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LU Hosts Rider Tonight in CIT

March 17, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Anthony Smith and the Flames host Rider in the opening round of the CIT.

Anthony Smith and the Flames host Rider in the opening round of the CIT.

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Game Day Central

Game Preview
The Liberty Flames (22-11, 12-6 Big South) are scheduled to take part in its first postseason tournament since the 2004 NCAA Tournament, as they participate in the inaugural CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT), hosting Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) foe the Rider Broncs (19-12, 12-6 MAAC). Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., inside the Vines Center.

The radio broadcast will air on the Flames Sports Network (flagship WRVL 88.3 FM), with Jerry Edwards providing the play-by-play for his 28th season. Additionally, an Internet audio broadcast on LibertyFlames.com will be available. 

Recent Results
The Flames continue postseason play after a 12 day hiatus following Liberty's exit in the semifinals of the Big South Basketball Championship. Liberty fell to VMI, 78-58, in a neutral site match at Radford on March 5. Kyle Ohman led the way for the Flames with 16 points, while Anthony Smith notched the double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Liberty started the Big South Basketball Championship winners of a quarterfinal matchup with new Big South member Gardner-Webb, defeating the Bulldogs, 88-77, behind 30 points from Seth Curry on March 3. The Flames closed the regular season winners of five out of their last six Big South games and 11 out of their last 14 league contests. The Flames rode 25 points from Curry and 24 markers from Ohman to conclude the regular season with a 92-85 road triumph at Radford on Saturday. Prior to the Feb. 28 win, Liberty suffered a setback in its previous two times out, including a 109-72 conference loss to VMI on Feb. 24 and in a special non-conference game at Old Dominion, Feb. 21. The Feb. 21 contest was played as part of the ESPNU BracketBusters series. Liberty fell to the Monarchs, 80-56. Curry led the Flames with 24 points in the loss.

Before the Feb. 21 loss, Liberty came off its first sweep of its annual "Beach Trip" since the 2005 season. The Flames rode 22 points from Curry and 19 markers from Ohman on the road, Feb. 16, at Coastal Carolina, to a 85-82 win. On Feb. 14, it was a sweet Valentine's Day, as Liberty Head Coach Ritchie McKay notched his 200th career victory. Curry, Ohman and Anthony Smith all reached the 20 point plateau, toppling homestanding Charleston Southern, 95-80.

Liberty versus Rider
Tuesday's contest will begin a new all-time series with Rider. Liberty is 3-5 all-time against current members of the MAAC, including an 86-81 home triumph over Niagara on Dec. 1, 2007, during McKay's first season at the helm of Liberty. Anthony Smith hit a three-point bucket with 23 seconds remaining, allowing Liberty to regain the lead over the Purple Eagles, on the way to the Flames' victory over the last MAAC squad LU faced. The Niagara series started in the 2007 ESPNU BracketBuster, and last year's meeting was the return game of that series.

Liberty in Postseason
Liberty's appearance in the inaugural CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) marks the third time in the program's Division I history the Flames have reached a postseason tournament beyond the Big South Championship. Liberty made the NCAA Tournament in 1994 and 2004. Liberty fell in 1994 to No. 1 seed North Carolina (71-51) and suffered the same fate in 2004 to No. 1 seed St. Joseph's (82-63). Both appearances were against the National No. 1 seed.

McKay Makes another Postseason Appearance
Liberty Head Coach Ritchie McKay will make his third postseason appearance. McKay led Colorado State into the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1999, reaching the round of eight, when he lost to eventual NIT Champion Cal. McKay's Rams' squad defeated Mississippi State and Colorado in the opening two rounds. In 2005, McKay led New Mexico to its first NCAA Tournament berth after a 10 season dry spell. McKay led the Lobos to the Mountain West Championship and faced Villanova in the first round. The Wildcats grabbed the first round triumph. McKay is 2-2 all-time in postseason play.

Anthony Smith Doubles Up VMI
Anthony Smith has recorded six of his 11 career double-doubles against the VMI Keydets, including his last five games against the military school. On March 4, 2008, Smith tallied a career-high 30 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the Big South Championship quarterfinals last season. Smith's first double-double against VMI included assists and not rebounds, as he dished out 10 helpers to go along with 14 points on Feb. 21, 2007, inside Cameron Hall.

Liberty's Two-Headed Monster
Since Feb. 4, a span of 10 games, Liberty has had its own two-headed monster in the low post. Between Tyler Baker and Austin Smith, the duo is averaging a combined 11.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game during the past 10 games. Baker and Smith are also shooting a combined 63.5 percent (40-of-63) from the floor and are playing a combined average of 24.3 minutes per game. The tandem also is getting it done at the charity stripe, hitting a combined 81.0 percent (29-of-36) of its foul attempts. Baker adds a three-point threat to "the monster," connecting on 42.9 percent (6-of-14) of his treys over the last 10 games.

McKay's First Two Years at Liberty
Head coach Ritchie McKay has accumulated 38 victories so far during his first two years at Liberty. That figure passes McKay's win total during his first two years at Colorado State (37), previously marking the most wins in the first two years at any of his five head coaching stints. McKay is one victory shy of passing former Liberty head coach Jeff Meyer's program best win total of 38 during his first two years at the helm for the Flames.

Where Does 2009 Rank in Liberty History?
Liberty finished the 2009 regular season with 21 victories, tying 1992 and 1997 as the most wins in a Division I regular season. During the 1980 season, Liberty had 28 victories with 22 in the regular season, serving as a program bench mark for regular season triumphs.

Curry Charity Stripe Streak Snapped
Seth Curry had made 65 of his last 67 free throw attempts, including his last 40 going into the Feb. 28 game at Radford. Curry made his first attempt, pushing his program record to 41 before missing his next attempt. Curry went nine full games without a miss and his previous miscue ironically was at home against the same Highlander team on Jan. 24. Curry finished the Feb. 28 game 10-of-14 from the free throw line. Curry is currently No. 2 in the Big South for free throw efficiency this season at 84.6 percent.

The Sanders Factor
With freshman point guard Jesse Sanders at the helm, Liberty experienced eight setbacks in their first 28 contests. Of those eight losses, three were in double-overtime and another four were by a combined 11 points. When Sanders was out of the lineup with a sprained right ankle for those games, the Flames dropped two straight contests by an average 30.5 points per loss before the Feb. 28 triumph at Radford. Sanders returned to the floor on March 3 in the quarterfinal round of the Big South Basketball Championship. The Sugar Land, Texas native played a combined total of 19 minutes against Gardner-Webb in the quarterfinals and VMI in the semifinals. The Flames are 2-3 since Sanders' injury in practice on Feb. 19.

Curry Reaches Big South Single Season Scoring Top 10
Seth Curry has 680 points on the season, placing him No. 7 in Big South history for most points in a single season. Curry is the only freshman in the Top 10 and is chasing VMI's Chavis Holmes (681) for sixth place. Holmes passed Curry for No. 6 on the single season scoring list during the Big South Conference championship game on March 9. Curry needs 20 points to become the fifth player in league history to reach the 700 point plateau in a season. Larry Blair (679) is the only other Liberty player in the Top 10 with his 2006 total, registering as the eighth best in Big South history. With Curry's season in tow, the conference now can boast that seven of the Top 10 individual scoring seasons in league history have been registered in the past four seasons.

Liberty Breaks Program Record for Three-Point Field Goals
As a team, the Flames have 306 three-point field goals. The Flames hit 10 on Feb. 28 at Radford, breaking the program record of 288 set by last season's team. This year's team set the new record in one less game than last year's squad set it in. Ritchie McKay's inaugural team last season shattered the previous mark set in 2002 (225 treys). This year's squad averages 9.3 three-point buckets per game (No. 6 nationally). The 306 treys ranks as the fourth-best team mark in Big South history, trailing only VMI's last three seasons (2007-08-09), ironically the nation's leader at 13.7 three-point buckets per game this season.

Three Musketeers Rack up Minutes Played
Seth Curry (1,208), Anthony Smith (1,193) and Kyle Ohman (1,105) currently hold the top three spots on the single season minutes played list in the Liberty annals. All three Flames passed previous category leader, Larry Blair (1,101) and his 2006 total. Smith is the only Flame with two seasons ranked in the Top 5 in minutes played for a season. Smith's (1,079) mark in 2008 mark ranked No. 2 coming into the season, but now ranks No. 5.

Curry Notes on Reaching 600 Point Plateau
Seth Curry is the sixth different Flame in program history to tally at least 600 points in a season and the third in the Division I era. Karl Hess, Larry Blair and Ed Vickers reached 600 points in two separate seasons and Bailey Alston did it each of his three years at Liberty.

Curry and Alston (756) are the only two players in program history to score at least 600 points during their first season on Liberty Mountain. Alston was a sophomore transfer from Rutgers his first season in Lynchburg.

Curry Eyes 700 Point Plateau for Season
Seth Curry needs 20 points to reach the 700 point plateau for the season. Curry would become only the sixth player in program history to tally at least 700 points in a season and the first since Bailey Alston (714) set the Liberty Division I era record in 1990, ironically the year Curry was born. Curry's current total of 680 markers trails only Alston on the Liberty Division I single season scoring list.