GAME NOTES: The Big South Conference Tournament tips off on Tuesday at the HTC Center as the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers entertain the Liberty Flames in first-round action.
Liberty, the fifth seed from the North Division of the conference, started off the 2012-13 campaign rather rough with eight straight defeats before finally picking up a victory, albeit against a program outside of Division I play in Southern Virginia. As far as conference play was concerned, the Flames never even put together back-to-back wins, although there is a chance for that on Tuesday after the team closed out the regular season over the weekend with a 73-56 triumph versus Radford on the road.
As for the Chanticleers, the fourth seed from the South Division, they too had problems stringing together multiple wins in league action, but still they finished with a record two games over .500 at 9-7 even after bowing to Charleston Southern on Saturday, 75-64.
Coastal Carolina has a mark of 15-22 in this tournament over the years and while the squad appeared in the title game in both 2010 and 2011, it has not taken home the trophy since 1993. Liberty has a record of 17-19 in this event and has taken the championship twice, most recently in 2004.
In terms of an all-time series between these two squads, Liberty owns a 27-23 advantage, with the Flames taking a 64-56 win in the most recent encounter in the middle of January.
The winner of this meeting will be pitted against the top seed from the North Division, High Point, in quarterfinals action on Thursday night.
Producing 68.6 ppg on the season, the Flames sported a trio of double-digit scorers in John Caleb Sanders (13.8 ppg), Tavares Speaks (13.1 ppg) and Davon Marshall (12.8 ppg), the latter being the only player on the roster to have started all 31 games for Liberty. Marshall is also the primary 3-pointer shooter for the squad, having knocked down 84-of-209 (.402) on the outside which means he has made more than twice as many long-distance shots than anyone else on the roster. Although he shows up much further down on the scoring list with a mere 5.2 ppg, having JR Coronado on the floor can be both a blessing and a curse for the squad since he leads them in rebounding (8.4 rpg) but is also shooting just 50 percent at the free-throw line.
The key figure on the Chanticleers this season is Anthony Raffa who was recently named First Team All-Big South, having earned a spot on the second team a season ago. This time around Raffa finished second in the conference in scoring with 19.0 ppg, pacing the program on the perimeter where he made good on 60-of-167 (.359). On a squad that averaged about eight steals per outing, Raffa finished second in that department with 52, trailing only Kierre Greenwood (12.7 ppg) who not only had 53 thefts, he was also first on the unit with 114 assists as he directed traffic on the floor. Warren Gillis (10.7 ppg) completes the list of double-digit scorers for CCU, while El Hadji Ndieguene (7.0 rpg) leads a rebounding effort that has topped the competition by more than six rebounds per game.
With a little more of a presence in the paint and playing in front of a favorable crowd, expect to see the Chanticleers advance to the next round of the tournament.
Game Date and Time