Liberty (13-20) vs. Gardner-Webb (21-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The HTC Center (3,600) -- Conway, South Carolina. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Liberty 8-7, Gardner-Webb 12-2. Away Record: Liberty 4-11, Gardner-Webb 6-9. Neutral Record: Liberty 1-2, Gardner- Webb 3-0. Conference Record: Liberty 6-10, Gardner-Webb 11-5. Series Record: Gardner-Webb leads, 7-4.
GAME NOTES: The Liberty Flames and the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs meet at The HTC Center on Saturday afternoon in the semifinal round of the Big South Conference Tournament.
The winner will advance to Sunday's championship game to take on either Charleston Southern or Virginia Military.
Liberty, the fifth seed in the North Division, pulled off an upset of the North's No. 1 seed High Point on Thursday night, 61-60, to advance to the semifinals. The Flames have now won three straight games to improve their record to 13-20
Gardner-Webb, the second seed in the South Division, took its quarterfinal matchup with a 71-57 win over Campbell on Thursday. The Bulldogs (21-11) continue to show that they are one of the Big South's best, as they have now won eight straight games.
GWU defeated Liberty back on Feb. 9 at home, 71-68, in the only meeting this season between the two teams. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 7-4.
The Flames never trailed in their quarterfinal-round clash, extending their lead to as many as 19 points early in the second half, and while High Point climbed all the way back to make its deficit to just one in the final minute, Liberty held off the comeback attempt. Tavares Speaks paced the squad with 17 points, while Davon Marshall (16 points) and John Caleb Sanders (12 points, five assists) were also impressive. On the season, Liberty scores 68.6 ppg, but it has oftentimes been plagued by a lackluster defensive attack (69.9 ppg). Sanders runs the point and nets 13.6 ppg and hands out 3.5 apg, while Marshall (13.3 ppg) and Speaks (13.0 ppg) are hot on his heels as the leading scorer. JR Coronado (5.1 ppg) doesn't help much on the scoreboard, but he hauls in 8.2 rpg.
The Bulldogs made easy work of Campbell in the quarterfinals, shooting 22- of-46 from the field and 22-of-26 from the foul line in the 14-point win. All five starters fpr GWU scored in double figures, led by Tashan Newsome with 15 points. Tyler Strange netted 14 points, Kevin Hartley and Donta Harper scored 12 points apiece and combined for 15 rebounds, and Jerome Hill chipped in 10 points in the winning effort. GWU has a modest scoring attack at best, netting 66.0 ppg on 42.4 percent field goal shooting, but it benefits from playing outstanding defense, holding opposing teams to just 60.4 ppg while forcing more than 15 turnovers per contest. Newsome is the squad's leading scorer with 14.0 ppg, while Harper is close behind with 12.8 ppg. Hartley is strong in the paint with 9.5 ppg on 48.1 percent from the field to go with 6.4 rpg and 1.7 spg.
Liberty proved in the quarterfinals that it is capable of knocking off the top teams in the league, so this is far from a sure thing for GWU. But while the Flames could be ready to build off their momentum from their earlier win in the tournament, the Bulldogs are red-hot in their own right and should be able to use their top-notch defense to lead them to the championship round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Gardner-Webb 70, Liberty 59
03/09 10:41:53 ET