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Liberty to Open WNIT at Villanova, Thursday

March 14, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty will travel to Villanova on Thursday for its WNIT opener.

Liberty will travel to Villanova on Thursday for its WNIT opener.

2016 WNIT Bracket

Liberty's second Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) appearance will begin with a first-round contest at Villanova on Thursday. Tipoff time at The Pavilion in Villanova, Pa., will be 7 p.m.

The winner of the first-ever matchup between the Lady Flames and Wildcats will advance to the second round of the 64-team, single-elimination tournament and face the winner of Thursday's Harvard at Hofstra contest.

The Lady Flames (20-12, 15-5 Big South) narrowly missed winning their 17th Big South Women's Basketball Championship title on Sunday, dropping a 64-62 double overtime decision to tournament host UNC Asheville in the championship game.

With No. 1 seed Asheville bound for the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, No. 2 seed Liberty earned the Big South Conference's automatic bid to the Postseason WNIT.

Villanova (19-11, 12-6 BIG EAST) was the BIG EAST Tournament's No. 2 seed, but fell to Creighton in the quarterfinal round. The Wildcats are making their third consecutive WNIT appearance. Last season, Villanova won three games to advance to the WNIT quarterfinals.

The Wildcats, who lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game (7.8) and rank 13th nationally with 8.6 three-pointers per contest, are coached by Harry Perretta. In his 38th season as Villanova's head coach, Perretta has guided the Wildcats to 702 victories.

First team All-BIG EAST honoree Caroline Coyer leads Villanova in points (14.0 ppg), assists (4.4 apg) and steals (1.6 spg) but the senior guard has missed the last three games due to injury. Sophomore guard Alex Louin (11.3 ppg) and freshman guard Adrianna Hahn (10.3 ppg) also score in double figures for the Wildcats.

Liberty has faced one BIG EAST opponent this season, dropping a 92-56 home decision to Seton Hall on Dec. 12.

Thursday's game will carry extra meaning for a number of Lady Flames. Molly Reagan will have the opportunity to square off with Braintree High School teammate Bridget Herlihy. Meanwhile, Liberty's trio of New Jersey natives (Catherine Kearney, Sheana Vega and Jordan Woods) will all get to play within an hour and a half of their respective hometowns.

Liberty's previous Postseason WNIT appearance came in 2011, and the Lady Flames lost at Charlotte, 62-56, in the first round.

The Lady Flames will aim to become the third Big South squad ever to win a game in the WNIT. Radford defeated Richmond and DePaul in 1989, while Winthrop took down Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.