Game #9-551: Liberty Flames vs. High Point PanthersMarch 7, 2013 8:00 pm
Myrtle Beach, SC
I was not very confident going into this Big South quarterfinal on High Point's chances against Liberty. High Point had won the North Division and six more games in conference play than the Flames had. But that had largely come from John Brown, which High Point did not have. Of course, my main worry of seeing High Point taken in out in one game on the road was squashed by Liberty destroying host Coastal Carolina
. But Liberty had done so in a convincing manner, and I did not see how Allan Chaney was supposed to by himself shutdown Liberty's frontcourt. And when has HPU defended shooters like Davon Marshall well? And the thought going through my head now was, oh no, it should not end with a loss to Liberty. Three years ago the HPU baseball team had its successful season end on a controversial call to the Flames. And among schools in the Big South, Liberty is the school to fear. They spend a lot of money, and while they don't get a lot of bang for the buck Liberty still has competitive teams in every sport. The women's basketball team at Liberty has only twice in the last 17 years not won the Big South title. What was there to stop the LU men from such a run? I did not think it would be us.
So this looked like it would be the death of a good season for High Point. Last season I wrote about the cruel ending of the season
, "And this was just a game. Fortunately our personal lives do not work like basketball. We do not have to kill one another for the resources to continue to survive. That would really be awful. That's what basketball is like, and that is our entertainment." I have always thought that would make an interesting concept for a book. Shortly after I wrote that, I learned that there was a book with that exact concept. It's called The Hunger Games, and you probably heard about it like I did when the successful movie based on the book came out. While the book is aimed at teenagers (particularly girls), the book and movie has a lot of parallels to Our Game. You have teenagers exploited at the national level while they kill each other for mass entertainment. The "career districts" have the most financial resources and (illegally) put much of their resources into training youths to fight for glory. Does that not sound like the schools above the Red Line? And then there are nine other districts out of 12, where the majority of the residents dread the Games knowing that their kids are most of the time to going to hopelessly die in the end. The book is actually about war, and the parallels to Our Game has to do with that our sports often mimic war (both intentionally and unintentionally). And for most everybody involved, it always ends in a loss. That last point is the emphasis of the Capitol (the Sports Bubble/NCAA parallel here) in the book's sequel.
So High Point and most of the conference is definitely like the troubled District 12 in the novel, the poorest of the poor. So where does a school like Liberty University fit into this universe? They certainly are not a career district, shunned by the FBS conferences they have long tried to join. But is Liberty like the rest of us? Liberty spends $30 million total on athletics, $2.3 million of which directly goes to men's basketball. Just as a reminder, the Red Line cut off for conferences is an average of $20 million total and $2 million for men's basketball. Does this sound like a school that belongs in one of Division I's poorest conferences? Liberty spends nearly twice as much on sports than Coastal Carolina (who spends $18 million) whom is second in the conference in athletic spending. Liberty spends more than six times as much on sports as the two-time defending champions UNC Asheville. And Liberty spends three times as much on sports than High Point.
So with that said, we definitely were up to a tall task here. Liberty may be a conference opponent, but winning would require a Red Line Upset-like performance. And without John Brown, things looked REAL bad early. At the first media timeout, Liberty led 9-0. I knew at this point I should not be getting my hopes up. High Point then held steady most of the remainder of the half. But Tavares Speaks would take over for the Flames again late in the half which pulled out to a 39-22 halftime lead. That seemed to be the game right there.
So when I watched the second half, I felt that HPU was a dead man walking team after my pregame expectations and then the first half. But unlike Coastal Carolina two days earlier, High Point did not fold when things got bad. Dejuan McGaughey continued to show the improvement he has made over the course of the season. Allan Chaney was getting to the basket more, just like he did in a comeback win over Campbell five days prior
. Everybody stepped their game up, and HPU mounted a bit of a comeback here. High Point cut the Flames lead to two at the final media timeout. But Davon Marshall appeared to be taking over again, making free throws and a superhoop to put Liberty up nine with less than three minutes left. McGaughey stepped up his game, and HPU managed to get some pivotal defensive stops. A layup by Lorenzo Cugini with 40 seconds left cut the Flames' lead to one with 40 seconds left. So do you foul here, or let Liberty use the whole shot clock to take the clock down to five seconds? While I do not like fouling, I liked the guarantee of it still being a one possession game when HPU had the ball again since LU only led by one point. But HPU coach Scott Cherry elected for the latter as Liberty took a shot at the shot clock buzzer that went out of bounds with four seconds left. Coming out of a timeout, all HPU could manage was Adam Weary driving cross-court into traffic and not getting a clean shot off. Liberty had finished us again, and it was just as painful as last year in a different way when we lost to UNC Asheville.
It's season ending games like this one that makes me upset watching Our Game late in the season. The death of a season is never good. And it is especially so when you know that you do not even have the financial resources to win with consistency even in the Big South. As I mentioned in that recap of the Campbell game, President Nido Qubein has tried to do a lot to get High Point on the map in a short period of time. But so has Liberty, and for all his wealth Qubein will never be able to match the family of the late Jerry Falwell. College sports are an unfair fight. While we are very happy with the success of Wichita State and Florida Gulf Coast this year, it must be noted that the two biggest spenders in college athletics aside from Texas (Ohio State and Florida) as well as the biggest basketball spender (Duke) are all among the final eight teams in the country. And that is what all of us in Hoops Nation have to deal with, as Liberty ultimately would have as well if they made the Round of 64.
LIBERTY 61, HIGH POINT 60
LIBERTY 13-20 (6-10) -- T. Speaks 7-12 3-4 17; D. Marshall 5-8 2-2 16; J. Sanders 3-12 6-6 12; A. Smith 1-1 2-2 4; T. Gielo 2-7 0-0 4; J. Coronado 1-2 2-2 4; J. Vander Pol 1-2 2-2 4; C. Roberts 0-1 0-0 0; S. Ogukwe 0-0 0-0 0; L. Taylor 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 17-18 61.
HIGH POINT 17-13 (12-4) -- A. Weary 2-10 5-6 9; A. Chaney 6-10 4-5 17; D. McGaughy 5-11 1-1 13; D. Edwards 1-8 0-0 3; C. Law 1-4 7-12 9; B. Mikulic 0-3 0-0 0; D. Wallace 0-2 0-0 0; H. McIntyre 1-2 1-2 3; J. Simms 1-3 0-0 2; L. Cugini 2-4 0-0 4; T. Duncan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-57 18-26 60.
Three-point goals: LIB 4-11 (J. Caleb Sanders 0-2; T. Gielo 0-2; D. Marshall 4-7), HP 4-19 (A. Chaney 1-2; D. Wallace 0-1; B. Mikulic 0-3; L. Cugini 0-1; D. Edwards 1-4; D. McGaughy 2-5; A. Weary 0-3); Rebounds: LIB 31 (J. Coronado 7), HP 27 (A. Chaney 8); Assists: LIB 10 (J. Caleb Sanders 5), HP 7 (A. Weary 3); Total Fouls -- LIB 20, HP 17; Fouled Out: LIB-None; HP-None.
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