Camels and Red Flash face off Thursday in WBI first round

(Will Bratton photo)
(Will Bratton photo)

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BUIES CREEK, N.C. --- Campbell will open play in the Women's Basketball Invitational Thursday night in a first round matchup against St. Francis (Pa.) inside Gore Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Thursday will be the Camels' first ever appearance in the WBI and the program's first postseason appearance since the 2000 NCAA Tournament. It will also mark the first ever women's basketball postseason contest played in Buies Creek.

Campbell (21-9) matched its highest regular-season win total in program history with an eight-win turnaround from last season. CU finished second in the Big South Conference with a 13-5 record after being picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches poll.

Live coverage of Thursday's game can be found on the Big South Network with Bill Priestly on the call. Live stats can be found at gocamels.com and in-game updates will be provided on the Camels' Twitter page, @GoCamelsWBB.

Tickets are available for purchase in advance at gocamels.com and at the box office located in front of the John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center. Campbell Athletics will also be giving away free tee-shirts to the first 200 Campbell students in attendance.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

THE WBI: 2017 marks the eighth edition of WBI. The 16-team tournament will take place over two weeks with all games being played on campus sites. A single-elimination format, the WBI bracket is divided into two regions with eight seeded teams on each side.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The winner of Thursday's game will play the winner of Wednesday night's Southern Illinois at Milwaukee first round game in the second round of the WBI.

20: The Camels hit the 20-win mark in regular season play for just the fourth time in program history and it was the first time since the 2000-01 season.

LAST TIME OUT: Second-seeded Campbell was upset in the quarterfinals of the Big South Championship by seventh-seeded and eventual champions UNC Asheville. Summer Price led the Camels with a game-high 19 points, but Campbell couldn't overcome a 12-point third period deficit and never led in the contest.

BIG SOUTH HONORS: MaKala Rouse was named the Big South Defensive Player of the Year while head coach Ronny Fisher was named the league's Coach of the Year. Summer Price earned all-conference second team honors while Brianna Cribb landed on the all-academic team. Rouse was also a honorable mention selection.

HEAD COACH RONNY FISHER: The Camels are in the first season under Big South Coach of the year Ronny Fisher. Fisher is coming off eight seasons at Presbyterian where he turned a brand new Division I program into a Big South contender in a short amount of time. He recently recorded his 100th victory on the sidelines and led the Camels to an eight-win regular season turnaround and the second 20-win season in the last 15 years.

THE COUNTRY'S TOP DEFENSE: CU has had the top scoring defense in all of NCAA DI for the past 13 weeks, as their opponent's scoring tally sits at just 48.6 points per game. That's three points lower than second place Green Bay and five points lower than sixth place and national power UConn, who is ranked first in the national polls. Campbell has held eight opponents under 40 points this year including a season-low 30 by N.C. Central.

A LITTLE MORE DEFENSIVE: Campbell's overall field goal percentage defense ranks 32nd nationally (.365).

LEADING THE CHARGE: Junior guards Price and Rouse are the leaders of the Camel offense. Price is averaging a team-high 13.1 points per game, which ranks sixth in the Big South. She scored in double figures in 12 of the last 14 regular season games and five of those were 20-point outings. Rouse set a new career-high point total five times this year and her season scoring average stands at 8.9 points per game with 12 double-figure scoring efforts.

THE LONG BALL: Caroline Bowns sits among the best three point shooters in the Big South. Her .421 shooting from long range tops the league & ranks 20th nationally while her 64 threes & 2.13 treys per game ranks second.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Campbell and St. Francis have only squared off once in each program's history. It was on New Year's Eve in 1994 when the Red Flash came away with the victory on their home court during a holiday tournament.

SCOUTING THE RED FLASH: St. Francis (16-14) finished second in the Northeast Conference, but was defeated in the NEC Championship quarterfinals. The Red Flash are a force beyond the arc, ranking second nationally with 10.6 threes per game, third nationally in three-point field goal attempts (1,009) and fifth in three-point field goals made (319). St. Francis boasts scoring offense of 75.8 points per game, which stands 22nd nationally. Defensively, SFU is second in the country in blocks (6.5 per game), 11th in steals (11.4 per game) and 16th in forced turnovers (20.57 per game). However, the Red Flash are giving up 73.9 points per game, which ranks 329th out of 345 DI teams. Also, SFU boasts a -9.2 rebounding margin. That tally is 338th out of 345 teams. Jessica Kovatch leads the Red Flash offense with 21.4 points per game. That stands 11th in Division I and her 105 threes are seventh. Courtney Zezza ranked fourth nationally in blocks with 3.50 per game and 105 total.