Liberty Basketball: Previewing the Presbyterian Blue Hose

Bell, Davon
Senior guard Davon Bell is averaging 13.3 points per game this season, and has reached double figures in each of his last four games. (Source: Presbyterian Athletics) (Header: Liberty Athletics)

LYNCHBURG, Va. — With the calendar switched to 2018, the Presbyterian Blue Hose are looking to continue their resurgent season after a dismal 2016-17 season.

Last year, the Blue Hose picked up a grand total of five wins, finishing at 5-25 for the season. Coming into Saturday’s tilt with the Liberty Flames, the Blue Hose already have eight wins on record this season. At 8-7 overall, Presbyterian has won seven of their last nine games, and sit third in the Big South through two games. They have split their first two conference games, losing at home before picking up a road win last time out.

As for the Flames, they are enjoying a strong start to their own season. With 10 wins already this season, the 2017-18 edition of the Flames are the second-fastest team to reach the 10-win mark in school history. They have a pair of three-game winning streaks to their name this season, and are looking to keep their strong play rolling into the 2018 calendar year.

With star guards on both sides of the floor, this is one of those under-the-radar games that people will want to keep an eye on throughout the day. Even with a full slate of college basketball throughout Saturday, the first meeting between the Blue Hose and the Flames promises to be an exciting one.

Here’s what you need to know in advance on Saturday afternoon’s tilt in Lynchburg, VA between Presbyterian and Liberty.

Last Time Out

After starting the 2017-18 season with just one win over their first six games, the Blue Hose have turned their season around. Last time out, they picked up a road win over the Longwood Lancers, 78-65. It was their seventh win over their last nine games, a stretch that included a five game winning streak. The win over the Lancers pushed Presbyterian’s record to 8-7 overall, and 1-1 in Big South play.

Forward Francois Lewis led all scorers on the day, scoring 25 points to pace an offensive attack for the Blue Hose that saw four players reach double figures. Guards Reggie Dillard and Davon Bell added 14 points apiece, while JC Younger had 10 points and nine rebounds in the win.


For the Liberty Flames, they come into Saturday afternoon having alternated wins and losses over their past five games. In their last outing, they picked up their first Big South win of the season with a 70-53 defeat of the Charleston Southern Buccaneers inside the Vines Center. The win pushed their record to 10-5 overall, continuing their strong start to the 2017-18 campaign.

Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz was 7-of-8 from three point range in the win, recording 27 points to lead all scorers on the night. Caleb Homesley added 11 points off the bench, on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor, while forward Scottie James posted 14 points and 15 rebounds for yet another double-double performance.


Previous Meeting

Liberty and Presbyterian met twice last season, with the Flames picking up a pair of double-digit wins. The second meeting was in Lynchburg, VA, and Liberty held down home court with a 71-51 win.

Myo Baxter-Bell recorded 19 points and four steals, while Ryan Kemrite had 15 points in the win. For the Blue Hose, Dillard and Ed Drew recorded 12 points apiece in the loss. With Dillard back this season, the veteran will be looking to get some revenge and continue their strong season in 2017-18.

The last time that Presbyterian picked up a win over Liberty was back on February 20th, 2016, where the Blue Hose scored a 79-73 win on the road.


Players to Watch

Presbyterian – Davon Bell

Senior guard Davon Bell is having a career year in 2017-18 for the Presbyterian Blue Hose to close out a strong collegiate career. The native of Charlotte, NC is a rock solid force at the point guard spot for first year head coach Dustin Kerns, and forms one of the better back court tandems in the Big South alongside fellow senior Reggie Dillard. Bell is averaging career-highs in points (13.3), rebounds (2.7), assists (4.7), and steals (1.9) per game, while shooting career-highs from the field (47.4%) and three point range (37.8%). Bell has a 2.26 assist-to-turnover ratio through 15 games, dishing out a total of 70 assists to just 31 turnovers. He gets his teammates involved on a regular basis, having recorded four or more assists in each of his last four games. In addition to his assist totals, Bell also ranks second on the team in scoring.


Liberty – Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz

While Liberty has alternated wins and losses over their past five games, sophomore guard Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz has alternated strong offensive performances with an off-game sandwiched in the middle. Last time out, he hit seven three pointers in the Flames’ win over Charleston Southern, recording 27 points to go along with two rebounds and three assists. Two games prior, in an 87-70 win over the Alabama State Hornets, Pacheco-Ortiz posted 19 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists for arguably his best all-round performance of the year. He is now third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.8 points to go along with 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Pacheco-Ortiz will look to put together a second straight strong performance on Saturday, but he will be in tough against the tough, veteran back court of the Blue Hose.


Prediction

With seven wins over their last nine games, Presbyterian has been one of the hottest teams out of any in the Big South as of late. In Dustin Kerns’ first year as head coach, the Blue Hose have enjoyed a high level of success after starting the season at 1-5.

On the flip side, this year’s Liberty team is the second-fastest team in school history to reach 10 wins, which they achieved back in 2008-09 when Ritchie McKay was in his first stint with the Flames.

Unfortunately, only one team can come away victorious on Saturday. Playing on their home floor, the Flames have the edge right off the bat. In terms of guards, the teams are pretty evenly matched. Look for the likes of James, Baxter-Bell, and the rest of the forwards for Liberty to give the Flames an edge, and guide the team to their 11th victory of the year.

Liberty – 74
Presbyterian – 54

– T. Bennett

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