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Big South vs. BIG EAST Battle Set for Sunday
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The No. 14 seed Liberty Lady Flames (24-8) will begin their 12th NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship appearance Sunday at 9:30 p.m., when they face No. 3 seed Louisville (29-4), the BIG EAST Conference runner-up. The contest will be played at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.
What to Watch
Liberty, which won its 12th Big South Conference title with a thrilling 51-50 victory in the tournament championship game against Gardner-Webb, will seek its first NCAA Tournament victory since reaching the "Sweet 16" in 2005.
The game will match up two of the nation's top seniors, the Lady Flames' Megan Frazee and Louisville's Angel McCoughtry. Frazee is one of two players in the nation averaging at least 20.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg. Meanwhile, McCoughtry is the national leader in steals (4.4 spg) and ranks No. 4 in scoring (23.5 ppg).
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, handles the courtside play-by-play duties for most road games. Josh Wood serves as the primary commentator for home contests and provides color analysis on the road.
Lady Flames On TV
Sunday's game, which will be televised by ESPN2 with the broadcasting team of Beth Mowins and Brooke Weisbrod, will be the 16th game Liberty has played on TV this season. The Flames Television Network (FTN) broadcast all 12 home games, while the Lady Flames appeared on SportSouth three times.
Click here for information on ESPN2's regional coverage of Sunday's contest
Louisville enters the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship with its highest-ever seed, No. 3. The Cardinals lost only four games all season, two of which came at the hands of unbeaten, No. 1 Connecticut. The Huskies defeated Louisville, 75-36, in the BIG EAST title game on March 10.
The Cardinals are making their fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Last season, Louisville reached the "Sweet 16," before North Carolina eliminated the Cardinals with a 78-47 setback.
Any discussion of the Cardinals must begin with 6-1 senior forward Angel McCoughtry. Not only is McCoughtry ranked No. 4 nationally with 23.5 ppg, but she was also tabbed BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year. McCoughtry is the national leader with 4.4 spg, helping the Cardinals average 11.2 thefts per contest.
Classmate Candyce Bingham, also a 6-1 senior forward, joined McCoughtry on the first team All-BIG EAST roster. Bingham contributes 12.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg.
The Coaching Matchup
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green is in his 10th season with the Lady Flames, and has led his team to nine Big South titles. A five-time Big South Coach of the Year, Green owns a 237-76 career record and is the all-time wins leader at Liberty and among Big South women's basketball coaches. His career winning percentage (.757) ranked 10th among active NCAA Division I women's basketball coaches at the season's outset.
Jeff Walz has been extremely successful in his first two seasons as Louisville's head coach, racking up a 54-14 record. Last year, he was voted the 2008 WBCA/Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year. Walz came to Louisville from Maryland, where he spent five seasons as an assistant on Brenda Frese's staff. In 2006, Walz helped the Terrapins win their first national championship.
Liberty-Louisville Series Notes
Louisville is 1-0 all-time against the Lady Flames, defeating Liberty to win the 1996 Seelbach Classic.
The Cardinals and Lady Flames locked up in the tournament championship game on Dec. 30, 1996. Host Louisville, coached by current Winthrop head coach Bud Childers, defeated Liberty, 82-60. Sharon Wilkerson paced the Lady Flames in defeat, with 15 points and nine boards. Both teams went on to win over 20 games and play in the 1997 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. For Liberty, it was the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history.
Liberty Versus the BIG EAST Conference
Liberty owns a 3-8 all-time record against the current membership of the BIG EAST Conference. The Lady Flames are 0-1 versus Cincinnati, 1-1 versus DePaul, 0-1 versus Louisville, 0-2 versus Notre Dame, 0-1 versus Pittsburgh, 0-1 versus South Florida and 2-1 versus West Virginia.
The Lady Flames' most recent contest against a BIG EAST foe was a 54-47 setback against No. 22 Pittsburgh, Dec. 20, 2006 at the Caribbean Classic in Cancun, Mexico.
A Look Back
Last season, Liberty entered the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship with its highest-ever seed, No. 12. The Lady Flames traveled across the Commonwealth for their opening contest against No. 5 seed Old Dominion.
The homestanding Monarchs broke open a close game with a 15-0 first-half run, and went on to record an 82-62 victory over the Lady Flames. ODU forward Shahida Williams shot 10-for-11, on her way to a game-high 20 points. Megan Frazee paced the Lady Flames in both points (19) and rebounds (8) during her NCAA Tournament debut.
Welcome Back to the Bayou
Liberty will play NCAA Tournament contests at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La., for the second time in program history. The Lady Flames previously opened up the 2000 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at LSU. No. 14 seed Liberty faced the host Lady Tigers, seeded No. 3, in the first round. LSU defeated the Lady Flames, 77-54, ending Carey Green's first season as Liberty's head coach.
Battling the BIG EAST
Liberty has played a pair of NCAA Tournament games against BIG EAST Conference foes, going 1-1. Both matchups came against DePaul, in consecutive seasons.
The No. 13 seed Lady Flames upset No. 5 DePaul in the second round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, 88-79. The victory pushed Liberty into the "Sweet 16" for the first time in program history.
The following year, No. 13 seed Liberty was sent to No. 4 seed DePaul for a first-round matchup on the Blue Demons' home court. DePaul gained a measure of revenge, eliminating the Lady Flames from the 2006 tournament with a 68-43 decision.
Staying in the SEC
Of its 12 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship appearances, this is the seventh time Liberty will play on a SEC member's hardwood. The Lady Flames have been placed in brackets at Georgia (twice), LSU (twice), South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
This will be the second time Liberty has visited a SEC arena this season. The Lady Flames took on nationally-ranked Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium on Dec. 22, falling to the Commodores, 67-50.
Fourth Time at No. 14
Liberty earned a No. 14 seed for the fourth time in program history, equaling the No. 13 seed as the Lady Flames' most frequent bracket placement. This will be the first time Liberty is not facing a SEC foe in the first round as a No. 14 seed. The Lady Flames met Georgia in the first round of the 1999 and 2004 NCAA Tournaments when seeded No. 14 and squared off with LSU in 2000's opening contest.
Successful Tournament Debuts
Four current Lady Flames scored in double figures in their first career NCAA Tournament contests. Sisters Moriah and Molly Frazee contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively, as freshmen in the 2006 tournament opener at DePaul. Last season, the third member of Liberty's Frazee triplets, Megan, posted 19 points at Old Dominion in her first taste of tournament play. Additionally, freshman Rachel McLeod dropped 11 points on the Monarchs last season.
2009 Tournament Debutantes
Five Liberty players could see their first NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship action on Sunday. The list includes senior Jessica Nelson, junior Amber Mays and freshmen Kylee Beecher, Danika Dale and Avery Warley.
NCAA Tournament x 2
Jessica Nelson, in her first season on the Lady Flames' roster, is a rookie in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, but she did play in both the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championships as an outside hitter for Liberty. Nelson is 0-2 in volleyball's NCAA Tournament, falling to national powers Cal and Nebraska.
Liberty Versus the 2009 NCAA Tournament Field
Liberty played six NCAA Tournament teams this season, as part of a challenging non-conference slate. The Lady Flames went 2-4 against teams which qualified for March Madness, notching victories over MEAC champion North Carolina A&T (72-58 on Dec. 29) and Atlantic Sun champion East Tennessee State (64-54 on Jan. 13). Liberty dropped contests to CAA at-large selection VCU (59-57 on Nov. 14), Southern Conference champion Western Carolina (73-53 on Nov. 22), SEC runner-up Auburn (64-53 on Dec. 7) and SEC champion Vanderbilt (67-50 on Dec. 22).
Two of a Kind
For the third time, only two of the Frazee triplets will be able to suit up in the NCAA Tournament, due to ACL injuries. However, the healthy sisters have been quite productive in their NCAA Tournament appearances.
In 2006, with injured Megan watching from the sidelines, freshmen Moriah and Molly Frazee posted 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Liberty in its first-round NCAA Tournament tilt at DePaul.
Last season, Moriah was kept out of action but saw Megan tally 19 points and Molly add 10 markers at Old Dominion.
This time around, Molly will play the role of cheerleader, as an ACL injury has sidelined her for the entire season.
Numerous similarities exist between the 2008-09 Lady Flames and the 2004-05 Liberty squad, which qualified for the "Sweet 16."
Consider the following: The 2004-05 team boasted five seniors, including Big South Player of the Year Katie Feenstra. This year's squad has seven seniors, including Big South Player of the Year Megan Frazee.
Both teams rolled through conference play, as the 2004-05 unit won its conference tilts by 23.7 ppg, while this year's team outscored its Big South foes by an average of 20.9 ppg. However, each team each experienced a late-season loss to High Point.
Both squads earned a neutral-site draw in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. In 2005, the Lady Flames headed to College Park, Md., to face Penn State. This year, Liberty will meet Louisville in Baton Rouge, La.
Finally, the 2004-05 team and this year's squad both opened up with a late-night, 9:30 p.m. Eastern tip-off in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Masterful in March
Liberty has gone 36-11 during the month of March under Carey Green, with eight of the setbacks coming in the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Flames are 9-2 in the regular season, 25-1 in the Big South Championship and 2-8 in the "Big Dance" during the year's third month, under his direction. Last season, Liberty went 4-1 in March. This year, the Lady Flames are off to a 5-1 start during the calendar year's third month.
The Lady Flames are 44-36 all-time in March contests and did not pick up their first victory in the month until the program's 13th season. Liberty's initial March triumph was an 82-69 win over Randolph-Macon on March 3, 1988.
Liberty Versus Nationally-Ranked Opponents
Louisville enters the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship ranked No. 7 in both national Top 25 polls. The Cardinals will be the third Top 25 team Liberty has faced in 2008-09. The Lady Flames fell to No. 13/14 Auburn on Dec. 7 at the Vines Center, 64-53, and dropped a 67-50 decision at No. 19/20 Vanderbilt on Dec. 22.
The Lady Flames have defeated four Top 25 squads in program history, including No. 25 Virginia on Nov. 26, 2002, No. 17 Kansas State on Dec. 4, 2004, No. 25 Penn State on March 20, 2005 and No. 19 DePaul on March 22, 2005. The Penn State and DePaul victories came in the NCAA Tournament.
Back-to-Back Big South Champs
For the second year in a row and the 12th time in the last 13 seasons, the Lady Flames won the Big South Women's Basketball Championship title. Liberty hung on to defeat Gardner-Webb in the championship game, 51-50, on March 15. It was the second consecutive year the Lady Flames won the championship by a single point. In 2008, Megan Frazee's shot with 0.3 seconds left lifted Liberty to a dramatic 66-65 win over Radford.
In a Class All Her Own
Megan Frazee won her third straight Big South Women's Basketball Player of the Week on March 2, marking her sixth conference weekly honor this season. She extends her Big South record to 18 career Big South Women's Basketball Player of the Week plaudits. Former Liberty standout Katie Feenstra previously held the record, with 15 awards.
Last week, Frazee earned three major pieces of conference hardware. She became the first player in Big South women's basketball history to be tabbed Player of the Year, Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Tournament MVP in the same season.
Nation's Longest Streak
Megan Frazee has scored in double figures in a school-record 68 straight games, a streak which began on Jan. 27, 2007. The streak is the longest active double-digit scoring streak among NCAA Division I women's basketball players.
Utah's Megan Warburton ranks second on the list, with 65 consecutive double-digit scoring efforts, entering the NCAA Tournament.
First in Flight
Liberty will be flying to Baton Rouge for the NCAA Tournament, marking the Lady Flames' first flight since the Lady Rebel Christmas Classic in Las Vegas, Dec. 20-21, 2007.
Baton Rouge is the farthest Liberty has ever traveled for an NCAA Tournament contest, a round trip of nearly 2,000 miles by car.
The Lady Flames enter the NCAA Tournament as the nation's No. 1 team for rebounding margin, with a +13.3 margin. Liberty owns a lead of 0.8 rpg over Stanford, after outrebounding 28 of its 32 opponents this season.
Liberty did nothing to hurt its cause at the Big South Championship, outrebounding Charleston Southern, Winthrop and Gardner-Webb by an average of 23.0 rpg.
Liberty has led the nation in rebounding margin on two previous occasions, doing so in back-to-back seasons (2003-04 and 2004-05). The Lady Flames are 22-6 this season, when outrebounding their foes.
Magic Number is 65
Liberty enjoys life in the fast lane. When the Lady Flames' offense has scored 65 or more points this season, Liberty is 11-0. However, the Lady Flames are just 13-8 when failng to reach the 65-point plateau.
A Flair for the Dramatic
During the past two seasons, Megan Frazee has made three game-winning shots in the final minute of contests.
She sank game-winners from close range within the final second of play on March 16, 2008 against Radford in the Big South Championship title contest, as well as on Nov. 21, 2008 versus UC Riverside in the Preseason WNIT.
On Dec. 30, 2008, Frazee stepped outside for an 18-foot jumper with 51 seconds remaining at Virginia Tech. Her hoop proved to be decisive in Liberty's first-ever win over the Hokies.
Attracting the Voters' Attention
Liberty, which has notched 21 wins in its last 22 games, earned three votes in the March 16 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll. The Lady Flames have now been listed among the "Others Receiving Votes" five different times this season.
Liberty has made Big South Conference basketball history this season. Not only have the Lady Flames reached the 20-win plateau, but Coach Ritchie McKay's squad also owns a 23-11 ledger, through the first round of the CIT Tournament.
The university boasts a pair of 20-win basketball teams for only the second time in program history. In 1996-97, the Lady Flames went 22-7, while their male counterparts racked up a 23-9 mark.
The feat had only been accomplished on four previous occasions in Big South annals: by Radford in 1991-92, UNC Greensboro in 1994-95, Liberty in 1996-97 and Winthrop last season. Liberty is the first conference school to make two appearances in the 20/20 club.
Liberty in Tournaments
Liberty has participated in four tournaments this season, going a combined 6-4 in the Preseason WNIT (Nov. 14-22), GW Thanksgiving Classic (Nov. 28-29), Hokie Hardwood Classic (Dec. 29-30) and Big South Women's Basketball Championship (March 13-15).
The Lady Flames captured the Hokie Hardwood Classic championship, posting victories over North Carolina A&T and host Virginia Tech at Cassell Coliseum. The title was Liberty's third regular-season tournament championship in the last two seasons, including the 2007 National City Xavier Invitational and UNLV Lady Rebel Christmas Classic.
Most recently, Liberty went 3-0 to win its 12th Big South Championship crown.
Liberty in the National Rankings
Liberty ranks in the top 10 nationally in four statistical categories. The Lady Flames lead the nation in rebounding margin (+13.3), sit No. 3 in both scoring defense (52.3 ppg), and field goal percentage defense (.343) and are No. 7 in field goal percentage (.459).
Liberty and No. 1 Connecticut are the only two teams in the nation which rank in the top 10 of all four of those categories.
Lack of Overtime
Liberty has played only one overtime game in its last 178 outings, a 64-62 setback at High Point on Jan. 20, 2007.
The Lady Flames' most recent overtime victory came on Jan. 6, 2004, when Liberty defeated American, 76-72, on the road in double overtime. No current Lady Flame has won an overtime contest in college.
Liberty's most recent overtime contest at the Vines Center was a memorable one. The Lady Flames defeated Virginia, 77-69, in overtime on Nov. 26, 2002, to claim their first-ever win over the Cavaliers. It also marked Liberty's first win over a ranked opponent, as Virginia entered the game with a No. 25 national ranking.
Half of Liberty's roster consists of seniors, as Alexandria Bream, Megan Frazee, Molly Frazee, Moriah Frazee, Rachel Hammond, Rebecca Lightfoot and Jessica Nelson are all in their final season with the Lady Flames. The group is one of the most highly decorated classes in Liberty history, and has especially stepped up its play during the Big South Championship.
Four of Liberty's seniors have been named to the Big South All-Tournament team during their careers, including Megan Frazee (2007, 08 & 09), Molly Frazee (2008), Moriah Frazee (2009) and Rachel Hammond (2006).
Triple the Trouble
Liberty sports the only set of triplets currently playing for the same NCAA Division I women's basketball team--seniors Megan, Molly and Moriah Frazee. Career totals of 1,000 points and 500 rebounds represent a very solid collegiate performer. The Frazee triplets have averaged more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds between them.
During Liberty's Jan. 3 victory over Gardner-Webb, the triplets exceeded the 3,000-career point total. Megan, Molly and Moriah Frazee have totaled 3,592 points and 1,860 rebounds during their time at Liberty. Those figures represent more than 40 percent of the Lady Flames' points and more than a third of the team's rebounds since they arrived on campus.
At the Big South Championship, Megan and Moriah Frazee both made the All-Tournament Team, after averaging 33.0 ppg and 16.7 rpg as a tandem.
Clamping Down on Defense
The Lady Flames have held 83 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.
Twenty-five of the Lady Flames' 32 opponents this season have shot below 40 percent from the floor. Liberty leads the Big South and ranks No. 3 nationally with a .343 opponents field goal percentage.
Windex Warley Climbing the Charts
Avery Warley has not only ranked among the Big South rebounding leaders throughout her first season in a Liberty uniform, but she has also taken her place among the top freshman rebounders in program history.
Warley has tallied 247 rebounds through her first 32 games with the Lady Flames, ranking third all-time among Liberty freshmen. The Washington, D.C., native trails only Cheri Yates (267 rebounds in 1988-89) and Elena Kisseleva (248 rebounds in 1996-97) on the Lady Flames' freshman record list.
Down But Not Out
Facing a challenging non-conference schedule and dealing with numerous injuries, Liberty started the season an uncharacteristic 1-6. Since then, the team has gone 23-2.
A Perfect 100
Megan Frazee enjoyed a special day on March 14, when the Lady Flames faced Winthrop in the Big South Championship semifinal round. The game was the 100th appearance and the 100th start of Frazee's career, and she exploded for 28 points and 13 rebounds. Within the first half, the Buckeye State native equaled the scoring (18 points) and rebounding (8 rebounds) production of the entire Winthrop squad.
Former Liberty standout and current center for the WNBA's Atlanta Dream Katie (Feenstra) Mattera was in attendance and saw Frazee eclipse a couple of her marks. Frazee's double-double was the 50th of her career, breaking Feenstra's school record of 49. Frazee also leap-frogged Feenstra on the Liberty and Big South scoring lists during Liberty's 61-42 triumph over Winthrop.
Less Than a Point Per Minute
Liberty held Winthrop to 18 first-half points on March 14, marking the eighth time this season, the Lady Flames have limited their opponent to fewer than 20 first-half markers. Liberty has gone on to win all eight contests.
During the Lady Flames' last 22 games, they have outscored their opponents by an average score of 32.6 to 22.1 in the first half.
Megan Frazee now ranks No. 5 all-time in the Big South for points (1,875) and No. 4 for rebounds (943). She is one of three players to rank in the top 10 of both categories. The other two include former Liberty standouts, Katie Feenstra and Elena Kisseleva.
Frazee is the only Big South women's basketball player listed in the top 5 of both statistical categories, on the all-time lists.
Painting a Masterpiece
With five players 6-2 or taller in Carey Green's eight-man rotation, the Lady Flames are the tallest team in the Big South Conference. The Lady Flames have used their size to their advantage this season, outscoring all 19 conference foes in the "points in the paint" category. Liberty is winning the "points in the paint" battle by an average of 17.8 points per contest, within conference play.
The Lady Flames owned a notable 62-24 edge in "points in the paint" in their 74-64 Big South Championship quarterfinal victory over Charleston Southern on March 13.
Liberty's opponents have found it difficult to light up the scoreboard against the Lady Flames this season. The Lady Flames rank No. 3 nationally, yielding only 52.3 ppg. The figure is well below Liberty's single-season record for fewest points allowed, 54.7, during the 2001-02 season.
Liberty held 17 straight opponents to fewer than 60 points, between Dec. 29 and March 2. On the year, the Lady Flames have kept 15 opponents from reaching the 50-point mark.