Liberty (5-2) has a big test looming on Saturday in the Vines Center when they meet up with UNC Greensboro (4-3) with tip-off scheduled for 1pm.
The Spartans, behind 7th year head coach Wes Miller, won a program-record 25 games last year, going 25-10 overall and 14-4 in the Southern Conference to claim share of the regular season league title. UNCG reached the title game of the conference tournament and earned the SOCON’s automatic bid to the NIT.
Miller’s squad returns 7 of 9 from last season’s rotation including leading scorer and preseason All-SOCON pick Francis Alonso. The 6’3″ junior guard ranked 3rd in NCAA Division I in 3 point percentage, connecting on 46.2% of his shots from deep a year ago. Alonso is off to a terrific start to his junior campaign, averaging 17 points per game while shooting 48% from 3.
UNCG was picked 3rd in the preseason SOCON media poll and are conference rivals of Mercer, whom the Flames lost to in the first round of the Paradise Jam. Forwards Marvin Smith and James Dickey lead a frontline that sports 3 starters that are 6’6″ or taller. The 6’6″ Smith is 2nd on the team in scoring, averaging 11.6 points per game. He also grabs 5 rebounds each contest. The 6’10” Dickey leads the Spartans with 9.35 rebounds per game.
Greensboro’s first 2 losses this season have come at the hands of ACC foes Virginia and Wake Forest. Miller’s squad lost to the Demon Deacons, 81-75, in Winston-Salem last Friday. They were also upset by Big South member Presbyterian on a buzzer beater Tuesday night. The Spartans beat Longwood by a 71-40 rout on November 21.
The Flames are 9-8 all-time against UNCG, including a 72-65 loss in Greensboro last year.