Liberty to Play at Notre Dame in NCAA Opener
LYNCHBURG, Va. - About 25 hours after wrapping up its 14th Big South Conference title, the Liberty women's basketball team found out when and where it will be playing next. The Lady Flames are seeded No. 16 in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship's Raleigh regional and will play at No. 1 seed Notre Dame, Sunday in Notre Dame, Ind.
Notre Dame's home court, the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, will be the venue for two first-round contests on Sunday and a second-round matchup next Tuesday. No. 8 seed California (24-9, 13-5 Pac-12) will square off with No. 9 seed Iowa (19-11, 11-5 Big 10) during Sunday's opening game at 12:10 p.m. The Liberty-Notre Dame game will follow at approximately 2:40 p.m. Both games will be televised on ESPN2 by the announcing duo of Dave O'Brien and Doris Burke.
Sunday's two victors will square off next Tuesday in a second-round clash, with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Tipoff time Tuesday is set for 7 p.m., and the winner will advance to play at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., March 25 and 27.
The Lady Flames (24-8, 16-2 Big South) earned their 14th trip to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship in the last 16 years with a come-from-behind 81-73 victory over host High Point in Sunday afternoon's title game of the Big South Women's Basketball Championship.
Liberty enters the NCAA Tournament on a roll, having won seven straight games and 18 of its last 19 contests. Head coach Carey Green's Lady Flames are seeded No. 16 for the third time in program history, but the first since 1998. That year, the 28-0 Lady Flames lost at eventual national champion Tennessee in the opening round.
Liberty has been led by the duo of 6-3 redshirt senior center Avery Warley (13.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg) and 5-10 redshirt junior guard/forward Devon Brown (16.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg) this season. Both players were first team All-Big South honorees and made the Big South All-Tournament Team. Warley was tabbed MVP of the Big South Championship, after averaging 17.0 ppg and 15.7 rpg in Liberty's trio of victories.
Notre Dame (30-3, 15-1 BIG EAST) captured its first-ever BIG EAST regular-season title this season, before losing to Connecticut, 63-54, in the championship game of the BIG EAST Tournament. Coached by Muffet McGraw, the Fighting Irish advanced to the national championship game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship before losing to Texas A&M.
The Notre Dame lineup is highlighted by the trio of 5-9 junior guard Skylar Diggins (17.0 ppg, 5.7 apg), 5-11 senior guard Natalie Novosel (15.0 ppg) and 6-2 redshirt senior forward Devereaux Peters (12.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg). All three players made the All-BIG EAST first team, with Diggins being tabbed BIG EAST Player of the Year and Peters earning BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive season.
Liberty and Notre Dame have faced one another twice on the hardwood, with the Fighting Irish coming away with a pair of victories. Sunday's game will mark the first time the two teams have played at Notre Dame, as the previous contests both occurred during neutral-site tournaments.
The Lady Flames' most recent game against the Fighting Irish happened on Dec. 5, 1999, in Green's fifth game as Liberty's head coach. Notre Dame defeated the Lady Flames by an 85-68 score in the championship tilt of the Wachovia Women's Invitational in Richmond, Va. Kelley (Siemon) Deyo, who was later an assistant coach at Liberty for four seasons (2003-07), was a junior forward on that Notre Dame squad.
Liberty is 1-2 versus BIG EAST opponents in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. The Lady Flames defeated DePaul in the second round in 2005, while dropping first-round contests to DePaul (2006) and Louisville (2009).