Spartans host Liberty to open 2011-12 women's basketball season
UNCG (0-0, 0-0 SoCon) vs. Liberty (0-0, 0-0 Big South), Nov. 11, 7 p.m., Fleming Gymnasium
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• A new era begins Friday as UNCG will host Liberty in its first game of 2011-12 and its first under head coach Wendy Palmer. Palmer replaces Lynne Agee, who retired in March after a decorated 30-year career on the sidelines for the Spartans.
• The Spartans are kicking off their 43rd season of women's basketball. UNCG is 20-22 all-time in season-openers, including an 8-12 mark since moving to NCAA Division I for the 1991-92 season.
• UNCG is 28-14 all-time in home-openers, including a 10-3 mark in its last 13. The Spartans are 14-8 in home-openers at Fleming Gym and have hosted Liberty for their home-opener once before, with the Flames taking a 62-44 win in 2007.
• The Spartans have also opened the season with Liberty once before, topping the Flames 50-48 to kick off the 1992-93 season.
• Palmer inherits a team that went 13-16 overall last season, including a 10-10 mark in Southern Conference play.
• UNCG has plenty of veteran leadership returning from last year's squad. Seniors Jazz Weaver and Sarah Folwell and redshirt junior Amy Clapper all enter their fourth seasons on the roster, while junior Dayshaun Richbow and sophomore Janae' Stevenson combined to start all but three games last year.
• Stevenson was a SoCon All-Freshman selection a year ago, when she averaged 7.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. She was seventh in the SoCon in rebounding and became the first freshman to lead the Spartans in that category since the 1996-97 season, when UNCG Hall of Famer Melinda Goodson did so.
• After tying for fifth in the SoCon standings, UNCG was picked to finish eighth this year by both the league's coaches and media.
• The Spartans went 66-12 in league play as members of the Big South Conference from 1992-97, winning regular-season titles in each of their five years in the league.
• UNCG leads the series against Liberty, 14-6, but the Flames have won two straight and three of the last four. Liberty's first win in that run came in 1996-97 in the Big South tournament. After the Spartans swept the Flames in the regular season that year, Liberty won the first of 10 straight tournament titles with an 89-82 win over UNCG in the title game. The teams renewed their rivalry in 2006 when they met in College Park, Md., with UNCG taking the win, but Liberty followed with wins in 2007 and 2009.
• Liberty went 22-11 overall last year, winning the Big South regular season with a 14-2 league mark. The Flames, who participated in the postseason WNIT last season, are the preseason favorites to win the league again this year and are ranked No. 20 in the preseason CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25.
• The Flames are led by redshirt senior Avery Warley, who is the preseason Big South Player of the Year and represented the United States at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October. Warley, who averaged a double-double in 2010-11, was the Big South's Defensive Player of the Year last season. Liberty also returns two-time All-BSC first-teamer Devon Brown, who joins Warley on the Big South preseason team this year.
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