Even before his team took the floor for pregame warm-ups, Winthrop women's coach Bud Childers had a sick feeling deep in his stomach that host Liberty wouldn't be getting the best the Eagles had to offer.
Boy, was he right.
"When we played Liberty the first time, we were coming off that loss to Coastal," Childers said, alluding to a less-than-stellar home performance that resulted in a 57-52 loss.
"Our confidence was shaken and everybody was upset about it because we had played such a miserable game. Then half the team had the flu. We had every excuse known to man to lose and we went out and played like it."
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To hang with the Lady Flames, who won 10 straight BSC championships before stumbling last season, nothing less than a team's 'A' game will get it done, especially at the Vines Center in Lynchburg, Va.
That loss served as a wake-up call for the Eagles, who have picked up their play at the perfect time.
"We have played some pretty good basketball here of late," Childers said. "We've won three straight and four of our last five. We've been getting good play from a variety of people and we'll need that this week when we step up to the plate against two of the best in the league this year."
Winthrop has two big games this week, starting at 7 p.m. today when league-leading Liberty (24-2, 9-0 Big South) comes to town. Liberty, the No. 2 pick in the preseason poll, has already clinched no worse than a tie for the regular-season title and can win it outright, earning the No. 1 seed and first-round bye in the conference tournament, by beating Winthrop for the 35th time in 41 meetings.
The Eagles are 18-9, 6-3 and tied with Radford -- Saturday's road opponent -- for second place.
Instead of smarting from the loss to Coastal, the Eagles come into tonight's game on the heels of an impressive 66-52 win in Conway.
Ashley Fann led the scoring with 18 points, but sophomore Shanice Cole stepped up with 12 points and 12 boards, her first career double-double. Shelly Hankins chipped in seven points off the bench, while point guard Yvonne van Daalen had just three turnovers in 34 minutes against a harassing Lady Chanticleers defense.
The Eagles also dominated the boards -- 42-31 -- and scored 36 points in the paint, compared to just 14 when the teams played in Rock Hill. Winthrop's defense held Coastal's big guns -- Lacey Lyons and Vicky Blanchard -- to 19 points. The duo combined for 32 in Coastal's victory.
It will take that kind of effort and a little more to defeat the Lady Flames.
Coach Carey Green has a talent-laden team that's led by the Frazee triplets -- Megan, the BSC preseason player of the year, Moriah and Molly.
Megan averages 18.1 points per game, Moriah 13.2 and Molly 7.5. Complementing the triplets are senior guards Courtney Watkins and Allyson Fasnacht.
"We're playing our best conference basketball since I've been here," Childers said. "We've just got to keep believing in ourselves. Our players are still convinced we can have a great season, not just a good season.
"We've had a good season. But we want a great season and to do that we have to have a strong finish, get that big win and get to the postseason."
• When: 7 p.m.
• Where: Winthrop Coliseum
• TV: None
• On the Web: winthropeagles.com, click on "Listen Live"
• Tickets: Available at the box office
• Winthrop gameday, Big South standings • 2C