Saturday, December 31, 2011

Liberty visits Radford in Big South opener

Saturday's games

Liberty (5-6) at Radford (6-5), 4:30 p.m.
Marquee Big South opener featuring the teams seeded first (Liberty) and second (Radford) in last season's conference tournament. The teams split their two meetings last season, with each winning in the other's building. Radford scored a whopping 34 points off 29 Liberty turnovers in rallying for a 62-53 victory at Liberty. A few weeks later, the Highlanders scored just 6 points off turnovers and got spanked 66-50 on Senior Day at Radford. Liberty remains one of the most turnover-prone teams in Division I, and the Highlanders are built to come after teams defensively. Whichever team wins this battle will probably win the game. Also, which Liberty typically enjoys a huge rebounding edge in this matchup - or just about any other matchup, for that matter - Victoria Hamilton (7.6 rpg) and Sarah Tabb (6.1) have helped the Highlanders become surprisingly competitive on the boards this season. Don't be surprised if Radford can at least hold its own when balls come off the rim today. The Lady Flames haven't played in 11 days, but while that suggests they may be rusty it also means they have a lot of time to just work on themselves. Radford is 4-1 at home this season, but the loss came in their last outing, an 81-68 setback to Davidson on Dec. 22. From Liberty's information-rich game notes: Liberty star Avery Warley needs just 13 rebounds to break the great Katie Feenstra's program record of 1,033 career boards. A year ago, she averaged 13.5 rebounds in two games against Radford. Our pick? The Highlanders typically open conference play with a bang, and figure to be ticked off at how the Lady Flames knocked them around last season on their Senior Day. This one can certainly go either way, but our sense is Radford will force just enough mistakes to prevail. Radford 60, Liberty 59

In Saturday's other game:

Longwood (2-12) at Appalachian State (8-2), noon
The Mountaineers are no Notre Dame, but they're plenty good enough to pose problems for the Lancers, who are playing their seventh straight game away from home. Longwood is 0-6 during this stretch and 0-20 away from Willett Hall since a 76-66 victory at UNC Asheville on Jan. 24, 2011. Appalachian State features freshman Maryah Sydnor, the former Radford High star who originally committed to Longwood before changing her mind after then-Lancers coach Kristin Caruso was fired. Sydnor is averaging 5.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes this season. Appalachian State 78, Longwood 58

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