Liberty begins its quest for Big South Championship number four Thursday night against 4-seed Campbell. The 5-seed Flames and Camels are the last game of the quarterfinal round, with tip-off scheduled for approximately 9:30. The game can be seen on ESPN3. It will be the first meeting in the Big South Tournament between the two schools since the 1994 Championship game that Liberty won to advance to its first NCAA Tournament in school history.
Campbell swept the season series with Liberty, winning game 1 in Lynchburg on January 23rd, 94-85, and the rematch on February 18th in Buies Creek, 79-69. The 94 points surrendered in the first meeting is the most points Liberty has allowed since Coach McKay returned as head coach 3 years ago. The 79 points Campbell scored in the rematch is the 4th most points the Flames have given up this season.
“They don’t go into the game up 19-0 because they beat us by 9 and 10,” McKay said of the season series. “It’s 0-0 at a neutral floor. They do have one advantage, they’re in white uniforms and we’re in dark. I hope we can overcome that.”
Behind Chris Clemons and Marcus Burk, the Camels put on a shooting clinic in those two games. First-team All-Big South selection Clemons and Burk, who was named honorable mention all-conference, combined to score 119 points while shooting 28-of-44 (63.6%) from 3 against the Flames. As a team, Campbell was 38-of-60 (63.3%) from 3 in the two games.
“Obviously, 38 threes is significant, 19 a game,” McKay said of the Camel’s offensive onslaught against Liberty this season. “You can go across a multitude of Division I gyms in America, have no defense against sixty 3s, and some wouldn’t make 38. They’ve been blazing hot against us.”
The Camels are one of the better three point shooting teams in the country as they are shooting 38.7% from deep on the season, 38th best in all of Division I. Marcus Burk and Chris Clemons are shooting 40.3% and 37.4%, respectively, from 3 this season.
Liberty is hopeful to have Lovell Cabbil back in the lineup Thursday. The team’s best defender missed the regular season finale with a knee injury. He also missed the first game of the season against Campbell and hasn’t been at 100% much of the conference season. A healthy Cabbil can help slow down Clemons, who is averaging 24.6 points per game, as evidenced by his performance last season. In 2 games against Clemons, a healthy Cabbil limited him to 22.7% from 3.
“Lovell didn’t play the first game (against Campbell),” McKay said. “He was ok in the 2nd game on Clemons, but I think if he’s healthy and in his right mind confidence-wise, he’s proven that he can guard.”
The Flames have lost 4 straight Big South Tournament games with their last win coming in 2013 when Liberty went on an improbable 4 game run to claim the championship. Ritchie McKay is 2-4 all-time in the Big South Tournament including being upset in the quarterfinal round last year by 6-seed Radford when the Flames were the 3-seed.
“We’re not talking about last year,” said McKay. “We have a different team. It’s a new set of circumstances. I do think our guys are confident. Whether or not we can execute against one of the best players in the league and arguably one of the best scorers in the country, that’s another story. If we do a good job on making it hard for (Clemons) and not letting other guys get away from us like Burk did, then we’ll have our chances. If we have our chances, I like our group.”