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Liberty, VCU Set for Preseason WNIT Battle
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The Liberty Lady Flames (0-0, 0-0 Big South) open the 2008-09 season and their third Preseason WNIT appearance with a battle of Commonwealth women's basketball heavyweights. The Lady Flames went 28-4 and captured their 11th Big South title in 2007-08, while the VCU Rams (0-0, 0-0 CAA) won 26 games and reached the CAA Tournament's championship tilt. The game, one of eight first-round Preseason WNIT contests on tap for this weekend, is slated for a 7 p.m. tip-off, Friday evening at the Vines Center.
What's at Stake
The winner of tonight's game will advance to Sunday's Preseason WNIT quarterfinal round, to meet the winner of tonight's Western Carolina at No. 4/6 North Carolina clash. The losing squad will be placed in a four-team Preseason WNIT consolation quad, to be contested next weekend (Nov. 21-23).
Lady Flames On The Air
All Lady Flames basketball games may be heard LIVE on WWMC 90.9 FM "The Light." Jamie Hall, celebrating his 15th year of broadcasting Lady Flames basketball, will once again be handling the courtside play-by-play duties for most road games. Josh Wood will serve as the primary commentator for home contests.
Lady Flames On TV
For the sixth season in a row, the Flames Television Network (FTN) plans to broadcast all 12 home women's basketball games. FTN's regular announcing team will consist of Ray Jones on play-by-play and Jamie Hall on color.
Lady Flames On the EDGE
For the second consecutive season, all Liberty home games and conference road games will be video streamed LIVE on the Internet, via the Big South EDGE. The Preseason WNIT game versus VCU will be offered FREE of charge, through the EDGE. For more information on the Big South EDGE, click here.
The VCU Rams are coming off arguably the best season in program history. The 2007-08 Rams won a program-record 26 contests, made their first CAA Tournament championship game appearance and advanced to the second round of the Postseason WNIT Tournament.
Four starters return from last year's squad, which was picked to finish second in the CAA standings. Highlighting the returnees is 6-5 senior center Quanitra Hollingsworth, a preseason All-CAA pick. She made the second-team all-conference roster last year, despite missing the final 11 games of the season with an Achilles injury. Hollingsworth posted 13.3 ppg and 9.5 rpg a season ago and has tallied a school-record 32 career double-doubles.
The Coaching Matchup
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green is in his 10th season with the Lady Flames, and has led his team to eight Big South titles. A four-time Big South Coach of the Year, Green owns a 213-68 career record and is the all-time wins leader at Liberty and among Big South women's basketball coaches. His career winning percentage (.758) ranks 10th among active NCAA Division I women's basketball coaches at the season's outset. Green is 4-1 versus VCU during his head coaching career.
Beth Cunningham is beginning her sixth season as VCU's head coach and boasts an 81-68 career record. She was tabbed State Women's Basketball Coach of the Year last season by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. An All-American during her playing career at Notre Dame, Cunningham is 0-1 all-time versus the Lady Flames.
Liberty-VCU Series Notes
VCU has been the Lady Flames' most common non-conference opponent in program history, as tonight's will be the teams' 31st all-time contest. The Rams own a 21-9 advantage in the head-to-head series, which dates back to 1976, Liberty's second women's basketball season. The Lady Flames are 6-6 when playing VCU at home, and Liberty has won its last three home contests against the Rams.
Liberty has prevailed in each of the teams' last three meetings overall and four of the last five contests. The squads' most recent matchup came on Nov. 25, 2003 at the Vines Center and saw Liberty claim a 62-43 decision. Katie Feenstra paced four Lady Flames in double figures, with 13 points and nine boards, helping hand Beth Cunningham her first career coaching setback. Cyndy Wilks was the lone VCU player to reach double digits, tallying a game-high 17 points.
Liberty Versus the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)
The Lady Flames own a 23-57 (.288) all-time record against current members of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Last season, Liberty was 2-1 versus CAA foes, defeating George Mason and James Madison and falling to Old Dominion.
Liberty is 0-1 all-time against Delaware, 0-2 against Drexel, 2-11 against George Mason, 1-4 against James Madison, 0-2 against Old Dominion, 4-5 against Towson, 9-21 against VCU and 7-11 against William & Mary.
Liberty in the Preseason WNIT
The Lady Flames are making their third appearance in the Preseason WNIT. Liberty is 0-2 all-time in the tournament, losing opening-round contests on the road in 1999 and 2003.
1999 Preseason WNIT: Liberty played at Commonwealth rival Virginia Tech in the first round of the 1999 Preseason WNIT, on Nov. 15, 1999. The Lady Flames' Sarah Wilkerson tallied 13 points and three assists, while Elena Kisseleva added 12 points and seven caroms in Carey Green's debut as Liberty head coach. However, Sarah Hicks propelled the Hokies to a 60-45 victory with a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds.
2003 Preseason WNIT: Daina Staugaitine finished with 15 points, six assists and six rebounds, and the Lady Flames shot a solid 47.1 percent from the field, on Nov. 14, 2003. However, host Cincinnati used a 28-point, seven-rebound outing from Debbie Merrill to win the first-round Preseason WNIT tilt, 73-62.
Lifting the Lid
Liberty has won four consecutive season openers and five of its last six lid-lifters. Last season, the Lady Flames recorded a 62-44 triumph at UNC Greensboro in their first game of the year, on Nov. 13, 2007. Under Carey Green, Liberty is 5-4 in its first game of the season, including a perfect 4-0 record at home and a 1-4 mark when the Lady Flames open up away from the Vines Center.
The Lady Flames have won seven straight home openers and are 8-1 in their first home game of the year under Carey Green's direction. Last season, Liberty hit the century mark in its home opener, routing Virginia Union by a 100-29 count on Nov. 30, 2007. The victory was the Lady Flames' sixth consecutive home-opening triumph by 19 points or more. Richmond was the last team to spoil the Lady Flames' home opener, claiming a 74-67 victory at the Vines Center on Nov. 21, 2000.
Nifty in November
Liberty is 57-33 all-time during the month of November, and the Lady Flames have gone 22-15 during the year's 11th month with Carey Green as head coach. Last season, the Lady Flames got their season off to a fast start by winning six of their seven November contests. The month was highlighted by a hard-fought road victory at North Carolina A&T and a tournament championshp at the National City Xavier Invitational.
This season, all of Liberty's November games will be tournament tilts. The Lady Flames are guaranteed to play at least three contests in the Preseason WNIT. Liberty will then head to the nation's capital for two games at the GW Thanksgiving Classic, Nov. 28-29.
Fun on Fridays
The Lady Flames flourished in Friday contests during the 2007-08 season, going 5-0 on the most eagerly anticipated day of every work week. Liberty's five Friday victories were all notable, as the Lady Flames became the only visiting team to win at North Carolina A&T's Corbett Sports Center last season, exploded for 92 and 100 points against McNeese State and Virginia Union, respectively, wrapped up the UNLV Lady Rebel Christmas Classic title and defeated Radford on Senior Night.
Controlling the Commonwealth
Liberty fared quite well versus teams hailing from the Commonwealth of Virginia a season ago. The Lady Flames went 7-2 against in-state opponents, defeating George Mason, James Madison, Richmond, Virginia Union and Radford three times, while losing to Old Dominion and Virginia Tech.
This season, the Lady Flames have five games scheduled against Virginia foes. They open their season against VCU tonight, travel to James Madison on Dec. 2, host St. Paul's on Dec. 13 and battle Radford twice (Feb. 2 and March 6). Liberty could play a sixth Commonwealth team, Virginia Tech, on Dec. 30, depending on the first-day results at the Hokie Hardwood Classic.
Liberty finished 13-0 at the Vines Center during the 2007-08 campaign, completing its home schedule with an unbeaten record for the fifth time in program history and the third time in the last five seasons. The Lady Flames were 5-0 at home during their inaugural season of 1975-76, 18-0 at home in 1997-98, 13-0 at home in 2003-04 and 15-0 at home in 2005-06. Liberty carries a 13-game home winning streak into the 2008-09 season.
Turning Up the Heat in the Furnace
The 2008-09 campaign is the 17th season the Liberty University women's basketball
team has called the Vines Center its full-time home. Liberty's first-ever contest at the Vines Center was an 86-74 loss to East Tennessee State, on Dec. 7, 1990, but the "Furnace" has served as a favorable venue for the Lady Flames over the years. Liberty is 178-49 (.784) all-time at the Vines Center, including 13-0 last season. The Lady Flames have 12 home games scheduled this season.
Liberty Versus Non-Conference Opposition
Last season, Liberty went 15-3 versus non-conference opponents, improving its all-time record in non-conference tilts to 260-285. The Lady Flames won all six of their non-conference home games in 2007-08 and have won nine consecutive home non-conference matchups since falling to Virginia Tech, 55-52, on Dec. 5, 2006.
Liberty's best-ever season against non-conference foes came in 1997-98, when the Lady Flames went 14-1 outside the Big South. Liberty's lone non-conference setback that season came to eventual national champion Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
A Seasoned Bunch
Head coach Carey Green has the rare luxury of featuring six seniors on this season's roster--Alexandria Bream, Megan Frazee, Molly Frazee, Moriah Frazee, Rachel Hammond and Rebecca Lightfoot. The seniors have all started at least once during their career at Liberty, combining for 222 career starts.
The last time Liberty had six seniors was during the 1997-98 season. That year, Lisa Bateman, Erma Jackson, Mari Kong, Tiffany Ratcliff, Erin Wall and Flori Willie helped the Lady Flames record the only undefeated regular-season in program history. Liberty ended the year at 28-1, losing only to eventual national champion Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament.
Liberty is entered in a trio of regular-season tournament this season, including the Preseason WNIT, the GW Thanksgiving Classic and the Hokie Hardwood Classic. The Lady Flames will also participate in the Big South Women's Basketball Championship at season's end.
Liberty is hoping to repeat its tournament success from the 2007-08 season. Last year, the Lady Flames captured three tournament titles for the first time in program history. Liberty won the National City Xavier Invitational, UNLV's Lady Rebel Christmas Classic and its 11th Big South Women's Basketball Championship. Megan Frazee was named MVP of all three events.
Liberty will debut a new set of white Nike game uniforms during tonight's contest, but the Lady Flames will be sad to see their previous set of white uniforms go. Liberty went 28-4 while sporting the old white uniforms over the past two seasons, including a perfect 17-0 during the 2007-08 campaign.
Dial Three Digits for Long Distance
Liberty enters the 2008-09 season looking to continue a long-standing streak. The Lady Flames have made at least one three-pointer in a school-record 103 straight games, a run which began on Feb. 26, 2005. None of the current Lady Flames were in college when the streak began.
Longest-Tenured Assistant Coaches
The 2008-09 season is Heather Stephens' sixth campaign as an assistant on Carey Green's coaching staff. She is now tied with Jeri (Wiley) Porter as the longest-tenured assistant coach in Liberty women's basketball history. Porter is now the head coach at George Mason. The Lady Flames have gone 123-36 and won four Big South titles during Stephens' tenure and made the "Sweet 16" of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
Start Me Up
Head coach Carey Green used four different starting lineups in Liberty's 32 games last season. The most common starting five consisted of Allyson Fasnacht, Courtney Watkisn, Megan Frazee, Rebecca Lightfoot and Moriah Frazee. The unit went 18-2 in their 20 games as a starting unit.
The Lady Flames' most successful grouping, which won all six games in 2007-08, featured Fasnacht, Watkins, Megan Frazee, Molly Frazee and Moriah Frazee.
Liberty's projected starting lineup this evening, consisting of Rachel McLeod, Rachel Hammond, Megan Frazee, Moriah Frazee and Avery Warley, has never started together. McLeod and Warley have never started a collegiate game, while Hammond's lone start came on Dec. 10, 2006.
Counting Up the Votes
Liberty was listed among the "Others Receiving Votes" in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' preseason Top 25 polls. The Lady Flames received a single vote in the AP poll and garnered seven votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
Last season, the Lady Flames regularly received votes in both polls, but did not quite crack the Top 25. Liberty's most recent Top 25 ranking came in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll of the 2004-05 season. The Lady Flames were listed No. 21, after reaching the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Tournament.
2008-09 Opponents in the National Rankings
Two of Liberty's 2008-09 opponents appear in the preseason Top 25 polls. Vanderbilt is listed No. 12 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today listings. Fellow SEC squad Auburn sits No. 20 in the AP poll and No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches tabulation.
Double the Fun
Megan Frazee enters the 2008-09 season with 36 career double-doubles, ranking second on the Lady Flames' career list during the NCAA Division I era. Katie Feenstra, now of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, owns the program Division I record with 49 double-doubles.
Frazee's fellow seniors, Moriah Frazee and Rebecca Lightfoot, have crafted one double-double apiece during their time at Liberty.
Clamping Down on Defense
The Lady Flames have held 51 consecutive opponents under 50 percent field goal shooting. The last Liberty foe to sink more than half of its field goal attempts was Marist, at the Maryland Terrapin Classic on Dec. 29, 2006.
Liberty held 15 of its 32 opponents below 35 percent from the floor during the 2007-08 season. For the year, the opposition shot just 34.1 percent against the Lady Flames. Liberty ranked No. 4 nationally in the statistical category.
A Short Commute
Freshman guard Brittany Campbell attended high school literally right down the street from Liberty University at Brookville High School. She is the first Lynchburg-area player to suit up for the Lady Flames since Tekita Butler in the 2002-03 season.
Liberty finished the 2007-08 season ranked No. 31 in the NCAA's official RPI listing. The Lady Flames were listed ahead of numerous notable women's basketball programs, including Georgia (No. 32), Arizona State (No. 35), Minnesota (No. 37) and Ohio State (No. 40).
The Lady Flames were the fifth-highest ranked team from a non-BCS football conference, trailing only Old Dominion (No. 9), UTEP (No. 18), Marist (No. 25) and Western Kentucky (No. 30).
A Fitting Beginning
It is somewhat appropriate that Liberty freshmen Kylee Beecher and Devon Brown will begin their respective college basketball careers versus VCU. Both players concluded their high school playing days with a memorable game at VCU's Alltel Pavilion on March 15, 2008.
Beecher's Hidden Valley team and Brown's Waynesboro squad faced each other in the Virginia Group AA state title game that evening. Brown tallied 19 points for the Little Giants, but Beecher answered with 21 markers, helping Hidden Valley capture its second straight state championship.
As a consolation prize of sorts, Brown was tabbed the state's co-player of the year after graduating as the second-leading scorer in Virginia high school girls' basketball history (2,728 points) and the Commonwealth's third-leading rebounder (1,329 boards).
Anything You Can Do ...
Last season, Megan Frazee became the 11th player in program history to score 1,000 career points, eclipsing the magical mark at North Carolina on Dec. 30, 2007. This year, she could get some company from within her own family. Sister Moriah Frazee enters her final season with 824 points, leaving her 176 shy of 1,000.
If Frazee scores at her career average of 9.4 points per game, she would reach the 1,000-point plateau during the Lady Flames' Jan. 26 home game versus Coastal Carolina.
If she equals her 2007-08 scoring output, though, Frazee would get to the 1,000-point barrier much faster. An average of 13.2 points per outing would push Frazee over 1,000 points on Jan. 10 at Winthrop.
The Frazees would not be the first sister duo to score over 1,000 points at Liberty. Sharon and Sarah Wilkerson, who graduated in 2000, totaled 1,733 and 1,331 points, respectively.
Recipe for Success
Many of Liberty's 28 wins during the 2007-08 seasons exhibited similar characteristics. The Lady Flames were unbeaten when leading with five minutes remaining in the contest (26-0), shooting more free throws than their opponent (24-0), winning the opening tip-off (19-0), wearing white uniforms (17-0), playing on either Friday or Saturday (17-0) and scoring 71 or more points (13-0).
Money in the Bank
Megan Frazee has established herself as one of the top free throw shooters in program history. She has made 80.9 percent of her career foul shot attempts, which is superior to the school career record of 79.2 percent, owned by Kristi Mercer.
Frazee was at her best during 2007-08, connecting on 87.8 percent of her free throw tries to set a Liberty single-season record and rank No. 10 nationally for free throw percentage. She connected on 21 consecutive free throws between Feb. 9 and Feb. 23, falling just one connection shy of Jennifer Fairfax's school record, set in 1991.
Frazee will have another chance to chase Fairfax's long-standing mark early this season, as she made her last nine free throws at the end of the 2007-08 campaign.
Program Milestone Ahead
Liberty owns an overall record of 484-396 since instituting women's basketball in 1975. The Lady Flames need 16 wins to reach the 500-victory milestone. Such a victory total would also put Liberty within reach of its 13th consecutive winning season.