Monday, February 20, 2012

Big South: Liberty closes in on No. 1 seed

Liberty 69, Presbyterian 64: Devon Brown went for 27 points and 11 rebounds as the Lady Flames (18-8, 13-2) shook off Saturday's loss to Winthrop and moved to within a game of clinching the No. 1 seed in the Big South Tournament. Reagan Miller added 13 points and Avery Warley chipped in 11 points and 8 rebounds for Liberty, which rallied from a six-point deficit early in the second half. The Lady Flames now have a three-game lead over second-place High Point and Winthrop and can secure the tournament's top seed on Saturday with a victory at home over last-place Gardner-Webb (3-22, 2-12).

Winthrop 67, Radford 56: You know the expression "basketball is a game of runs?" The same holds true for a 2011-12 Highlanders season in which the victories and losses have tended to come in bunches. Radford (14-12, 8-7 Big South) began the season by winning four straight, and went into the weekend on a seven-game winning streak. On the other hand, Monday's loss was their second straight, and their season has also featured two three-game losing streaks and one four-game losing streak. It's not hard to pinpoint the main issue in Monday's loss. Radford's three leading scorers, Da'Naria Erwin Spencer, Ashley Buckhannon and Victoria Hamilton typically combine to average about 38 points a game. Against Winthrop, they combined to produce 13 points on 5-of-35 shooting. Highlander reserves tried valiantly to take up the slack, particularly freshman Jordynn Gaymon, who scored a career-high 15 points. But few teams are equipped to overcome so many blanks being fired by their main weapons. The victory was the fourth straight for Winthrop (15-11, 9-5), which moved into a second-place tie with reeling High Point, which lost its fifth straight game Monday. The Panthers opened Big South play with nine straight victories.

Longwood 76, Gardner-Webb 65: In its first game against a Big South school since the announcement that the Lancers would be joining that conference in July, Longwood showed it should fit right in by rolling over the hapless Runnin' Bulldogs on Senior Night at Willett Hall. Chelsea Coward scored 21 points, Crystal Smith added 18, Erin Neal scored 15 and Brittanni Billups chipped in 14 for the Lancers (6-22). And so continues the season from Hell for Gardner-Webb (3-22), which won 23 games and the Big South Tournament title last season. Has any team every suffered a more pronounced dropoff in one season? Also on Monday, Longwood recognized seniors Billups, Morgan Smith and Mina Jovanovic along with walk-ons Kacie Oliver and Courtney Long in their final home game. The Lancers will finish the year with a 2-2 record against schools in their soon-to-be new conference. Earlier in the season Longwood fell to High Point and Campbell and beat Radford.

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