Liberty (2-0) has moved its headquarters to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the next few days as the Flames compete in the Myrtle Beach Invitational. It is a really good field made up of eight of the top mid-major programs in the country and Liberty will get to play three games against high quality competition.
The Flames will take on Furman (2-0) on Thursday night to get the tournament started. Here’s what you need to know about the game:
How to Watch
7:00 p.m. ET | Thursday, November 16
Conway, SC | HTC Center
Liberty vs Furman Odds (KenPom)
Spread: Liberty -3
Projected score: Liberty 75, Furman 72
Liberty Projected Starters
#0 Colin Porter
Sophomore Guard | 5’9″, 170
8.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, 40.0% 3-point
#3 Kaden Metheny
R-Junior Guard | 5’10”, 170
7 ppg, 2 apg, 3 rpg
#23 Joseph Venzant
Junior Guard | 6’3″, 200
5 ppg, 8.5 rpg
#22 Kyle Rode
R-Senior Forward | 6’7″, 220
16 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2 apg
#25 Zach Cleveland
Sophomore Forward | 6’7″, 215
9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Liberty vs Furman History
Liberty is 1-5 all-time against Furman with the most recent meeting coming during the 2016-17 season. The Flames lost that game, 61-58, in Lynchburg, Virginia at the Vines Center on December 6, 2016. Ryan Kemrite led Liberty that day in scoring with 18 points.
Liberty vs Furman Storylines
FURMAN A TOP MID MAJOR PROGRAM
Under head coach Bob Richey, the Paladins have established themselves as one of the most consistent and better programs at the mid-major level. Richey has guided Furman to a 141-55 overall record during his seven seasons in Greenville, South Carolina. This is his first head coaching job after first serving as an assistant at Charleston Southern followed by Furman.
The Paladins have been ranked in the top 100 of KenPom in each of Richey’s seven seasons and have won at least 20 games in five of the last six seasons.
Richey and Furman’s success was highlighted last season by their run to the NCAA Tournament where they defeated Virginia in the first round of the Big Dance as a 13-seed before falling to San Diego State. The Paladins finished the season at 28-8 and 15-3 in the Southern Conference.
If the first week of the season is any indication, Furman will be another really strong team once again this season. The preseason favorite in the SoCon, the Paladins defeated Belmont, 99-76, on Friday to improve to 2-0 on the season following a season opening win against North Greenville.
“Furman is such a formidable opponent,” said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. “They’ve been in the top 100 in KenPom every year coach Richey has been there. Obviously, they beat Virginia last year and gave San Diego State a battle. They’ve got a squad. We will really be tested. This is what you want.”
GUARDS TO CHALLENGE FLAMES
Furman boasts one of the best backcourts at the mid-major level. The group is highlighted by preseason SoCon first team selections JP Pegues and Marcus Foster. Pegues, who hit the game winner against Virginia in last year’s NCAA Tournament, picked up where he left off with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists in the dominating win over Belmont last week.
Marcus Foster, a 6’4″ guard, is averaging 17 points and 6.5 rebounds per game so far this season. The Paladins also can bring in PJay Smith (12 ppg) and Carter Whitt (8 ppg, Wake Forest transfer) to compliment the play of Pegues and Foster.
It is a backcourt that will challenge the Flames’ Porter, Metheny, Venzant, and Peebles.
“That backcourt is legit,” said McKay. “They are talented and they are incredibly well coached. It presents a problem, but I think our guys want the competition. We aspire to have a program that can compete for championships. The only way to do that is to play really good people. We certainly have that in front of us Thursday.”
ONE OF THE TOUGHEST GAMES LIBERTY WILL PLAY
The name Furman might not move the needle among the average college basketball fan, but for those that follow mid-major basketball closely, they will know how good this Furman team and program is.
This game against Furman will be one of the most challenging Liberty will play all season during the non-conference slate. The Paladins are arguably the most talented and complete team in the Myrtle Beach Invitational field, and, outside of top 25 teams FAU and Alabama, they may be the biggest test Liberty will face this season out of conference.
Pregame Press Conference