HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University women’s basketball team will continue its stretch of four straight road games with a trip to Liberty on Saturday at 4 p.m.
The Panthers (7-5, 3-0 BSC) are off to their best start in Big South play since starting 9-0 in 2011-2012. The team will look to continue that trend against the Big South’s preseason favorite Liberty (7-5, 3-0 BSC) and grab the early lead in the conference race.
Last Time Out:
The Panthers went on the road and picked up a crucial 79-64 win at Coastal Carolina on Tuesday night to move to 3-0 in Big South play. HPU came out of the Christmas break hot, grabbed an early lead and withstood a second-half surge from the Chanticleers to earn the victory.
Four players scoring in double figures including sophomore Kaylah Keys who led the way with 19 points paced the Purple & White offense. Redshirt-senior Stacia Robertson recorded her fifth double-double of the year with 17 points and 16 rebounds to go along with six assists, three steals and two blocks. Senior Latrice Phelps poured in 18 points, with 12 coming in the second half. Sophomore Maja Michalska rounded out the quartet with a career-high 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc in the contest.
In a match up of the Big South’s top two offenses, the Panthers shot 48.5 percent from the floor en route to posting 79 points. Meanwhile, the HPU defense held the Chanticleers to their second-lowest scoring output of the year and just a 36.5 shooting percentage. The Panthers were outrebounded 27-17 in the first half, but flipped the script in the second to finish the game tied 41-41 in boards. HPU was able to control the game inside and outscored CCU 36-26 in the paint and 15-5 in second-chance points.
Liberty entered the 2014-15 season as the preseason favorite to win the Big South and has done nothing to hurt its reputation. Through their first three conference games, the Flames have outscored their opponents by an average of 10 points and have already claimed two road wins.
In their last game, the Flames earned a 67-55 win at UNC Asheville behind 22 points and 13 rebounds from 6-foot-4-inch redshirt-junior Ashley Rininger. Meanwhile, the defense held UNC Asheville to 34.6 shooting and just 2-of-16 from 3-point land. The Flames outrebounded the Bulldogs by seven. Liberty owns a plus-4 rebounding margin on the year.
Redshirt-senior guard Karly Buer is leading the team in scoring with 13.1 points per contest. On the wing sophomore Simone Brown is third on the team in scoring, but is the team’s top 3-point threat going 15-of-30 from outside the arc this season. Sadalia Ellis runs the show at the point. The junior is averaging 8.6 points per contest and is third in the Big South with 4.0 assists a game; she has also racked up 27 steals on the year.
Liberty is an unselfish squad that averages 12.5 assists on their 23 made field goals per game. The team also converts their opportunities at the line shooting 77.3 from the free throw line. The Flames have played well defensively in their three conference games and are holding their opponents to 31.2 percent shooting.
• Stacia Robertson has been stuffing the stat sheet like no other player in the country, literally. The redshirt-senior is the only player in the nation to average at least 10 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and three steals per contest. She is just one of 45 players nationally averaging a double-double.
• The Panthers trail the all-time series with the Flames by a 32-13 margin. However, HPU has a chance to win its fourth straight game at Liberty after earning victories in the Vines Center in each of the last three seasons. The team is 3-1 vs. the Flames under third-year head coach DeUnna Hendrix.
• The Panthers went 2-0 against the Flames last season with two 5-point victories. Sophomore Kaylah Keys was superb in both of those wins scoring 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc in the home win before going off for 26 points in the overtime win in Lynchburg, Va. Redshirt-senior Lindsay Puckett played a key role as well with 17 points and 13 points in those wins.
• The Panthers have won eight straight conference games dating back to Feb. 17, 2014. It’s the longest winning streak in Big South play since the team opened 9-0 in the league from Dec. 31, 2011 to Feb. 4, 2012.
• The game will feature the Big South’s two most prolific offenses as the Panthers are second in the Big South in scoring averaging 70.8 points per game. The team was on pace to break the Div. I era record of 72.5, which was set last season, before back-to-back outings in the 50s against VCU and Nebraska. Meanwhile Liberty is third in scoring with 66.7 points per contest.
• Kaylah Keys and Stacia Robertson form the highest-scoring tandem in the Big South. The inside-outside duo is averaging 31.0 points a game. Keys leads the league with 16.1 ppg while Robertson is second with 14.9 ppg.
• Kaylah Keys has posted 20 or more points 14 times in just 23 career Big South regular season contests. She has scored in double figures in all but one of her 23 Big South games and is averaging 20.2 points per conference game in her career.
HPU will return to the Millis Center for the first time since Dec. 8 when it hosts Campbell at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 5. The Panthers will then play at Charleston Southern on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m.