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Lady Flames to Battle No. 19/20 Vanderbilt

December 21, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Rachel Hammond scored all 13 of her points during the second half, Saturday afternoon at Winston-Salem State.

Rachel Hammond scored all 13 of her points during the second half, Saturday afternoon at Winston-Salem State.

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Game Day Central

The Game
Liberty (3-6, 0-0 Big South), which has won back-to-back games for the first time this season, will face its second nationally-ranked SEC opponent in 16 days, Monday afternoon at No. 19/20 Vanderbilt (10-2, 0-0 SEC). Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. Eastern at venerable Memorial Gymnasium, where the Commodores have won all seven of their games this season.

What to Watch
A Liberty victory over Vanderbilt on Monday would be the Lady Flames' first win over a SEC opponent since 1998 and their first triumph over a nationally-ranked foe since the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

The Commodores enjoy a unique home court advantage at Memorial Gymnasium, as the teams' benches are located on the baselines instead of the sidelines, and the playing surface is raised up like a stage. Vanderbilt has won more than 81 percent of its home games at the facility in program history.
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, will once again be handling the courtside play-by-play duties for most road games. Josh Wood will serve as the commentator for home contests and will provide color analysis on the road.

Scouting Vanderbilt
The Vanderbilt Commodores return all five starters from their 2007-08 squad, which went 25-9 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Highlighting the returnees is Christina Wirth, a 6-1 senior forward who was a first-team All-SEC pick last season. As a result, they were picked to win the SEC title before the season.

The Commodores are off to a strong start in 2008-09, as they own a 10-2 overall record and are ranked in the top 20 of both national polls. Wirth is leading the way with 16.3 ppg, while 6-1 sophomore forward Hannah Tuomi is contributing 13.3 ppg and 6.1 rpg to the Commodores' attack.

Liberty and Vanderbilt have played one common opponent so far this season, UC Riverside. The Lady Flames edged the Highlanders, 45-44, in the Preseason WNIT on Nov. 21. Meanwhile, UC Riverside nipped visiting Vanderbilt by a 50-47 score on Dec. 6.

Monday's game is Vanderbilt's third home game in the last four days, and the Commodores are 7-0 at Memorial Gymnasium this season.

The Coaching Matchup
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green is in his 10th season with the Lady Flames, and has led his team to eight Big South titles. A four-time Big South Coach of the Year, Green owns a 216-74 career record and is the all-time wins leader at Liberty and among Big South women's basketball coaches. His career winning percentage (.745) ranked 10th among active NCAA Division I women's basketball coaches at the season's outset. Green is 0-1 all-time versus Vanderbilt.

Melanie Balcomb is 156-54 in her seventh season at the helm of the Commodores and owns a 319-158 overall coaching record, which also includes stints at a pair of Ohio universities, Xavier and Ashland. Her teams have won at least 22 games in nine of the last 10 seasons, and Balcomb coached Xavier to the Elite Eight in 2001. Balcomb owns a 1-0 record all-time against Liberty.

Liberty-Vanderbilt Series Notes
Liberty and Vanderbilt are meeting for just the second time. The first matchup between the Lady Flames and Commodores came on March 22, 2003, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Old Dominion's Constant Center in Norfolk, Va. Vanderbilt prevailed in a defensive struggle, 54-44, halting Liberty's 22-game winning streak.

Liberty Versus the SEC
Liberty is 1-12 all-time versus the current SEC membership, including a 64-53 home setback to Auburn on Dec. 7.

The Lady Flames are 0-1 against Alabama, 0-1 against Auburn, 0-1 against Florida, 0-3 against Georgia, 1-1 against Kentucky, 0-2 against LSU, 0-1 against South Carolina, 0-1 against Tennessee and 0-1 against Vanderbilt.

Liberty's only win versus a SEC opponent was an 80-76 triumph at Kentucky on Dec. 12, 1998. The Lady Flames erased an 18-point deficit to become the first Big South team ever to beat a SEC squad. Three Liberty players scored over 20 points, as Elena Kisseleva tallied 22 points, while twin sisters Sarah and Sharon Wilkerson had 21 apiece.

Liberty Versus the Top 25
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.

Liberty is 0-1 versus Top 25 opponents this season, losing 64-53 to No. 13/14 Auburn on Dec. 7 at the Vines Center.

All-Time Record in December
The Lady Flames are 2-2 to open the month of December. Liberty is now 76-100 all-time during the calendar year's final month, including 32-31 under head coach Carey Green. The Lady Flames have three more games scheduled this December.

Last season, the Lady Flames won five of six games in December, including a home victory over James Madison. Liberty also captured the UNLV Lady Rebel Christmas Classic title. Liberty's lone loss for the month came at No. 4 North Carolina.

Balanced Scoring
Redshirt freshman Avery Warley led all players in scoring during Liberty's 55-43 win at Winston-Salem State on Saturday, tossing in a career-high 17 points. She became the sixth different player to pace the Lady Flames' scoring parade during this season's first nine contests, joining Kylee Beecher, Brittany Campbell, Megan Frazee, Moriah Frazee and Rachel Hammond.

Last year, only five different players--Allyson Fasnacht, Megan Frazee, Molly Frazee, Moriah Frazee and Rebecca Lightfoot--led Liberty in scoring during the team's 32 games. Megan Frazee led the way 24 times.

2008-09 Opponents in the National Rankings
Two of Liberty's 2008-09 opponents appear in the current Top 25 polls. Auburn is listed No. 10 in both the AP Top 25 poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll, while fellow SEC member Vanderbilt is ranked No. 19 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches listing.

Two other opponents are receiving votes in the national polls, as Hartford and North Carolina A&T are both listed in the "Others Receiving Votes" section of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll.

Halfway There?
Halftime leads have not been safe so far this season in Liberty's games. Four times, the team owning the halftime advantage has gone on to lose the game. The Lady Flames have dropped a trio of contests after leading at intermission, and Liberty claimed victory at Winston-Salem State on Saturday, despite trailing at the break.

Last season, Liberty was 3-2 when trailing at halftime.

Clamping Down on Defense
The Lady Flames have held 60 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.

Liberty is off to a good start defensively in 2008-09. Five of the Lady Flames' first nine opponents have shot below 40 percent from the floor. Liberty ranks third in the Big South with a .370 opponents field goal percentage.

Finishing Strong
Liberty has played well in the second half of its last two games, against Saint Paul's and Winston-Salem State. The Lady Flames have outscored their foes by a combined score of 87-54 after intermission, connecting on 62.7 percent (32-of-51) of their second-half field goal attempts.