Scouting Report: Liberty

Arizona tries to win their 24th Fiesta Bowl Classic and the Wildcats start by facing Liberty in the opening game. The small school has struggled this season but has played the likes of Duke, Seton Hall and Iowa State. Arizona hopes to use the Flames to fine tune things before the start of Pac-10 play.

No. 5 Arizona (6-1) vs. Liberty (3-7)
Date: Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003
Time: 4 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court at McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls)
TV: KWBA (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)

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Liberty at a glance
Coach: Randy Dunton
Location: Lynchburg, VA
Starters Returning: 4
2002-03 Record: 14-15 (8-6)
Conference: Mountain West
Post Season: none
Last Meeting: The two schools have never met.

Team Leaders
Scoring: Gabe Martin 14.0 ppg
Rebounding: Martin 6.2 rpg
Assists: Brian Woodson 4.4 apg

LAST TIME OUT: Arizona beat San Diego State 83-71. Liberty fell to Old Dominion 87-66.

OVERVIEW: Liberty has been taking on all comers. The Flames have already played Duke, Iowa State and Seton Hall and played them all tough in stretches. Liberty Coach Randy Dunton wants to build the program into a feared mid-major and he feels that the way to do it is to play great teams. Dunton doesn't really expect to beat the Wildcats, but feels that his team can give them a game like they did against Duke when they were within seven at the half.

Liberty likes to get up and down the floor, but will try to play under control against the high-octane Wildcats. Dunton hopes the Cats play with a little reckless abandon.

"We're hoping to be a very patient team," Dunton said. "We hope they shoot it quick."

The secret to Liberty's success is rebounding. If Liberty has any chance in this one they have to control the boards. They were able to do that in small stretches against Duke and Iowa State, but haven't been able to do it for two halves.

The Flames have good size on the front line. Louvon Sneed and Jason Sarchet lack some height, but make up for it in bulk. Sneed is 6-7, 255, while Sarchet is 6-8 225.

"There is some weight and size in the four and five positions for their team," Lute Olson said. "They are pretty much a veteran team with three seniors in the front line."

The Flames could give the Wildcats some trouble on offense as they screen very well, something the Cats have had some trouble fighting through and switching off of. Arizona has been susceptible to the three-point shot and the best looks have come off of screens.

"They do a nice job with their offensive sets and will create some problems from a defensive standpoint," Olson said. "They do a good job of screening. One of our biggest problems to this point has been communication. I think it is getting better."

BEST PLAYER: Gabe Martin, F/G. Martin is an undersized small forward but leads the Flames in scoring and rebounding. Martin shoots very well from inside the arc and is a terrific rebounder for a player 6-4.

LIBERTY'S STRENGTHS: The Flames are a well coached team that has some size on the front line.

LIBERTY'S WEAKNESSES: They don't have the talent that Arizona has and are poor shooters. Liberty shoots just 39.8% from the field and under 26% from three-point range.

OUTLOOK: Honestly the Flames are looking at this as a springboard game to the second day of the tournament. Realistically they'd like to go 1-1 on their trip to Tucson, and play the Wildcats reasonably close. They really don't have the talent to hang with Arizona for more than a half.

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