-time against the Boilermakers, including 0-3 in baseball and 1-2 in softball. The Lady Flames posted a 4-2 win over Purdue on the diamond, March 15, 2009 in Boca Raton, Fla.
A Look Back
Liberty will be making its second consecutive NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship appearance. Last season, the Lady Flames were seeded No. 16 and opened up at No. 1 seed Notre Dame on March 18, 2012.
The Fighting Irish began their trip to the national championship game by jumping out to an 11-0 lead and never looking back in a 74-43 victory. Liberty's Devon Brown scored a game-high 16 points while Lady Flame Avery Warley topped all players with 10 rebounds.
Last Time in Louisville
This will be the second time in four years that Liberty opens the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship in Louisville, Ky. On March 20, 2010, the No. 13 seed Lady Flames faced No. 4 seed Kentucky at venerable Freedom Hall.
Playing in front of a partisan Kentucky crowd, the Lady Flames took a 35-33 halftime lead. However, the Wildcats came back in the second half for an 83-77 triumph. Current Liberty player Devon Brown (game-high 24 points) starred in the contest.
Sunday's game will mark Liberty's first-ever visit to the KFC Yum! Center, which opened in time for Louisville's 2010-11 men's and women's basketball seasons.
Lucky No. 13?
This will be Liberty's sixth time as a No. 13 seed in 15 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship appearances, making it the Lady Flames' most common seed.
In 2005, Liberty was a No. 13 seed when it upset No. 4 seed Penn State and No. 5 seed DePaul to reach the Sweet 16.
Six No. 13 seeds have won first-round games in tournament history, also including Texas A&M (1994), Rice (2000), Middle Tennessee (2004) and Marist (2007 & 2012). Like the 2005 Lady Flames, 1994 Texas A&M and the 2007 Marist squad advanced to the Sweet 16 as No. 13 seeds.
Sunday's game will be Liberty's seventh neutral-site contest in tournament history. The Lady Flames are 2-4 in neutral-site tilts, with both victories coming in 2005 at Maryland's Comcast Center (vs. Penn State & DePaul).
Liberty played well in its most recent neutral-site NCAA contest, falling just shy of upsetting No. 4 seed Kentucky (L, 83-77) at Louisville, Ky., on March 20, 2010.
A Set of Similarities
The 2012-13 Lady Flames enter the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship with a number of similarities to the 2004-05 Liberty squad which advanced to the Sweet 16.
• This year's Liberty team is led by five seniors (Devon Brown, Brittany Campbell, Terika Lunsford, Tolu Omotola and LaKendra Washington), just as the 2004-05 Lady Flames featured a quintet of seniors (Katie Feenstra, Rima Margeviciute, Daina Staugaitiene, Kristal Tharp and Stephanie Walker).
• Both teams won the Big South Championship before earning No. 13 seeds for the NCAA Tournament.
• Both squads' final losses prior to the NCAA Tournament came at the hands of High Point.
• Both teams opened the NCAA Tournament on a neutral-site court against a Big Ten opponent. (In 2005, Penn State was the Lady Flames' opening-round foe.)
• In 2005, Liberty faced a BIG EAST opponent (DePaul) in the second round. This year, the Lady Flames could meet BIG EAST squad Louisville if they defeat Purdue.
• Both teams were exceptional rebounding squads. The 2004-05 Lady Flames ranked No. 1 nationally with a +13.8 rebound margin. This season, Liberty tops the nation with a +17.5 rebound margin entering the NCAA Tournament.
Liberty Versus Postseason Qualifiers
Liberty faced only two fellow 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship qualifiers this season, with both matchups coming in the same week. The Lady Flames lost at Texas A&M by a 70-55 count on Nov. 20 before falling at Baylor, 92-60, on Nov. 23.
The Lady Flames played seven other games against teams who qualified for postseason tournaments, going 4-3 overall against WNIT squads Winthrop (2-0), James Madison (1-0), Sacred Heart (1-0), Duquesne (0-1) and North Carolina A&T (0-1) and WBI qualifier Presbyterian College (0-1).
It Takes Two to Tango
For just the second time in Big South Conference history, the same school won both the Big South Men's and Women's Basketball Championship titles, as Liberty made it a clean sweep at The HTC Center in Conway, S.C., on March 10. The Flames and Lady Flames previously accomplished the feat in 2004.
A Bluegrass Basketball Bonanza?
If the Liberty men's basketball team defeats North Carolina A&T in the First Four on Tuesday, both the Flames and Lady Flames would play NCAA Tournament games in Kentucky this year. The Liberty men's squad's second-round game would be played at Rupp Arena in Lexington on Thursday against No. 1 seed Louisville.
Haven't We Seen You Before?
Liberty's NCAA Tournament history has been closely linked to that of Louisville in recent years, beginning with a 2009 first-round matchup between the Lady Flames and Cardinals in Baton Rouge, La.
The next year, the Liberty women's basketball team played its NCAA first-round game against Kentucky at Louisville's Freedom Hall.
This season, the Lady Flames will open tournament play at Louisville's KFC Yum! Center and both the Liberty men's and women's basketball squads could meet Louisville in the second round of their respective tournaments.
A Streak in Jeopardy?
Liberty has kept 28 straight opponents below 50 percent field goal shooting since Baylor shot 55.2 percent against the Lady Flames on Nov. 23.
Purdue ranks No. 26 nationally for field goal percentage at 43.4 percent.
Liberty Versus the Top 25
Purdue, which begins the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 21 nationally in both polls, will be the 42nd nationally-ranked opponent Liberty has ever faced and the third this season (also No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 3/3 Baylor).
• Liberty is 4-37 all-time against Top 25 opponents, with its two most recent victories coming during the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The Lady Flames defeated No. 22/25 Penn State in the first round on March 20, 78-70. Liberty then took down No. 17 DePaul in the second round two days later, 88-79.
Summarizing the Streaks
Liberty enters the NCAA Tournament riding a few lengthy streaks.
• The Lady Flames have won 14 straight games overall, since a 71-63 home loss to High Point on Jan. 17. This is Liberty's longest winning streak since an 18-game skein spanning Dec. 28, 2008-March 6, 2009 and ties the Lady Flames' fifth-longest winning streak in program history.
• Liberty has been victorious in 11 consecutive road games and 14 straight games away from the Vines Center since a 92-60 setback at Baylor on Nov. 23. The Lady Flames need one more road win to tie the program record of 12, set in 1997-98.
Liberty honored seniors Devon Brown, Brittany Campbell, Terika Lunsford, Tolu Omotola and LaKendra Washington prior to the March 2 regular-season finale against Charleston Southern. During the past four years, the Lady Flames have gone 100-32 and made three NCAA Tournament appearances, including this year's trip to the "Big Dance."
• The five players have combined for 3,858 points and 1,893 rebounds during their time with the Lady Flames, while Brown, Campbell and Omotola all made the Big South all-tournament team.
At 27-6, Liberty needs one more win to tie the program and Big South records for most victories in a season. The Lady Flames went 28-1 in 1997-98 and 28-4 in 2007-08.
A Look Back at Liberty's Run to its 15th Big South Championship Title
Liberty won its second straight Big South Women's Basketball Championship crown and 15th in the last 17 seasons. Here's how it happened at Coastal Carolina's The HTC Center in Conway. S.C.
March 8 - Quarterfinals - No. 1 Liberty 78, No. 9 Gardner-Webb 61
• Liberty made eight three-pointers during the first 11:41, racing out to a 34-15 lead that it never relinquished.
• The Lady Flames finished the game making 11-of-16 triples (68.8 percent), equaling a season high and falling one shy of a program record for most three-pointers made in a single contest.
• Devon Brown led all players with 23 points, while adding a career-high six steals and a season-best four assists.
• Reagan Miller made four of Liberty's triples as part of a season-best 17-point output.
• Alexis Sherard coached the Lady Flames in place of Carey Green, who was attending the funeral of his father, A.J. Green.
March 9 - Semifinals - No. 1 Liberty 70, No. 5 Campbell 56
• Campbell got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 14-3 lead.
• Shortly thereafter, Liberty countered with an 18-0 run and never trailed again.
• The Lady Camels were still within five (60-55) with 2:33 left before Liberty closed out the win by shooting eight-for-eight at the foul line.
• Devon Brown led the way with 25 points and a career high-equaling 14 rebounds. The redshirt senior tallied 18 points and eight boards in the second half alone.
March 10 - Championship Game - No. 1 Liberty 54, No. 7 Longwood 45
• Liberty's biggest run of the game was a 15-2 first-half surge which saw freshmen Sadalia Ellis and Ashley Rininger combine for 12 of the points.
• The Lady Flames dominated the glass, outrebounding the Lancers by a 54-25 margin, and held Longwood to 27.3 percent (15-of-55) field goal shooting.
• Tolu Omotola led all players with 16 points.
• Freshmen Rininger (10 points, 7 rebounds) and Ellis (8 points, 4 assists) were key.
Liberty broke the program single-season record for three-pointers made during its March win over Charleston Southern and has since improved the mark to 171 triples.
• The previous record of 147 made three-pointers was set in 2001-02, when Kristal Tharp led the team with 34 triples.
• Three-point shooting played an important part of the Lady Flames' run to the Big South Championship title, as Liberty hit 43.2 percent (19-of-44) of its attempts from beyond the arc.
Rulers of the Rebounds
Liberty topped the nation in rebound margin in 2011-12, outrebounding opponents by a school-record margin of 15.6 boards per game. Liberty has ranked among the nation's top five teams for rebound margin in each of the last 10 seasons, leading the country on four occasions.
• The Lady Flames are off to a strong start on the glass again in 2012-13, ranking No. 1 nationally for rebound margin in the most recent NCAA national statistical report, at +17.5.
• The Lady Flames are on track to post their highest rebound margin in a single season. The program record is +15.6, set last season. Also, only four teams have finished with a rebound margin of +17.0 or higher in NCAA Division I women's basketball history.
The Container is Half Full
The Lady Flames are 7-0 this season and 93-1 under head coach Carey Green when making at least 50 percent of their field goals.
The Container is Half Empty
• Liberty has played strong defense this season, limiting opponents to 33.3 percent field goal shooting. The Lady Flames have held 28 consecutive foes below 50 percent from the field, with 10 of them shooting below 30 percent.
• Since the start of the 2007-08 season, only six teams have shot 50 percent against Liberty in 197 games. By way of comparison, the Lady Flames have shot 50 percent 54 times during that span.
A Winning Tradition
At 27-6, Liberty has clinched its 17th consecutive winning season. The streak started in 1996-97, the first year that the Lady Flames won the Big South Conference title.
• With its 16-2 conference record, Liberty posted its 14th consecutive season with double-digit Big South wins.
• Liberty tied the single-season record for Big South wins (16), which the Lady Flames set in 2011-12.
• Liberty has posted its sixth straight 20-win season and 15th 20-win campaign in the last 17 years.
• Liberty has recorded double-digit road victories for the fourth season in a row.
The 2012-13 season is Liberty's sixth consecutive year with the same head coach (Carey Green) and trio of assistant coaches (Alexis Sherard, Heather Stephens and Andy Bloodworth). The Lady Flames join Iowa and Montana as the only four-member NCAA Division I women's basketball coaching staffs which have remained intact since the start of the 2007-08 campaign.