HIGH POINT, N.C. — Through the first three weeks, the Big South Conference has been big fun.
The conference standings are quite the sight to behold, and things are rather interesting through six games. At the top, the Radford Highlanders enter Thursday night with a 5-1 record, and sit alone in first place. Then, a pair of teams sit at 4-2 overall, just a game back of top spot.
From there, it gets even more backed up.
Five teams come into Thursday night with a record of 3-3 against conference teams. Two of those programs, the Liberty Flames and High Point Panthers, will square off inside the Millis Athletic Center in High Point, NC. A win for either team would provide them with a bit of separation from the pack, and get them a step closer to the top spot.
Here’s what you need to know in advance of the Flames and Panthers doing battle on the court.
Last Time Out
After allowing the final 14 points in a 58-51 loss to the Longwood Lancers, the Flames were looking to bounce back and keep pace in the crowded Big South Conference. On the road against the Radford Highlanders, Liberty forced overtime with a late basket from guard Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz. However, the Highlanders would get the last laugh, as they held on in the extra frame for the 59-57 victory.
It was the second straight loss for the Flames, who fell to .500 in conference play.
Pacheco-Ortiz finished with 11 points and four assists, but shot just 3-of-13 from the floor. Lovell Cabbil led the Flames with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Ryan Kemrite added 11 points of his own in the loss.
Coming into their last game against the Presbyterian Blue Hose, the Panthers had enjoyed success on their home court in Big South action. They were 2-0 in their first two games inside the Millis Athletic Center, and 0-3 on the road. After two straight losses, High Point was looking for a bounce-back performance against the Blue Hose. They took a 13-point lead at the break, and cruised to the 73-49 victory.
The win improved High Point’s record to 3-3, and put them into the log jam in the middle of the conference standings.
It was a balanced offensive attack for the Panthers, as five players scored in double figures in the win. Brandonn Kamga led the way with 13 points, while Denny Slay and Ricky Madison came off the bench to record 11 points apiece.
Liberty and High Point met on two occasions during the 2016-17 season. The Flames picked up a pair of wins, but both games were decided by a combined seven points. In the second meeting, Liberty held down their home court with a 55-52 win over the Panthers.
The Flames got some late-game heroics from Kemrite, who scored eight of his 21 points down the stretch to seal the deal for Liberty. Cabbil added 13 points and six rebounds, while the next highest point total for the team was just six points.
High Point had three players record 14 points apiece in the loss. Andre Fox, Miles Bowman Jr., and Ricky Madison led the way, accounting for 42 of the Panthers’ 52 points.
Liberty leads the all-time series between the two schools, 23-16.
Players to Watch
– 10.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.4 apg; 45.6% FG in 19 games
– Double digit points in five of last seven games (14.0 ppg over seven game stretch)
– 12.5 ppg (team high), 4.6 rpg, 2.9 apg; 41.0% FG, 87.5% FT in 19 games
– Needs just four rebounds to reach 300 rebounds for his career; ranks 45th all-time at Liberty.
– 16.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg; 46.2% FG, 41.5% 3PT in 12 Games
– Proctor has scored in double figures in all 12 games, with three games of 20 or more points.
– 17.3 ppg (team high), 4.8 rpg, 1.4 spg in 17 games
– One of the top scoring guards in the Big South; four 20+ point efforts in his last six games.
Entering Thursday night’s action, there is a major log jam in the middle of the Big South Conference standings. Five teams have 3-3 records, and are within two games of top spot in the league. Each win from here on out will be a big factor in determining the seeds for the conference tournament.
Both teams need a win to keep pace in the race. Liberty is looking to end a two game skid, while the Panthers are looking to continue their home-court dominance against league foes this season.
The teams are both evenly matched. Both Liberty and High Point rank in the top 40 in the nation in terms of scoring defense, while neither team scores more than 74 points on offense themselves. Due to their efforts on the defensive end, expect Thursday night to be a low-scoring affair.
This will be a game that will come down to the final minute, and either team has a chance to come away victorious. Liberty needs the win more than the Panthers, and they will do just enough to get back on the right track with a win.
Liberty – 57
High Point – 54
– T. Bennett