23 November 2009

Better Know An Opponent: Liberty University

On Tuesday November 24 at 5:30pm Central, NU (2-1) takes on Liberty University ("Liberty") (1-4). This will be NU's second game of the Chicago Invitational Challenge ("CIC"). The game is at the Welsh and streamlined online at bigtennetwork.com (available for $2.99).

Liberty Quick Facts:
Location: Lynchburg, VA
Nickname: Flames
Coach: Dale Layer (1st Year - was a Flame assistant coach in 2007-08 and with Marquette last season)
Team Colors: Red, White & Blue
Conference: Big South
Student Population: 11.3K
Most Famous Alum: errrr, some Christian Rock folks who may be well known in those circles?

Liberty was founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell (beat that, Larry Flynt!). The school eventually became known as Liberty University in 1984 when it achieved full university status. Not surprisingly, the school is known as one of the most conservative schools in the country. More surprisingly, they seem to welcome everyone with open arms (or is it a self-selecting process?) in that over 95% of applicants are admitted.

Liberty had an impressive year last year finishing 23-12 overall and 12-6 in the Big South conference. They played in the CIT and lost in the second round to James Madison University. However, Liberty lost three starters from that squad including its two top scorers in Seth Curry (who is now riding out a year over in Dukeville) and Anthony Smith. Liberty has six frosh on its roster including Evan Gordon, younger brother of Eric Gordon Jr, the former Indiana star whose name shall not be mentioned down state in Shampoo-Banana, and son of Eric Gordon who himself played for the Flames back in the 1980s.

Liberty's projected starting lineup is:

PG Jesse Sanders 6'3" 200 #25 So.
G Kyle Ohman* 6'4" 200 #11 Sr.
G David Minaya 6'6" 205 #14 RS-So.
F Patrick Konan** 6'5" 205 #23 Fr.
C Carter McMasters 6'11" 210 #41 RS-Fr.

* Named to 2008-09 NABC Honors Court (sounds like he'd be a nice fit in purple with his academics and shooting prowess)

** Hails from the Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

Liberty lost its first round game of the CIC 72-91 to Notre Dame. Luke Harangody was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring 32 points and nabbing 9 rebounds. Liberty did their best to get physical with Luke, but he responded by knocking down all 10 of his FTA's. But enough about the Domers. Liberty showed some balanced scoring with 5 players in double figures (all starters except for PG Sanders, plus reserve guard Evan Gordon). Liberty has some offensive skills with an impressive 49% overall shooting percentage including 39% from distance. PG Sanders logged the most court time (36 minutes) and racked up 8 assists (and 4 turnovers). Speaking of turnovers, they were Liberty's Achilles heel against ND as they turned it over an alarming 19 times. Defense also doesn't appear to be their strong suit as they gave up 91 points.

Players who like to chuck it from distance are Ohman, Gordon, Minaya, and Jeremy Anderson, though only Ohman and Anderson warrant keeping a close eye on until the other guys prove otherwise. Ohman is their main guy as he is a senior who can fill it up. The coach seems high on Konan, the frosh forward he inked from overseas and is already in the starting lineup.

What to expect? NU seems to have the height and experience advantage inside while Ohman helps to even the scales around the perimeter. Expect the 1-3-1 to cause some damage given how prone the Flames are to turning it over. Let's see if Shurna and Mirkovic can get it going against the Flames. If they continue to struggle, nascent concerns about the front court will begin to gain some validity.