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WBB Game Day Central: No. 7 seed Presbyterian College
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No. 2 seed Liberty (19-10, 15-5 Big South) will open defense of its Big South Championship title Thursday at 6 p.m. inside The HTC Center, facing No. 7 seed Presbyterian College (12-18, 9-11 Big South) in the quarterfinal round. If victorious, the Lady Flames would advance to a semifinal tilt, Saturday at 8 p.m. The championship game is set for Sunday at 5 p.m.
The "Starting Five" - Liberty's Top Tournament Storylines
1) Liberty is the two-time defending champion at the Big South Women's Basketball Championship and will be aiming to win its 16th tournament title in the last 18 seasons. The Lady Flames have made 17 straight semifinal appearances and six consecutive trips to the title game.
2) The Lady Flames enter as the No. 2 seed for the third time in program history. Liberty has captured the tournament title both previous times it has been seeded No. 2 (1997 and 2010).
3) Liberty enters the tournament as one the hottest teams in the Big South Conference. The Lady Flames have equaled their longest winning streak of the season with five straight victories and are 7-1 in their last eight outings.
4) Liberty is 5-0 all-time at The HTC Center, and the Lady Flames have won 21 straight games in Conway overall since a loss to the Chanticleers on Feb. 19, 1996. Liberty is also 50-5 in games played in South Carolina under head coach Carey Green.
5) The Lady Flames are led by redshirt sophomore post player Ashley Rininger, a first-team All-Big South performer and the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
• Liberty and Presbyterian College split their two regular-season matchups in 2013-14, with each team winning on its home court.
• Liberty recorded a 59-51 home victory over the Blue Hose on Jan. 11, 2014 at the Vines Center, withstanding a second-half comeback by PC.
• Presbyterian College's Karlee Taylor scored 16 of her 24 points during the second half, helping the Blue Hose trim a 16-point deficit to four.
• The Lady Flames shot 6-of-6 at the foul line during the final 1:04 to seal their victory.
• PC shot just 29.6 percent (16-of-54) for the game.
• For Liberty, Ashley Rininger posted a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Emily Frazier had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists, falling just one point shy of her career high.
• Presbyterian College notched its first-ever home win over Liberty, 46-43, on Feb. 13, 2014 at the Templeton Center.
• Karlee Taylor scored PC's final eight points of the game, including four free throws in the final 21.5 seconds which gave the Blue Hose the win.
• Presbyterian College was held scoreless for 10:07 to start the game, but Liberty owned just a 13-10 halftime advantage after its lowest-scoring first half since Dec. 7, 2011 at Virginia (also 13 points in the first half).
• Liberty set season lows for points (43), field goal percentage (30 percent, 15-of-50) and three-point field goal percentage (5.9 percent, 1-of-17).
• PC was the only Big South team to outrebound Liberty this season, finishing with a 34-32 advantage on the boards.
• Sadalia Ellis was Liberty's only player to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
• First team All-Big South performer Ashley Rininger finished with four points (season low) and three rebounds (tied her season low) for the Lady Flames.
• Sherece Smith led PC with 18 points, while Taylor added 14.
• After Liberty won each of its first nine head-to-head matchups against Presbyterian College in program history, the Blue Hose have won two out of three versus the Lady Flames over the last two years.
• Thursday's game will be the first-ever matchup between Liberty and PC in the Big South Championship.
• Liberty and Presbyterian College are two of the hottest teams in the Big South at present. Since its loss at PC, the Lady Flames have equaled a season high with five straight victories.
• Meanwhile, the Blue Hose are 7-1 in their last eight games, including victories over the Big South Championship's No. 1 (High Point), No. 2 (Liberty) and No. 4 (Campbell) seeds.
• PC is now 1-1 all-time in the Big South Championship after Tuesday's win over Longwood, while Liberty owns a conference-record 47 tournament wins all-time (47-7 record, 15 championships).
• Thursday's game will match up the nation's No. 2-ranked scoring defense (Presbyterian College, 53.1 ppg) and the nation's No. 9-ranked field goal percentage defense (Liberty, .350).
• Liberty has scored fewer than 70 points in each of its last eight meetings with Presbyterian College.
• Five of the last six meetings between Liberty and Presbyterian College have been decided by single digits. The Lady Flames have struggled in close games this year, going 0-6 in games decided by five points or fewer.
• Liberty is 44-1 all-time in the Big South Championship when favored according to seed.
• Liberty will be trying to advance to the Big South Championship semifinal round for the 18th straight season, while PC will be aiming for its first-ever semifinal appearance.
• The Lady Flames have won their opening game in the Big South Championship 17 consecutive years, since losing their 1996 opener to UNCG, 84-40.
• Thursday's game will feature the last two Big South Scholar-Athletes of the Year, in Liberty's Ashley Rininger (2014) and PC's Karlee Taylor (2013). Both players were also All-Big South selections this season, with Rininger making the first team and Taylor the second team.
The Lady Flames enter the 2014 Big South Championship as the two-time defending champion. Liberty will aim for its third streak of three or more tournament titles in succession, following a conference-record 10 straight championships between 1997 and 2006 and a run of three titles in a row between 2008 and 2010.
2 For 2 as a No. 2 Seed
Liberty has cut down the nets as Big South champion both times it has been seeded No. 2 prior to this year (1997 and 2010). On each occasion, the Lady Flames defeated a No. 1 seed hailing from North Carolina which had recorded two regular-season wins over Liberty that year. In 1997, the Lady Flames defeated UNCG for their first-ever Big South title, while the 2010 Lady Flames edged Gardner-Webb in the championship game.
How's This For Openers?
Liberty is 19-3 all-time in its opening game of the Big South Championship. The Lady Flames have won 17 straight openers, since losing to UNC Greensboro, 84-40, in the first round of the 1996 tournament.
Success Versus Current Big South Teams
Liberty is 41-5 in Big South Championship games against the 10 other teams playing in this year's tournament. Campbell, Gardner-Webb and Radford (three times) are the only three squads in the 2014 tournament who have ever defeated the Lady Flames in the Big South Championship.
Avoiding the Upset
The Lady Flames own a 44-1 record all-time in the Big South Championship, when Liberty is seeded higher than its opponent.
Commonwealth Teams in the Championship Game
Either Liberty or Radford has appeared in all 27 Big South Championship title games in conference history. However, 2008 is the only time the Lady Flames and Highlanders have ever faced each other in the championship game.
Lack of Overtime
None of Liberty's 54 Big South Championship contests have gone to overtime. Most of the time, the games have been decided by a wide margin, as 37 of the Lady Flames' tournament tilts have featured a double-digit spread between the two teams.
No More Nail-biters!
The Lady Flames' final contest at the Big South Championship has been a close game each of the past eight years. Their championship game matchups in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and their semifinal loss to Radford in 2007 have been decided by a total of 27 points.
Comfortable in Conway
Liberty has been victorious in each of the last 21 games it has played in Conway, S.C., including 16 victories at Kimbel Arena and a 5-0 record at The HTC Center. The Lady Flames have not lost in Conway since a 70-55 setback to the Chanticleers on Feb. 19, 1996.
Playing Well in the Palmetto State
Liberty has played very well in South Carolina during Carey Green's 15 seasons as head coach, going 50-5 in contests played in the Palmetto State, including 3-1 in 2013-14.
Liberty is now 13-2 in its final game of the regular season under head coach Carey Green. 11 of the 12 previous times the Lady Flames have won their final regular-season tilt under Green, they have gone on to win the Big South Championship. The only exception came in 2010-11.
Big South Accolades
A trio of Lady Flames earned Big South Conference honors on Sunday, including Ashley Rininger (Scholar-Athlete of the Year, first team All-Big South, All-Academic Team), Simone Brown (All-Freshman Team) and Mickayla Sanders (All-Freshman Team).
• Rininger is Liberty's first Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year since Megan Frazee in 2009 and the Lady Flames' first sophomore to win the award since Elena Kisseleva in 1998.
• Liberty has now been represented on the first team All-Big South squad for 18 straight years and has boasted a member of the Big South All-Freshman Team for six years in a row. This was the Lady Flames' first year with multiple All-Freshman Team members since 2002, when Katie Feenstra, Kristal Tharp and Stephanie Walker were honored.
Three-point shooting has played a key role in Liberty's last three victories, as the Lady Flames are hitting 41.3 percent (26-of-63) of their three-point tries. On Feb. 27, Liberty nailed a season-best 11 triples at Radford, falling one shy of the program single-game record of 12.
• With 163 three-pointers this season, the Lady Flames are within striking distance of the program single-season record of 173 triples set a year ago.
• Liberty shot 43.2 percent (19-of-44) from downtown during the 2013 Big South Championship. Current assistant coach Brittany Campbell was 8-of-14 for 57.1 percent.
A Look Back at Liberty's 2013 Big South Championship Title
No. 1 seed Liberty won three games in three days (March 8-10) to win the 2013 Big South Women's Basketball Championship at The HTC Center. It was the Lady Flames' second straight title and 15th tournament championship in the last 17 years.
March 8, 2013 - Quarterfinal - No. 1 seed Liberty 78, No. 9 seed Gardner-Webb 61
• Liberty shot a sizzling 68.8 percent (11-of-16) from three-point range against the Runnin' Bulldogs.
• Devon Brown (23 points), Reagan Miller (17 points) and Brittany Campbell (11 points) combined for 10 made triples.
• Post players Jasmine Gardner and Tolu Omotola pulled down 11 rebounds apiece, contributing to Liberty's 49-32 advantage on the glass.
March 9, 2013 - Semifinal - No. 1 seed Liberty 70, No. 5 seed Campbell 56
• Liberty used an 18-0 first-half run to overcome an early 14-3 deficit against Campbell.
• Devon Brown led the way with 25 points and a career high-equaling 14 rebounds.
• Liberty shot 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from the field during the second half and made eight straight free throws to close out the victory.
March 10, 2013 - Final - No. 1 seed Liberty 54, No. 7 seed Longwood 45
• Liberty outrebounded Longwood by 29 boards (54-25) and limited the Lancers to 27.3 percent (15-of-55) from the field.
• Tolu Omotola scored a game-high 16 points, while Devon Brown collected 13 rebounds.
• Brown was named tournament MVP and was joined by fellow seniors Omotola and Brittany Campbell on the all-tournament team.
Liberty boasts a youthful roster this season, featuring seven freshmen and five sophomores among its 16 players. The Lady Flames' lone senior (Jasmine Gardner) has not played all season due to injury.
• Freshmen and sophomores are scoring 79.7 percent of Liberty's points, grabbing 78.6 percent of the Lady Flames' rebounds and playing 76.5 percent of the team's minutes during the 2013-14 campaign.
Liberty has gotten a lift from its reserves in recent weeks, outscoring its opponent in bench points in 13 straight games. Two of Liberty's top five scorers this season are currently coming off of the bench, in Mickayla Sanders (9.6 ppg) and Sadalia Ellis (7.2 ppg).
Defense has been a key to Liberty's late-season success, which has seen the Lady Flames reel off five consecutive wins and seven victories in their last eight outings.
• Liberty has held six of its last eight opponents below the 50-point mark, and opponents are shooting just 33.2 percent against the Lady Flames during that stretch.
• For the year, the Lady Flames rank No. 15 nationally for field goal percentage defense (.350).
Playing With a Lead
Liberty has not trailed since the 6:32 mark of the first half against Winthrop on Feb. 22. The Lady Flames have led or been tied for the last 106:31 of game action since then.
Getting Hot at the Right Time
Liberty won its last five regular-season games, tying its longest winning streak of the season.
• This is the 10th time that the Lady Flames have entered the Big South Women's Basketball Championship with a winning streak of five games or more. Liberty has won the tournament title on all nine previous occasions, including 2013, when the Lady Flames brought an 11-game winning streak to Conway.
An Abundance of Overtime
The Lady Flames have played four overtime games this season, setting a new program single-season record. Liberty, which is 1-3 in overtime in 2013-14, has never played an overtime contest in the Big South Women's Basketball Championship.
Feasting at the Foul Line
Liberty is shooting 72.8 percent from the free throw line this season, giving the team a shot at setting a new record. The Lady Flames' existing program record for free throw percentage is 72.8 percent, set in 2007-08.
A Winning Tradition
• The Lady Flames have clinched their 18th consecutive winning season. The streak started in 1996-97, the first year that the Lady Flames won the Big South Championship title.
• Liberty needs one more victory to post its seventh straight 20-win season and 16th 20-win campaign in the last 18 years.
• With its 15-5 conference record, Liberty posted its 15th consecutive season with doubledigit Big South wins and fell one win shy of the conference record for most Big South victories in a season.
• The Lady Flames went 10-3 at the Vines Center, recording double-digit home victories for the 12th straight season.
• Liberty is seeking its third straight Big South Championship crown and its 16th title in the last 18 seasons.