CHARLESTON, S.C. — As the month of February continues to move along, the Big South regular season title could go to any one of seven teams.
With six games left on the slate before Wednesday night’s action, seven teams are within three games of first place in the league. Three teams, including the Liberty Flames, find themselves at 6-6 in league play, and are still within striking distance of the league-leading UNC Asheville Bulldogs (9-3).
From here on out, each win is important. The Flames will put their three game winning streak on the line on Wednesday night against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. It marks the second of two regular season meetings between the two programs this season, and Liberty will look for another win to continue to move up the standings, while the Buccaneers will look to bounce back after a loss in their last outing.
Here’s what you need to know in advance of Wednesday night’s Big South battle in Charleston, SC between Liberty and Charleston Southern.
Last Time Out
In their last outing, the Flames took on the Longwood Lancers, looking to extend their winning streak to three games and to earn a split in the regular season series with the Lancers. Behind a strong defensive effort to kick off the second half, Liberty extended their streak to three games with a 67-55 victory over Longwood to move back to .500 in Big South play.
Liberty held Longwood without a point for close to five minutes to open the second half, allowing themselves to pull away and stretch their lead to double figures.
Scottie James led the way with a strong effort on both ends of the floor for the Flames. He recorded 26 points and 10 rebounds to spearhead the attack for the visitors. Lovell Cabbil finished with 10 points and four rebounds, while Caleb Homesley added nine points, nine rebounds, five steals, and four assists off the bench.
In their last game, the Buccaneers found themselves in a dog fight with the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs on the road. Despite trailing for most of the second half, Charleston Southern fought their way back and made things tight down to the final buzzer. Patrick Zeck got a basket to go with 11.4 seconds left on the clock to send the Runnin’ Bulldogs to the 63-61 victory.
The loss ended the modest two game winning streak for the Buccaneers.
Guard Christian Keeling led all scorers on Saturday with 15 points in the loss. Ty Jones added 10 points of his own, while both Cortez Mitchell and Deontaye Buskey had seven points apiece.
Wednesday night marks the second of two regular season meetings between Liberty and Charleston Southern. The two met back on January 2nd, 2018 in Lynchburg, VA to kick off the 2018 calendar year. Behind a strong shooting night from Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, the Flames rolled to the 70-53 victory over the Buccaneers.
Pacheco-Ortiz connected on a career-high seven jumpers from beyond the arc, finishing the game with 27 points. Scottie James had 14 points and matched his career-high with 15 rebounds for a strong effort on both ends of the court, one that he will look to replicate on Wednesday night. Caleb Homesley rounded out a trio of Liberty players in double figures with 11 points off the bench.
For the Buccaneers, guard Jamaal David scored a team-high 11 points to lead the offensive attack, while also adding four assists and three rebounds. The pair of Christian Keeling and Travis McConico chipped in with 10 points apiece in a losing effort.
Players to Watch
– 12.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.1 apg; 60.3% FG, 74.7% FT in 25 games.
– James averaged 23.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks over two games last week, landing him Big South Player of the Week honours.
– He has been the most consistent player for Liberty this season, recording double digit points on 15 occasions, and posting seven double-doubles.
– 11.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.0 spg; 46.4% FG, 89.5% FT in 25 games.
– Pacheco-Ortiz has 17 assists to just six turnovers over his last four games. He has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.64 for the season.
– He has been held to single digit points in two of the Flames’ last three games, but has reached double figures in 14 of Liberty’s 25 games.
– 17.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg; 43.1% FG, 82.9% FT in 20 games.
– Keeling missed the first three games of the season, but hasn’t scored less than 10 points in all 20 games he has appeared in this year.
– He set a school freshman record with 539 points in 2016-17, becoming just the sixth Big South freshman to top 500 points in his first season.
– 7.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.6 apg; 45.1% FG, 68.2% FT in 20 games.
– Mitchell averaged 11.1 points and 1.9 assists per game in 2016-17 as a junior, his first season with the Buccaneers after transferring from Pearl River C.C. (Miss.).
– He has been held to single digit points in seven of his last nine games, and is due for a breakout game.
After a rough patch of games, the Flames have worked their way back to .500 in Big South play, and are starting to play like a top contender in the conference. On the flip side, the Buccaneers are looking to build momentum as they look to climb back into the conference title race themselves.
With limited games left in the regular season before the Big South Tournament gets underway, every game has an increased level of importance. With teams looking to improve their standing in the league, each win is crucial from here on out.
Charleston Southern will be looking to get some revenge on the Flames for a 17-point defeat earlier this season. Liberty, on the other hand, will look to keep climbing in the Big South and pick up their fourth win in a row. With both teams being among the top 100 scoring defenses in the country, points will be at a premium on both sides of the ball.
Wednesday night’s game will be a close one, but the Flames will complete the regular season sweep of the Buccaneers and continue to build momentum as the post-season looms.
Liberty – 64
Charleston Southern – 59
– T. Bennett