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Liberty Prepares for Hokie Hardwood Classic
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The Liberty Lady Flames (3-7, 0-0 Big South) will tip off their third tournament of the 2008-09 season Monday at 5 p.m., when they face the North Carolina A&T Aggies (5-3, 0-0 MEAC) in the opening game of the Hokie Hardwood Classic, at the Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va. The host team, Virginia Tech (6-4, 0-0 ACC), will battle Lafayette (5-7, 0-0 Patriot) in Monday's second contest, at 7 p.m. Monday's two winners will square off on Tuesday, while the two losing teams will be matched up with one another as well. Lafayette will play at 5 p.m. Tuesday and Virginia Tech will participate in Tuesday's 7 p.m. tilt, regardless of Friday's results.
What's at Stake
Liberty, which won three tournaments last season, is seeking its first tournament title of the 2008-09 campaign. The Lady Flames are 1-4 in their first two tournaments of the year (Preseason WNIT & GW Thanksgiving Classic.)
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 commentator for home contests and will provide color analysis on the road.
Scouting North Carolina A&T
The North Carolina A&T Aggies won the MEAC regular-season championship and advanced to the Preseason WNIT a season ago, finishing the year with a 25-8 record. All five starters return from last year's squad, highlighted by Amber Bland, a 5-11 senior guard. She was a first-team All-MEAC selection for the second year in a row.
This season, the Aggies, picked to win the MEAC title, are 5-3. North Carolina A&T has won five of its last six games, since starting the year 0-2. Leading the way is 6-0 senior forward Brittanie Taylor-James, posting 18.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg. Bland, the Preseason MEAC Player of the Year, is contributing 14.5 ppg and 6.6 rpg for the Aggies.
North Carolina A&T and Liberty have played one common opponent, undefeated Auburn. The Tigers defeated the Aggies, 95-74, at Auburn on Dec. 3. Four days later, Auburn took down the Lady Flames, 64-53, at the Vines Center.
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 216-75 career record and is the all-time wins leader at Liberty and among Big South women's basketball coaches. His career winning percentage (.742) ranked 10th among active NCAA Division I women's basketball coaches at the season's outset. Green is 2-0 all-time versus North Carolina A&T, and his first victory at Liberty came at the expense of the Aggies, 85-46 on Nov. 23, 1999.
Patricia Cage-Bibbs owns a 56-43 record in her fourth season at North Carolina A&T. Monday's game will be her 100th as the Aggies' head coach. Cage-Bibbs is 427-249 in 24 total seasons as a collegiate head coach. Cage-Bibbs, the reigning MEAC Coach of the Year, is 0-5 versus Liberty, including four losses when she coached Hampton.
Liberty-North Carolina A&T Series Notes
Liberty owns a 5-3 edge in its all-time head-to-head series with North Carolina A&T, as the Lady Flames have prevailed in their last five matchups with the Aggies. North Carolina A&T's most recent win against the Lady Flames came on Feb. 15, 1996, 44-43.
Last season, Liberty was the only visiting team to win at North Carolina A&T's Corbett Sports Center. The Lady Flames claimed a 68-64 road win over the Aggies on Nov. 16, 2007. Megan Frazee led all scorers with 16 points and added 10 rebounds, while Ta'Wuana Cook posted 15 points to pace North Carolina A&T.
Liberty Versus the MEAC
Liberty is 29-19 all-time versus the current MEAC membership, and the Lady Flames have won 27 consecutive games against MEAC opposition, including a 55-43 triumph at Winston-Salem State on Dec. 20. North Carolina A&T was the last MEAC squad to beat the Lady Flames, edging the Lady Flames, 44-43, Feb. 15, 1996 at the Vines Center.
Liberty is 3-1 all-time against Bethune-Cookman, 5-11 against Hampton, 3-3 against Maryland-Eastern Shore, 1-0 against Morgan State, 7-0 against Norfolk State, 5-3 against North Carolina A&T, 4-1 against South Carolina State and 1-0 against Winston-Salem State.
The Lafayette Leopards of the Patriot League return 11 letterwinners from last year's 14-16 squad, which doubled its win total from the previous season.
Lafayette is 5-7 to open the 2008-09 campaign, winning all five of its home contests at the Kirby Sports Center and going 0-7 away from Easton, Pa. LaKeisha Wright, a 5-11 sophomore guard/forward made the Patriot League All-Rookie Team a year ago and paces the Leopards' balanced scoring attack with 10.0 ppg. Cristin Zavocki, a 5-7 senior guard, chips in with 9.9 ppg.
Like Liberty, the Leopards played in the Preseason WNIT to tip off the season. Lafayette went 0-3 during the event and competed along with the Lady Flames in the consolation bracket at Western Carolina. However, Liberty and Lafayette did not meet one another that weekend in November.
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 216-75 career record and is the all-time wins leader at Liberty and among Big South women's basketball coaches. His career winning percentage (.742) ranked 10th among active NCAA Division I women's basketball coaches at the season's outset.
Tammy Smith is 46-166 in her eighth season as Lafayette's head coach. She is 159-234 in 15 total seasons of collegiate head coaching, which includes seven years at Division III Muhlenberg.
Liberty-Lafayette Series Notes
Liberty and Lafayette could meet on the hardwood for the first time, on Tuesday.
Liberty Versus the Patriot League
Liberty has only faced two current Patriot League members in women's basketball, and the Lady Flames own a 5-8 record against Patriot League foes. Liberty is 4-4 versus American and 1-4 against Navy. The Lady Flames have won four consecutive games against Patriot League opposition, all of which have come against American.
Megan Frazee tallied a team-high 13 points in Liberty's most recent Patriot League matchup, a 73-42 victory over American at the Vines Center on Jan. 2, 2007. Liberty's most recent overtime win also came against American, a 76-72, double overtime triumph at American on Jan. 6, 2004.
Liberty and Lafayette, which have never played each other in women's basketball, are competing in the same tournament for the second time this season. Both squads played in the Preseason WNIT, and both had a pair of consolation games at Western Carolina's Ramsey Center, Nov. 21-22.
Liberty and Lafayette also squared off on the gridiron this fall. The Leopards visited Williams Stadium on Oct. 18 and became a rare road team to come away from Liberty with a win. Lafayette broke the Flames' 11-game home winning streak with a 35-21 victory.
Scouting Virginia Tech
Liberty is not the only team battling the injury bug this season. Brittany Cook, a 6-0 senior guard, led the ACC with 17.9 ppg last year. However, she suffered a torn ACL during the preseason and is out for the 2008-09 campaign.
The Hokies got off to a 5-0 start, but have lost four of their last five games. In Cook's absence, 5-11 junior guard Lindsay Biggs has stepped up her production. A season ago, Biggs posted 5.1 ppg, but has boosted her average to a team-best 14.2 ppg in 2008-09. Utahya Drye, a 6-1 junior forward, is notching 13.8 ppg and a team-high 6.7 rpg.
Virginia Tech is 4-0 at Cassell Coliseum this year, including victories over James Madison and Big South foe Radford. The Hokies have won five straight home contests, dating back to the 2007-08 season.
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 216-75 career record and is the all-time wins leader at Liberty and among Big South women's basketball coaches. His career winning percentage (.742) ranked 10th among active NCAA Division I women's basketball coaches at the season's outset. Green is 0-9 all-time versus the Hokies, and his first game at Liberty was a 60-45 loss at Virginia Tech on Nov. 15, 1999.
Beth Dunkenberger has recorded a 78-56 record in her five seasons at Virginia Tech and a 143-106 mark in nine total years as a collegiate head coach. She led the Hokies to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2005 and 2006. The 2003 Southern Conference Coach of the Year at Western Carolina owns a 4-0 all-time coaching record versus Liberty.
Liberty-Virginia Tech Series Notes
Virginia Tech is 14-0 all-time against Liberty, in a series which dates back to Feb. 16, 1982. The Hokies' last three victories over the Lady Flames have come by 10 points or less, including a 73-68 triumph at Cassell Coliseum on Nov. 19, 2007. Andrea Barbour's 29 points helped Virginia Tech come back from a 10-point halftime deficit to hand Liberty its first loss of the season. Megan Frazee had 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for the Lady Flames, wrapping up her third career double-double against the Hokies.
Liberty Versus the ACC
Liberty is 3-30 all-time against the current ACC members, and have lost three straight games to conference foes since winning at Virginia on Nov. 20, 2006.
The Lady Flames are 0-1 against Boston College, 0-3 against Duke, 0-2 against North Carolina, 0-1 against N.C. State, 2-6 against Virginia, 0-14 against Virginia Tech and 1-3 against Wake Forest.
Megan Frazee has excelled against ACC opposition during her career, recording six double-doubles in seven meetings versus ACC foes. She is averaging 20.6 ppg and 12.0 rpg against the ACC, including a career-high 37-point, 15-rebound outburst at Virginia on Nov. 20, 2006.
Liberty in Tournaments
Last season, Liberty excelled in tournaments, capturing championships at the National City Xavier Invitational, UNLV's Lady Rebel Christmas Classic and the Big South Women's Basketball Championship.
This year, the Lady Flames have struggled in their first two tournaments, going 1-4 in the Preseason WNIT and GW Thanksgiving Classic. This weekend's Hokie Hardwood Classic is Liberty's final regular-season tournament.
All-Time Record in December
The Lady Flames are 2-3 to open the month of December. Liberty is now 76-101 all-time during the calendar year's final month, including 32-32 under head coach Carey Green. The Lady Flames have two more games scheduled this December.
Last season, the Lady Flames won five of six games in December, including a home victory over James Madison. Liberty also captured the UNLV Lady Rebel Christmas Classic title. Liberty's lone loss for the month came at No. 4 North Carolina.
2008-09 Opponents in the National Rankings
Two of Liberty's 2008-09 opponents appear in the current Top 25 polls. Undefeated Auburn is listed No. 9 in the AP Top 25 poll and No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll, while fellow SEC member Vanderbilt is ranked No. 19 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and No. 20 in the AP listing.
One other opponent is receiving votes in the national polls, as Monday's foe, North Carolina A&T, is listed in the "Others Receiving Votes" section of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll.
Halftime leads have not been safe so far this season in Liberty's games. Four times, the team owning the halftime advantage has gone on to lose the game. The Lady Flames have dropped a trio of contests after leading at intermission, and Liberty claimed victory at Winston-Salem State on Dec. 20, despite trailing at the break.
Last season, Liberty was 3-2 when trailing at halftime.
Clamping Down on Defense
The Lady Flames have held 61 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 is off to a good start defensively in 2008-09. Half of the Lady Flames' first 10 opponents have shot below 40 percent from the floor. Liberty ranks second in the Big South with a .375 opponents field goal percentage.
Liberty has played well in the second half of its last three games, against Saint Paul's, Winston-Salem State and Vanderbilt. The Lady Flames have outscored their foes by a combined score of 116-83 after intermission, connecting on 53.8 percent (42-of-78) of their second-half field goal attempts.
Winning the Battle of the Boards
The Lady Flames have outrebounded four straight opponents, including two nationally-ranked SEC foes, Auburn and Vanderbilt. Only two teams (Western Carolina and James Madison) have won the rebounding battle against Liberty this season, as the Lady Flames lead the Big South Conference with a +5.1 rebounding margin.
Liberty, which currently ranks No. 59 nationally for rebounding margin, has finished in the top five in the category for five consecutive seasons. The Lady Flames led the nation in rebounding margin during both the 2003-04 and 2004-05 campaigns.