Game Day Central Page Liberty Game Notes The Game The Liberty men's basketball team christens the 2014-15 season inside the Vines Center, Friday, playing host to nearby Randolph College. The matchup marks the third time the two teams have squared off, with Liberty taking the previous two meetings. Liberty opened the 2013-14 campaign against the Wildcats, taking the contest, 74-53 (Nov. 8, 2013). Tipoff is slated for 8:30 p.m., with the contest streaming live on the Big South Network. The matchup is part of a Liberty tripleheader, which includes a women's basketball game versus Charlotte (6 p.m.) and a volleyball match against UNC Asheville (3:30 p.m.).
What to Watch for - The Flames return two starters in senior forwards Andrew Smith and Tomasz Gielo. Together, the duo accounted for nearly 32 percent of the Flames' rebounding, last season. Gielo looks to build upon a solid year offensively, as he finished third on the team in scoring with 10.9 ppg. While Smith is known for his leaping abilities, head coach Dale Layer points out "his ball handling, jump shot and understanding of the game have all improved." Expect for Smith to begin backing up that statement on Friday night.
- After starting a handful of games at the end of the 2013-14 season, junior Joe Retic is taking over the reins at the point guard position. Dale Layer expects Retic to be a force at the position in the Big South citing that Retic's "skill set has significantly improved" during the offseason.
- The Flames' roster includes nine new players, Liberty's newcomers include transfers David Andoh, James Johnson and Theo Johnson along with freshmen Jordan Dembley, Calvin Hoffman, Evan Maxwell, Peter Moller, A.C. Reid and Ezra Talbert.
- Along with the Flames' active returners (Andrew Smith, Ethan Layer, Joe Retic and Andrew Smith, redshirt freshman Ryan Kemrite is set to make his official debut. Kemrite sat out during the 2013-14 season.
Notes and Anecdotes - Liberty is 32-10 all-time in home openers, including 19-5 all-time when playing its first game of the season in the Vines Center. The contest marks the second straight year the Flames have opened the season against the Wildcats. The Flames have now hosted Randolph College in its home opener three of the last four season.
Been There, Done That ... Friday's matchup features two former Army assistants. Randolph College head coach Clay Nunley served as an assistant coach for the Black Knights for five seasons (2002-07). During his time at West Point, Army recorded its largest margin of victory over Navy in 35 years and began the 2006-07 season with a 9-2 record and the most successful start at the Academy in 30 years. The success also garnered the Black Knights votes in the AP Top 25.
Omar Mance was also an assistant coach at Amry, spending three seasons at West Point (2010-13). During his time there, the Black Knights garnered Army's first overall winning season since 1984-85, while starting four freshman in the rotation throughout the entire conference season in 2012-13. The Black Knights also won the coveted "Star Game" against Navy in back-to-back seasons, becoming the first coaching staff since the Mike Krzyzewski era to accomplish the feat. Mance worked with the program's guards.
Are We There Yet? … According to Google Maps, Randolph College is located approximately eight miles from Liberty's campus. Expect to drive about 14 minutes in normal traffic conditions. Bikers and hikers can expect a more time consuming journey when using the James River Heritage Trail to get from Liberty to Randolph College. The trip is about 48 minutes on a bicycle and a little over two hours on foot.
- Liberty opened the year against the same team in back-to-back seasons on just one other occasion. The Flames opened the 1986-87 season against Bowie State on Nov. 22, 1986, earning a 64-61 win. The following year, Liberty hosted the Bulldogs again (Nov. 21, 1987), winning the rematch, 71-61. Both contests took place in the Schilling Center.
Previous Meeting vs. Randolph College - Playing in front of a Vines Center crowd of 7,043, the Liberty men's basketball team christened the 2013-14 season with a 21-point win, defeating Randolph College, 74-53. The attendance mark was the highest at the Vines Center since the Flames squared off with Clemson in front of 8,143 spectators on Nov. 17, 2009.
- Tomasz Gielo paced Liberty with 14 points, followed by Andrew Smith, who had 10 tallies and set a then career high with eight rebounds. Zach Desgain led Randolph with 14 points, while Jason Eddie chipped in 10.
- The Flames finished the contest shooting 50.9 percent (27-of-53) from the field, while holding the WildCats to 37.5 percent (21-of-56). Liberty capitalized at the free throw line (16-of-20, 80.0 percent) and held the advantage in the paint (40-26), off turnovers (19-9) and on second chance points (14-6).
Fun Facts (Special thanks to Alan York - LFSN radio play-by-play) - While A.C. Reid is billed from Spring Branch, Texas, he originally grew up in Virginia Beach, Va. Both of his parents played basketball at Norfolk State.
- Born and raised in Alaska, freshman guard Calvin Hoffman spends his summers helping his family fish commercially for red salmon.
- While he says their styles of play aren't the same, freshman center Evan Maxwell's favorite NBA player growing up was none other than Vince Carter. Maxwell did not begin playing basketball until he was in ninth grade.
- Freshman forward Ezra Talbert originally received an offer to play at Creighton before eventually signing with Liberty.
- Despite being from California, Theo Johnson received more offers from east coast programs coming out of high school. During his time at College of Charleston, Johnson was known as "The Circus," a nickname given for his high flying abilities.
- Liberty has three international players on its roster this season – Tomasz Gielo (Poland), Peter Moller (Denmark) and David Andoh (Canada). Prior to coming to Liberty, Andoh played at San Jose State and Merritt College.
- Although Peter Moller is listed as a freshman, he is currently 20 years old. The Denmark product attended an Olympic style program that combined academics and high level athletics, which prolonged his high school career.
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