The Flames look to respond against Winthrop today after a depressing loss at Charleston Southern. Things seemed to fall apart for the Flames in the road loss, but due to no real emerging teams in the Big South, the Flames could still be competitive if they can put things back together. Liberty finds themselves only two games back of the BSC North leaders at 3-5, but will have to drastically improve their play to stay in the mix.

They’ll have their chance tonight against Winthrop in the Vines Center.

Winthrop-LogoTeam Introduction
Winthrop enters the contest at 10-10 and 4-4 in the Big South. The Eagles have dropped their last two games, at High Point and at home against Radford, but have had impressive wins against Coastal, VMI, and Charleston Southern. They are coached by Pat Kelsey who is in his second year.

The Winthrop offense might be the worst in the Big South. They shoot just 43% from the field and have the lowest offensive efficiency rating in the Big South according to KenPom. They don’t really have any main scorers, but they do boast four players averaging double digits: Keon Moore (12.8), Keon Johnson (12.4), Joab Jerome (11.6), and Andre Smith (10.4).

Defense has been the key to Winthrop’s success. According to KenPom they rank second in the Big South in defensive efficiency. This has been, in part, due to their ability to create turnovers. Compare their 9.3 steals a game to the Flames’ 5.9. Remarkably, teams turn the ball over more than once every five possessions against the Eagles. The Flames have turned the ball over on 22% of possessions this year, so don’t be surprised if the Winthrop D is effective tomorrow.

If you haven’t yet bought the Eagle defense, take a look at their win over VMI in which they held the Cadets to 57 points.  That is the least the nation’s number 1 scoring offense (89.8 ppg) has scored in a Big South contest by 23 points.

Player Turnover
He’s still in the program, but not having Derrick Henry due to an ACL tear during last season has been tough on the Eagles. He led the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game. The other major loss is Gideon Gamble who averaged 9.5 points and 4 rebounds.

Possible Starters
Guard: Andre Smith (#11) 5’10” Junior- Averaging 10.4 points per game along with 2.4 assists (tied for team high) is the 5’10” Smith. He is good with the ball, and limits turnovers. He also shoots 41% from 3.

Guard: Keon Johnson (#5) 5’7″ Freshman- At just 5 foot 7, Keon Johnson is having a great Freshman campaign. He leads the team in points, averaging 12.4 per game while shooting 43% from 3.

Guard: Keon Moore (#10) 6’5″ Junior- Moore averages 12.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest. After an injury held him out of some early season contests, Moore has really hit his stride, leading the team in points per game.

Forward: Joab Jerome  (#4) 6’5″ Senior- Jerome may be Winthrop’s best rounded player, averaging 11.6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. He is shooting an incredible 49% from 3 this year.

Forward: Tevin Prescott (#31) 6’5 Sophomore- Prescott is a role player who will often be interchanged with James Bourne. He is very efficient on offense, shooting 62.5% from the field, but only scores 5.8 points per game.

Forward: James Bourne (#14) 6’8″ Junior- Bourne is Winthrop’s best rebounder, snatching 4.4 boards per game. He also adds an average of 5.6 points, but has been scoreless over the past two contests.

The Flames have let me down in my last couple of predictions, but I’m going to give them one more chance. They had a really bad outing at Charleston Southern and I think they’ll be looking to reclaim some of their pride back home in the Vines. It will take an all around effort and Liberty will have to limit turnovers against one of the best teams in the Big South at taking the ball away, but I think they’ll get it done. The Flames finally win a close one 65-62.