Liberty vs. North Florida: Preview, Trends
The two Atlantic Sun standouts will square off for the second time on Thursday night
- Thursday’s college basketball schedule includes a potential preview of the Atlantic Sun Championship Game as the North Florida Ospreys visit the Liberty Flames.
- They are currently the top two teams in the conference standings and both have the potential to reach the NCAA Tournament and perhaps pull off a first-round upset.
- Liberty enters the game as a nine-point home favorite with a total of 134 on the board.
- The first time the two teams met, North Florida squeaked out a 71-70 home win over Liberty.
SETTING THE SCENE
At the moment, the Ospreys sit atop the A-Sun standings with an 11-2 record in conference play. North Florida’s overall record is a more modest 18-10. However, they challenged themselves during their non-conference schedule, as some of their losses came against the likes of Iowa, Creighton, Florida State, and Dayton. When they’ve played against teams in their conference, the Ospreys have displayed a dynamic offense that’s averaging 77.8 points per game on the season. North Florida has five players who average at least 10 points per game. In fact, the trio of Garrett Sams, Carter Hendricksen, and Ivan Gandia-Rosa all average more than 14 points per game. All three can light it up from the perimeter, shooting better than 35% from three-point range. Of that group, Gandia-Rose might be the team’s most important player. The senior point guard is averaging 5.9 assists per game, so even when he doesn’t score, he plays a vital role in the North Florida offense by spreading the ball around to the other four players who are capable of putting the ball in the basket.
Liberty might be the most overlooked team in the country, as they head into Thursday’s game 24-3 overall and 10-2 inside the Atlantic Sun. In fairness, the Flames don’t have many impressive wins on the season. But there’s something to be said of a team that has taken care of business nearly every time out. They also play a contrasting style to North Florida, emphasizing the defensive end of the court. Statistically, Liberty is the best defensive team in the country, allowing an average of 51.5 points per game. In conference games, only five of their 12 opponents have scored more than 50 points. Of course, offensively, it can be a struggle for the Flames, who lack the kind of floor general that North Florida has in Gandia-Rose who can distribute the ball and be a facilitator. The silver lining for Liberty is that they shoot 36.2% from three-point range as a team. The guard trio of Caleb Homesley, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, and Darius McGhee are all capable outside shooters who average over nine points per game. If a couple of those guys can get hot from the perimeter, the Flames become a viable offensive team.
When these teams last month, the Ospreys escaped with a 71-70 win on their home floor. North Florida had all five starters score in double figures against the stout Liberty defense, although the Flames also had one of their best offensive performances of the season despite making just four shots from beyond the arc. The rematch will be a fascinating one!
- North Florida has gone 5-8 SU on the road, but 10-3 ATS.
- North Florida has just one loss ATS in a true road game since December 7th (7-1).
- North Florida is 0-7 SU as a road underdog, but 6-1 ATS.
- Liberty is 9-0 SU in true home games, but just 2-7 ATS.
- Liberty hasn’t covered at home since December 21st.
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