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No. 14 Seed Liberty to Open with Louisville

March 16, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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No. 14 seed Liberty will face No. 3 seed Louisville of the Big EAST Conference in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, Sunday at 9:30 p.m. Eastern

No. 14 seed Liberty will face No. 3 seed Louisville of the Big EAST Conference in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, Sunday at 9:30 p.m. Eastern

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Two-time defending Big South champion Liberty has earned a No. 14 seed in the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship and will face No. 3 seed Louisville in the first round. The Lady Flames and Cardinals will square off at approximately 9:30 p.m. Eastern, Sunday night, at LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.

The contest between Liberty (24-8) and Louisville (29-4) will be the second game of doubleheader. Host LSU (18-10), the No. 6 seed, will play No. 11 seed Green Bay (29-3) in the opening game at 7 p.m. Both contests will be televised by ESPN2.
Sunday's first-round victors will face off Tuesday, at 9:30 p.m., with a trip to the "Sweet 16" at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., at stake.

"Our seeding was a bit of a disappointment," admitted Big South Coach of the Year Carey Green. "However, we're in the tournament, so we can't be too disappointed with that. The pressure's off us now. It will be nice being the hunter instead of the hunted."

Liberty will be participating in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons. The Lady Flames are seeking their first tournament victory since 2005, when Liberty won its first two games to qualify for the "Sweet 16."

The Lady Flames earned the Big South Conference's automatic bid to the "Big Dance" by virtue of their thrilling, 51-50 victory over Gardner-Webb in Sunday's title game of the Advance Auto Parts Big South Women's Basketball Championship in High Point, N.C. It was the second consecutive season Liberty has won the championship game by a single point.

Liberty enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the nation's hottest teams. The Lady Flames have won 23 of their last 25 games, after opening the season with a 1-6 mark. The late-season run of success included an 18-game winning streak, the fourth-longest streak in program history.

Louisville, ranked No. 5/7 nationally, garnered its highest-ever NCAA Tournament seed at No. 3. The Cardinals, coached by Jeff Walz, have already set a school record with 29 wins and were the runners-up in the Big East tournament. Two of Louisville's four setbacks this season came at the hands of unbeaten, No. 1-ranked Connecticut, including the Cardinals' defeat in the Big East title tilt.

The Cardinals are led by a pair of 6-1 senior forwards who both made the first team All-BIG EAST roster. Angel McCoughtry not only ranks No. 4 nationally in scoring with 23.5 ppg, but also paces the team in rebounding (9.3 rpg) and was tabbed BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year. Candyce Bingham chips in with 12.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg.

"Louisville presents a very big challenge for our team," stated Green. "They play in a great conference and have had a tremendous season. The Cardinals are very talented and athletic."

Liberty and Louisville have met once previously on the hardwood. The two teams were paired in the championship game of the Louisville Classic, on Dec. 30, 1996, at venerable Freedom Hall. The Cardinals dealt the Lady Flames an 82-60 defeat to claim the tournament championship. However, Liberty went on to make its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance about two and a half months later.

The Lady Flames have faced a BIG EAST opponent twice in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, going 1-1. Liberty was paired with DePaul in back-to-back seasons, defeating the Blue Demons, 88-79, to reach the "Sweet 16" in 2005 and falling in a first-round game at DePaul, 68-43, in 2006.

Louisville will be the first BIG EAST team Liberty has faced since No. 22 Pittsburgh edged the Lady Flames, 54-47, on Dec. 20, 2006 at the Caribbean Classic in Cancun, Mexico.

Green and the Lady Flames will play NCAA Tournament contests at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for the second time. Liberty faced LSU on its home floor in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. The Lady Tigers ended Green's first season as Liberty's head coach with a 77-54 triumph over the Lady Flames.