Game Day Central Liberty Game Notes
The Game With a first round bye in the 2016 Big South Men's Basketball Championship, the No. 5 seed Liberty men's basketball team squares off with No. 4 seed UNC Asheville, Friday at 2 p.m. The contest will air live on ESPN3. The Flames are looking to advance in postseason play for the first time since the 2012-13 season, when Liberty won four straight tournament games to capture the 2013 Big South Championship. Standing in their way is an Asheville squad that already owns a pair of wins over the Flames in 2015-16. The Bulldogs most recently defeated Liberty on Feb. 25, 73-56, marking the highest scoring margin (17) in a conference loss for Liberty, this season. The Flames are also looking to snap a nine-game skid in the all-time series against Asheville. Friday's winner will advance to the semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m., which will broadcast live on ESPN3.
McKay Voted Big South Coach of the Year After leading the Flames to a top five seed in the 2016 Big South Championship, Liberty men's basketball head coach Ritchie McKay has been voted the Big South Coach of the Year by the league's head coaches and media panel.
Along with McKay, redshirt sophomore guard John Dawson earned all-conference honorable mention. Redshirt sophomore guard/forward Ryan Kemrite rounded out Liberty's honorees, receiving a spot on the conference's all-academic team.
Matchup Notes - The Flames are making their 25th appearance in the conference tournament. Liberty holds a 21-21 (.500) record all-time in the Big South Championship, with five finals appearances and three titles (1994, 2004 and 2013).
- Liberty has been the outright No. 5 seed on just two other occasions. Coincidentally, the No. 5 seeded Flames squared off with No. 4 seed UNC Asheville in the quarterfinals of the 2000 Big South Championship, dropping the contest, 77-66 (March 2, 2000). The last time the Flames held the fifth seed, the matchup took place in Asheville's Kimmel Arena. Liberty fell to Charleston Southern in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Big South Championship, 88-74 (Feb. 29, 2012).
- This postseason marks the second straight year the Flames and Bulldogs have met in the conference championship. Liberty and Asheville met in the Big South Championship four straight years (1998-2001). The Bulldogs won three of those meetings, but the Flames took the final one, eliminating No. 3 seed Asheville from the 2001 Big South Championship, 60-48 (March 1, 2001). No. 6 seed Liberty fell to No. 2 seed Winthrop the following day in double overtime in the semifinals, 67-62.
Series History Series Record: UNC Asheville leads, 36-20 Current Streak: UNC Asheville is on a nine-game winning streak Last Meeting: UNC Asheville 73, Liberty 56 (Feb. 25, 2016 - Kimmel Arena) Last Liberty Victory: Liberty 83, UNC Asheville 81 (OT) (Jan. 27, 2011 – Vines Center) Tournament Record: UNC Asheville leads, 5-3
Coaching Matchup Liberty Head Coach: Ritchie McKay Overall Record (Seasons): 217-204 (14th season) Record at Liberty (Seasons): 52-46 (Third season) Record vs. UNC Asheville: 2-5
UNC Asheville Head Coach: Nick McDevitt Overall Record (Seasons): 51-42 (Third Season) Record at UNC Asheville (Seasons): Same Record vs. Liberty: 6-0
Notes and Anecdotes - With 43 steals on the year, Lovell Cabbil is climbing closer to etching his name on the program's freshman steals list. Ed Gomes (1974) and Liberty Hall of Famer Mark Chafin (1975) hold the record with 59, followed by Larry Blair with 53. Three other players each had 48 steals in their freshman year – Seth Curry (2009), Kenny Gunn (1982) and Mickey Baker (1974).
- The Flames are looking to snap a nine-game losing skid to UNC Asheville. Liberty's last win against the Bulldogs was on Jan. 27, 2011. On that day, the Flames' John Brown connected on a buzzer-beating layup to defeat UNC Asheville, 83-81, in overtime.
- Prior to coming to Liberty, redshirt sophomore John Dawson spent a season and a half at Marquette before transferring midway through the 2014-15 season. Dawson missed the first 11 contests of this season but is now averaging 13.6 ppg in 18 contests. Conversely, former Asheville guard Andrew Rowsey, who led the Bulldogs in scoring last year (19.2 ppg, third in the Big South), transferred to Marquette at the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign.
- In Liberty's nine Big South wins, the Flames are averaging 69.8 ppg, while holding teams to 65.1 ppg (+4.7). Conversely, Liberty has averaged 62.4 ppg in its conference losses, compared to 69.9 ppg for its opponents (-7.5). In terms of rebounding defense, the Flames are allowing over five less boards per game in Big South wins (30.2 rpg). Liberty is sharing the ball better in its wins, averaging 14.6 helpers per game versus 11.1 in defeats. The Flames are hitting 11.2 three-pointers per contest in league victories, while they have knocked down 8.1 per game in losses.
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