Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ten for the Decade

We mark the end of the decade with our own all-Virginia team, recognizing the 10 best players of the last 10 years to play Division I basketball in the state.

Some parameters: We only considered players who played at least three seasons in the decade and we started with the 1999-2000 season. If you're looking for James Madison's Dawn Evans, she was not eligible under this criteria. Nor was Lucienne Berthieu, who played just two years in the decade (Berthieu sat out 2000-01 with a torn ACL)

It was a tough cut. We left off Old Dominion's TJ Jordan and Monique Coker, Richmond's Kate Flavin, VCU's Kristine Austgulen, James Madison's Meredith Alexis and William and Mary's Kyra Kaylor. We looked at statistics, obviously, but we also considered impact - one reason why Hollingsworth got the nod over Austgulen.

We think we've picked a solid 10, but as usual, we'd like your thoughts. Who'd we leave out? Who doesn't belong? Please share your comments with us and we'll turn them into a post.


Tamera Young James Madison (2004-2008): Pig tails were her trademark oncourt as was tendency to shoot from any spot on the court. Her 2,121 points are the most ever scored in the Colonial Athletic Association and her 1,127 rebounds ranks third on the list. The CAA's Player of the Year her senior season when she was also an All-America honorable mention, Young led the Dukes to the third round of the WNIT. Her name is everywhere in the JMU record book, including career starts (125), career steals (275), most points scored in a season (693) and games in double figures (44). Young became the first JMU player to be drafted by the WNBA when she was chosen eighth overall by the Atlanta Dream. She hails from Laney High in Wilmington, NC, a place that knows how to produce basketball players.

Ieva Kublina, Virginia Tech (2000-2004): Towering center from Latvia is the leading shot-blocker in Tech history with 256 rejections. Kublina was the Big East's Most Improved Player in 2002, Big East first team in 2003 and Big East second team in 2004. Her 845 rebounds is second all-time at Tech, and her 1,647 points rank her third.Kublina, who started the final 95 games of her collegiate career, was drafted 31st overall by the WNBA's Indiana Fever.

Monica Wright, Virginia (2006-present): The only active player on the list, Virginia's elegant wing guard who stands 5-11 continues to add to a resume that is filled with accolades. A preseason All-American this year and the preseason ACC Player of the Year, Wright scored her 2,000th point against Georgia and has led the Cavaliers in scoring each of the last three years. Her 35 points at Thompson-Boling Arena in 2008 led Virginia to its first victory over Tennessee in 12 years. A finalist for the Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award her junior season, Wright will surely repeat those honors in what is the start of a dynamic senior season.

Hamchetou Maiga, Old Dominion (1998-2002): Mali's Queen of Basketball was also one of the most athletically gifted players to ever step on the court for the storied Lady Monarchs. Maiga was an All-American her senior season and the CAA's Player of the Year in 2002, leading the Lady Monarchs to the Elite Eight. The 6-2 forward was recently honored as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association's Senior Anniversary team. She was drafted eighth by the Houston Comets and captained Mali in the 2008 Olympics.

Shareese Grant, Old Dominion (2001-2005): Impact was a significant factor in determining our all-decade team, and while one game isn't enough to brand you as an elite player, Grant's feat in the CAA tournament championship in 2005 was a marvel. Delaware had swept ODU during the season and dominated them in the first half of the conference championship game at the Patriot Center . With ODU's front line fouled out, Grant rediscovered her smooth touch and the sweet pullup jumper that set her apart. The Virginia Beach native scored a career-high 35 points to rally the Lady Monarchs in overtime. Postgame, disappointed Delaware coach Tina Martin quipped that ODU won because "they had Shareese Grant and we didn't." Grant picked up her third consecutive tournament MVP honors and was named an honorable mention All-American. The 5-8 guard ranks 16th all time in CAA scoring with 1,447 points.

Quanitra Hollingsworth, Virginia Commonwealth 2005-2009: Prodigy from Chesapeake, Va., was in a college uniform at 16 after skipping two grades. The CAA Rookie of the Year, Hollingsworth was a four-time all-league selection who graduated as VCU's all-time leader in rebounds (1,114) and ranks second in career scoring (1,604). During Hollingsworth's senior season, she led the Rams to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. She was drafted ninth overall by the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx and became the youngest American to ever play in the league.

Sharnee Zoll, Virginia 2003-2007: Zoll has been left speechless twice in her life: when she met Allen Iverson and when she broke Dawn Staley's assist record at Virginia. The ACC's all-time assist leader finished with 785 assists at Virginia, averaging at least 6 apg for four years. Zoll scored 1,169 points for Virginia and had 234 steals. She started 131 of 133 games and led the Cavaliers to the NCAA tournament's second round her senior year. The Marlboro, NJ native was the first pick selected in the third round by the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.

Katie Feenstra, Liberty (2001-2005): Feenstra's accomplishments are large at Liberty, where she was the three-time Big South Player of the Year. The 6-8 center is the tallest woman to ever play in the Big South. A Wade Trophy, Naismith and Wooden Award nominee ,Feenstra is the all-time shot blocker in the conference. Feenstra finished her career in Liberty as one of only two players in the nation to lead the NCAA in field-goal percentage (2004, 2005), and she is the lone Big South player to earn conference tournament MVP honors three consecutive years. Behind Feenstra's 22 points and 11 rebounds , Liberty defeated Penn State in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2005 and went on to reach the Sweet 16. She was drafted eighth overall by theWNBA's Connecticut Sun in 2005.

Megan Frazee, Liberty (2005-2009): The 2008 Big South Player of the Year, 6-3 Frazee held the distinction of being able to rise in big games. Her career included noteworthy feats against Virginia (37 points, 15 rebounds), North Carolina (18 points, 12 rebounds), North Carolina State (29 points, 7 rebounds) and George Washington (28 points, 10 rebounds). Flames fans will never forget Frazee sinking the game-winner over Radford with 0.3 seconds left in the Big South championship game her junior year. Frazee averaged 18.6 ppg for her career, shooting 59 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3. Sisters Molly and Moriah also played for Liberty as the Frazees are the lone triplets to ever play Division I basketball together.

Jen Derevjanik, George Mason (1999-2004): JenDev started a school record 116 games for the Patriots and ranks third in points (1,637) and assists (469). Derevjanik averaged 17.1 points her senior year and led GMU to the conference championship game with 40 points in the semifinals. The Patriots advanced to the 2004 WNIT, only the second postseason berth for GMU. Undrafted, Derevjanik was one of only 39 players to make the cut for the Connecticut Sun after a two-day free agent camp.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

James Madison, Virginia Tech win holiday tournaments

What's that Perry Como said about "There's no place like home for the holidays"? James Madison and Virginia Tech can relate. Both schools wrapped up holiday tournaments on their home courts on Wednesday to close out the non-conference season.

Wednesday's results:

#25 JMU 74, Western Michigan 65: Expect this one to be about Dawn Evans? Tournament MVP Evans had a typical night (28 points), but the best news for the Dukes is the resurgence of Lauren Jimenez, who suffered an ACL injury last February. Two days after being cleared to play, Jimenez blitzed the Broncos for career-high 21 points as the Dukes (10-1) did the expected at their own JMU Classic. The Dukes rose to No. 25 in the nation without the 6-4 junior center. What heights can they achieve with her

Virginia Tech 56, Charlotte 54: It was never a sure thing as the 49ers stuck to the Hokies (9-4)like gum on the sole of a Nike, even draining a 3-pointer at the final buzzer. Still, one year after Liberty ended the Hokies' decade of dominance over their own tournament, Tech restored the Hilton Garden Classic title to what we're sure they believe is its rightful place at Cassell Coliseum.

#3 Tennessee 102, Old Dominion 62: Sadly, there were no surprises in Knoxville as an ODU team that has struggled to guard all season was exposed again in front of 12,503 at Thompson-Boling. Even with Lady Vols stars Shekinna Stricklen injured early and Glory Johnson apparently in Pat Summitt's doghouse, Tennessee shot 67 percent from the field in a shooting performance so sizzling Wendy Larry joked that she asked Pat Summitt for a fire extinguisher at halftime. At least we think she was joking. And so ended a disastrous non-conference schedule for a clearly rebuilding ODU (2-8). The Lady Monarchs are accustomed to finding refuge in the CAA, but until their defense develops some teeth, their problems will continue.

Richmond 63, Morgan State 60: Brittani Shells bailed Richmond (9-4) out of what looked like a shocking loss when the Spiders trailed by 13 with 17 minutes remaining. Shells fueled the Spider rally with a career-best 32 points, including the winning 3-pointer in the final second of the St. Peter's Classic third-place game. "We didn't want to lose the game," said Shells. "We were fueled by last night's loss [to Chattanooga]. We wanted to go home with at least one win. Coach told us in the timeout we were going to win and that really gave us a boost of confidence. We started to pressure them and contest their shots."

William and Mary 55, Delaware St. 47: Not sure if we want to get too excited about this. Sure, there were some nice individual efforts - freshman Emily Correal had 15 points and sophomore Janine Aldridge went 5-for-7 from 3-point range and had a game-high 17. But the injury-ravaged Lady Hornets might be the weakest team in Division I. That the Tribe (7-4) were in something of a battle with a team that managed just 20 points in its last game...well, a win is a win, right?

Appalachian St. 74, George Mason 54: We've continued to make a big deal about the Patriots' 7-0 record at home, and rightfully so. On the flip side, Wednesday's loss dropped the Pats to 0-4 on the road with a 23.5-point average margin of defeat. Mason's going to have to do something about his quickly, too - three of their next four games are away from Fairfax.

Gardner-Webb 72, Longwood 58: A respectable showing by the Lancers (4-11), who got a season-high 20 points from Becky Fernandes and gave the red-hot Lady Bulldogs fits most of the night.

VCU 70, Coppin State 40: That 0-3 Las Vegas trip must seem like a distant memory for the Rams (7-5), who shackled the Lady Eagles with pressure defense and rolled to their second straight victory since the Duel in the Desert debacle.

NcNeese St. 68, Norfolk St. 55: Not sure if it's fatigue by NSU or canny adjustments by opponents, but the Spartans continue to have problems containing people after halftime. The Cowgirls shot 64 percent after the break; it marked the fourth time in five games an NSU opponent has made at least 50 percent of its shots over the final 20 minutes. Not surprisingly, the Spartans lost each time this has happened. The one time in this stretch when they did lock an opponent down, NSU prevailed at Savannah State.

Thursday's game

Radford (1-9) at Marshall (7-4), noon: Hate to keep harping on the Highlanders' lack of scoring punch, but in nine games against Division I foes Radford has scored 49 points or less seven times and has yet to exceed 53 points. So if the final score of this one is something like 48-46, we like the Highlanders. Otherwise.... (We Are) Marshall 67, Radford 49

Introducing Whitney Long

She's just 5-4, but Whitney Long has made a big impact on Norfolk State in her sophomore season. The Raleigh, NC native has started twice and is the Spartans top scorer with a 12.8 average and she dumped 30 at Savannah State to lead NSU to victory. Given her team-best 44 percent shooting percentage, we'd expect she'll be a regular in the starting lineup.

Coach Debra Clark beams when she talks about Long, who has a quirky personality but a model work ethic.
"Whitney has been a pleasant surprise," Clark said. "She can always find trouble. If I say wear white, she'll wear blue. But it's all little things. I stay on her. She comes to practice with the same attitude every day. She comes to work.

"She's the perfect example of what it means to have a great work ethic. If you work hard, these are the results you'll get. I'm on her all the time and she never cracks."

We chatted for a few minutes with Long, who amassed 1,200 points in just three years at Leesville Road High School, and here's what she said.

The best part of Christmas break?
"Sleeping in my own bed."

Your dream Christmas present?
"To pimp my car out. Tinted windows. (Long owns a 2004 Nissan Ultima.) I'd do the rims maybe. I like having a nice car."

On your Ipod?
"Gucci Mane. I have a lot of that."

Tell us about your 30-point night against Savannah.
"Actually the practice before I had a really bad practice. I was coasting through. During the day I just chilled. I was real mellow."

You're leading NSU in free-throw percentage at 87 percent. Your secret?
"I take a deep breath before I shoot. And I never take my eye off the rim."

Your funniest teammates?
"It's a tie between Recca Price and Shaneka Lee are pretty funny. Everybody's a character though."

Tell us a coach Clark-ism. What is she always saying?
" ' Oh my!' " It's always, 'Oh, my!' "

NSU won just one game last year. The Spartans have been more competitive this season and have two victories. What's different?
"Our work ethic as a whole as far as people doing stuff on their own."

Sports team you follow?
UNC basketball.

What's your signature move on the court?
"Actually it's my speed. I'm really fast."

What's a bet-you-didn't know about you?
"I love line dancing. And I'm always singing, even though I can't hold a note."

Thanks, Whitney. And good luck to you and the Spartans the rest of the way.

In case you've missed others we've profiled this season......

Taylor Hilton, William and Mary

Abby Redick, Virginia Tech

Simone Egwu, Virginia

Devon Brown, Liberty

Tia Lewis, ODU

Kquanise Byrd, ODU

How classy

With Tennessee and Old Dominion meeting for the 43rd time on Wednesday night, Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt reflected on ODU coach Wendy Larry taking time to come to Knoxville on May 3 to celebrate Summitt's 1,000 coaching victories. The "Night of 1,000 Stories" was hosted by the Tennessee Athletic Department.

We think it's pretty cool that Larry wore orange.

Said Summitt: "Wendy Larry, she is just a great person. We've been friends throughout the competition we've faced against each other. We've remained good friends and I have a lot of respect for her. It meant a lot for her to come and be there for that occasion. She gets it when it comes to helping people in the game and investing in her own team, but also in other people as well. She's one that's going to pick up the phone and call you, and she's going to reach out if she needs to, and we do the same here."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wednesday dribble

We're bleary eyed after a jam-packed day of action around the state. Congrats to the Cavaliers, winners of their own tournament. Here's a look at a day when Naismith would be proud.

Tuesday's results:

Virginia 63, Liberty 54: Six ties and 17 lead changes later, the Cavaliers wrap up their Cavalier Classic and shock of shocks, Monica Wright is tournament MVP. Wright's double-double was particularly awesome given it was points (21) and steals (10). Liberty (7-3) hung close despite 30 turnovers that turned into 35 Cavalier points. Foul trouble haunted Flames freshman Devon Brown, who scored just nine. Also on the all-tournament team: Virginia's China Crosby and Liberty's Avery Warley.

James Madison 86, Lafayette 54: Dukes shake off a slow start (it was 31-30 at one point), to roll over Lafayette behind a 57 percent shooting effort. Not surprisingly Dawn Evans did her share with 27 points and 12 assists. Kenny Brooks might toss his team out of practice more often if the results are this good.

Chattanooga 78, Richmond 69 2OT: You gotta think when the Spiders signed up for the St. Peter's Classic, the last thing they had in mind was a consolation game with Morgan State. Here's the killer stat for the Spiders in this one. Richmond went to the line eight times and scored five points. The Mocs (7-6) set up shop there 32 times for 25 points. Richmond turned it over just 12 times to Chattanooga's 24 -- but it was all for naught in this nailbiter.

Hampton 68, Bryant 48: Hooray for the Pirates, who shot a season-high 40 percent (you read that right) and played a squeaky clean game, turning it over just 10 times. The Pirates rallied from a five-point first half deficit to outscore Bryant 42-17 in the second. Kudos to Jericka Jenkins, who buried five treys and rang up 17 points. Whitney Hill scored 22 and the Pirates improve to 4-8.

Virginia Tech 66, NJIT 51: This one was too close for Hokie comfort as Tech didn't lead until the 6:16 mark in the first half. Hokies make just 1 of 14 from three-point range and struggle to keep up with NJIT, whose scrappy guard play is its forte. We'll chalk it up to holiday rust.

Wednesday's games

Richmond (8-4) vs. Morgan State (3-7), third-place game, St. Peter’s Classic, 5 p.m.
If the Spiders have any gas left, they should win this one with ease. They're 4-0 against Morgan State, which hasn't won since Nov. 28. Spiders will have to work to keep the Bears' all-time leading scorer, Corin "Tiny" Adams (she's 5-7, so go figure the nickname), at bay. Richmond 66, Morgan State 45

Western Michigan (5-7) vs. James Madison (9-1), championship game, JMU Classic, 7 p.m.
The Broncos have a knack for winning close games. Until Monday's 64-53 defeat of UNC Ashville, their biggest margin of victory was seven points. Here's the scoop on this one, though. It won't be close, so the Dukes don't have to worry. James Madison 88, Western Michigan 65

Charlotte (6-6) at Virginia Tech (8-4), championship game, Hilton Garden Classic, 7 p.m.

We'll give Tech a pass for allowing NJIT to hang so close in Tuesday's game, though the 49ers will be no pushover. Charlotte has won four of its last five regular-season tournament championships and eased past Central Connecticut 66-51 in Tuesday's game. But Tech won this tournament 10 years in a row until last season's hiccup against Liberty. Hokies don't hiccup two years in a row...right? Virginia Tech 72, Charlotte 65

William and Mary (6-4) at Delaware State (1-10), 5:30 p.m.
The Tribe was hardly at its best when it defeated Norfolk State on Dec. 18 yet still won by 28. There's nothing to recommend Lady Hornets, who have dropped 10 in a row and scored just 58 points in their last two games combined, presenting W&M with even the slightest test. The Tribe have held three opponents to 41 points or less and are the top team in the CAA in field-goal percentage defense. William and Mary 84, Delaware State 48

Longwood (4-10) at Gardner-Webb (10-2), 7 p.m.
Who is this 10-2 Gardner-Webb team? The Lady Bulldogs are 6-1 at home and have victories over East Carolina and at Purdue. They're also 2-0 at Longwood without actually playing Longwood - the Lady Bulldogs downed Morehead State and Texas Pan-American at the Lancer Classic in late November. Longwood is 2-2 in its last four games, but on the road against a quality foe is going to be a tall order. Gardner-Webb 77, Longwood 51

Coppin State (3-6) at VCU (6-5), 7 p.m.
Welcome back, Rams and welcome home. Rams play only their fourth game at home this season and first home game in 18 days. Coppin State looks to be just what the doctor ordered for a feel-good victory. They're 0-5 on the road with just one player, Shante Cummings, averaging double figures (trouble is Cummings shoots a mere 38 percent from the field). Rams have dropped three of their last four, but all those were in the Vegas desert. We suspect they'll get it done at home. VCU 79, Coppin State 51

George Mason (7-3) at Appalachian St. (4-6), 7 p.m.
We'd love to see the Patriots earn their first road against the Mountaineers, who are 1-3 at home this season. GMU has lost all three of its road games by an average of 24.6 pts. And given they're not playing football, a Mason victory seems doable here against a team that has turned it over 74 more times than its opponents. Patriots need to watch out for leading scorer Sam Ramirez, shooting 36 percent from 3. Cool her off and this one should be road sweet road for the Patriots. George Mason 76, Appalachian State 71.

Old Dominion (2-7) at No. 3 Tennessee (10-1), 7 p.m.
Your struggling team gets back from break and what's on tap? Only a road trip to mammoth-sized Thompson-Boling Arena, where even your best teams have never won a game. That's what's on tap for the Lady Monarchs, who limped into the holidays with a 16-point loss at St. Joseph's. As well as Tia Lewis (13.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg) has been playing, she'll likely have her hands full against Kelly Cain. Guard play has plagued the Lady Monarchs all season, and those woes will no doubt continue on Wednesday against a Lady Vol team that thrives on hard-nosed defense. Still, how many CAA teams would like a shot at Tennessee? Tennessee 88, Old Dominion 55

Norfolk State (2-6) at McNeese St. (3-8), 8 p.m.
NSU went on the road and beat Savannah State a few weeks ago. Why not McNeese? This looks like a great opportunity for the Spartans to pick up road win No. 2. McNeese State has just one victory since Nov. 28 and that was over Paul Quinn College. They're dismal from 3, shooting a woeful 23 percent (Ne'Aisha Anderson is 17 of 75 from long range). Let's go Spartans. Norfolk State 67, McNeese State 59

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tuesday dribble

Lots to get to tonight, so let's jump right into it....

Monday's results

No. 23 Virginia 69, (Fred) Samford 60: Two reasons for the tougher-than-expected result - a rusty post-break Virginia and Samford's 13 3-pointers. Special kudos to Monica Wright, who posted a 28-point, 9-rebound, 6-steals line despite still grieving the loss of her grandmother, who passed away shortly after Christmas.

Liberty 70, Cornell 40: More suffocating defense from the Lady Flames (7-2), who held the Big Red to 27-percent shooting and a measly 13 points in the first half.

No. 23 Georgia Tech 63, Hampton 54: Another remarkable effort by the undermanned and undersized Lady Pirates (3-8), who succeeded in getting the game played on their gritty, pressurized defensive terms and almost stared down a Top 25 team. Hampton actually led by one with less than nine minutes left before 3-3-pointers from Tech's Alex Montgomery highlighted a 13-0 Yellow Jackets run. "They were small," Tech's Brigitte Ardossi said of the Lady Pirates, "but they definitely played big."

VCU 84, Longwood 64: No Christmas break hangover for the Rams (6-5), who jumped on the Lancers with 50-percent first-half shooting and turnover-inducing defense and went on to register a performance coach Beth Cunningham termed "as close to a perfect game as we could (play) and certainly the best we've done all year." Leading the way: first-team All-Name guard La'Tavia Rorie (a career-high 25 points) and Courtney Hurt (a career-high 17 points).

Tuesday's games

Liberty (7-2) vs. No. 23 Virginia (8-3), final of Cavalier Classic, 7 p.m.
Big keys will be which team best handles the quick turnaround and whether Virginia can diversify their offense enough to solve a legitimately stingy Liberty defense. Of course, there's no defense for Monica Wright, but we've seen the Cavaliers attack stagnate when their star has to do all the work. Familiarity shouldn't be a problem, as these teams met in a closed scrimmage during the preseason. By the way, if anyone has any details of that scrimmage, please let us know. Virginia 62, Liberty 56

Richmond (8-3) vs. Chattanooga (6-6), first round of St. Peter’s Classic, 5 p.m.
The Spiders won by 18 when these teams met a year ago behind 22 points from Brittani Shells. This season, Shells (16.1 ppg) has led the Spiders in scoring in all but one game. The winner plays Tuesday's St. Peter's-Morgan State winner for the title. Richmond 73, Chattanooga 63

Hampton (3-8) vs. Bryant (6-6), consolation game of the FIU Sun and Fun Classic, 2 p.m.
A winnable opportunity for the Lady Pirates under most circumstances. But since they rely so heavily on so few, we're concerned about how much juice they'll have left after Monday's valiant near-miss against Georgia Tech. Still, we doubt Bryant has seen the kind of pressure they're about to face from Fortune, Jenkins and Co. Hampton 56, Bryant 52

Lafayette (2-9) vs. No. 25 JMU (8-1), first round of the JMU Invitational, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dukes coach Kenny Brooks was so dismayed by his players' post-Christmas lethargy he threw them out of practice. We wouldn't be surprised if Brooks cooked up this idea Saturday night - what better way to get the Dukes' attention than to jump right on them as soon as they get back? Either way, we doubt he'll have too much to complain about after this one. Western Michigan and UNC Asheville round out the field. JMU 88,, Lafayette 58

NJIT (3-7) vs. Virginia Tech (7-4), first round of Tech's Hilton Garden Classic, 7 p.m.
Prior to last season's 45-43 championship-game loss to Liberty, the Hokies had won their own holiday tournament 10 straight times. No disrespect to NJIT, but we suspect the Hokies will start a new streak today - Tech's victory margin in this event's first round the past 12 years is 31.3 points. With that in mind, we'll call it...Virginia Tech 81.3, NJIT 50

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post-Christmas dribble

Welcome back, basketball lovers. Hope everyone's holiday was as sweet as a Taurasi jum- er, make that Monica Wright jumper. Now let's get back to the hoops.

First of all, Virginia Tech doesn't play today, but the Hokies are offering a free clinic for boys and girls in grades 1-6 from 2-3 at Cassell Coliseum. No pre-registration is required; call Tech director of basketball operations Jill Jameson at 540-231-7629 for more details.

As for those teams that are in action, Virginia doesn't just run the Cavalier Classic; it also owns the event. The Cavaliers have won 20 of the 23 tournaments and five straight dating back to 2004. In case you were wondering, the last UVa. loss in this tournament came by 20 to Lindsay Whalen-led Minnesota in the 2003 final. The following year, the Cavaliers started a new streak by outscoring JMU 95-92 in the title game. It was also victory No. 600 for Cavaliers coach Debbie Ryan.

Monday's action

Liberty (6-2) vs. Cornell (5-4), Cavalier Classic first round, 4:30 p.m. Led by the aptly named Virginia McGunigal, the Big Red is one of the nation's best at shooting the three (43.6 percent). Fortunately for Liberty fans, the Lady Flames rank sixth in the nation at defending the three, and Cornell doesn't have a lot of other ways to beat you if its bombs don't land. Liberty does, or at least it should in this matchup. This tournament is set up in a way that allows the Lady Flames a great opportunity for a second-day showdown with the nationally ranked Cavaliers. They can't let Cornell get in the way. Liberty 72, Cornell 54

(Fred) Samford (8-4) at No. 23 Virginia (7-3), Cavalier Classic first round, 7 p.m. Think Cornell loves the 3-ball? With every member of their starting five willing to pull the long-range trigger, Samford's Bulldogs have jacked up at least 24 of them in each of their last four games. Naturally, when the threes fall, they're dangerous. But this almost certainly won't be one of those days. Virginia 86, Samford 62

Hampton (3-7) vs. No. 24 Georgia Tech (10-2), FIU Fun & Sun Classic first round, 7 p.m. Must be easy to line up teams for this event. "Hey, Team X, we're hosting this tournament in Miami in the dead of winter and we were wondering if - You will? Great!" No wonder this is the second tournament FIU has hosted this season....The Lady Pirates thrive on pressure defense, but Georgia Tech has virtually mastered the art while possessing an array of offensive weapons Hampton at this stage can only dream of. Only one state team has defeated a ranked foe this season - hello, JMU, goodbye, Virginia - and Hampton has very little chance of being the second. But don't feel too badly for the Lady Pirates. At least they're in Miami. FIU and Bryant are the other two teams in the field. FIU continues to be led by former ODU stars Cindy Russo and her associate coach Inge Nissen. Georgia Tech 70, Hampton 52

VCU (5-5) at Longwood (4-9), 4 p.m.: Hats off to the Lancers, who have won two of their last three and posted a respectable showing at No. 25 JMU their last time out. They've also proven to be a pretty tough out at home (3-2). Problem is, the independent Lancers are home for just the second time this month and won't play in Farmville again until Jan. 26. Their bigger problem today will be VCU, which clearly has more weapons at both ends of the floor and must be just itching to beat up on someone after dropping three in a row in Las Vegas. VCU 79, Longwood 64

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lone dribble

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as we have only one game to report. Congrats to Hampton for ending its seven-game losing streak and we're hoping Radford catches a break in the new year.

We also want to wish all our readers Season's Greetings. Have peaceful and joyous holidays.

Hampton 63, Radford 43:
Pirates raised their shooting percentage to 33 in yet another chapter of how to win with the worst shooting percentage in the NCAA. What impressed us: 21 steals, including seven by Pirates sophomore Jericka Jenkins. Quanneisha Perry turned it on with 18 points, seven boards and five steals. Seven Radford players fail to score a single point, but they get 18 from Heritage High graduate Kymesha Alston in her homecoming. And how about freshman Ashley Buckhannon pouring in 16 points for the Highlanders? Buckhannon came in with a meager 3.9-point average. Hopefully she can be an engine for this Radford offense, which came in averaging 46 ppg.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wednesday dribble

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like...the Patriot Center? Meanwhile, Old Dominion's non-conference woes continue, and Radford and Hampton prepare to close out the state's pre-Christmas slate with what should be a real pitcher's duel at the HU Convocation Center.

Tuesday's results

St. Joseph's 78, Old Dominion 62: The longer a game plays out, the easier it's become to solve the ODU defense. Tuesday marked the sixth time this season an opponent has shot at least 48 percent against ODU (2-7) in the second half; the Lady Monarchs are 0-6 in those games. This team also continues to travel poorly. On Jan. 22, the Lady Monarchs visited Williamsburg and topped William and Mary 66-48. They haven't won a road game since (0-8). On the bright side, Tia Lewis had an efficient 22 points (8-of-10 shooting) and Shadasia Green filled up the stat sheet (20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 assists and a block). But these two have delivered all season. For various reasons (injury, inexperience, etc.), there's really no one else Wendy Larry has been able to count on night-in and night-out.

George Mason 63, George Washington 53: This may have been the most satisfying victory in Mason's school-record 7-0 mark at the Patriot Center, as it came against a city/recruiting rival and a team coach Jeri Porter told her players would be the best they've hosted to date. Brittany Eley, subbing for an injured Ashleigh Braxton (back), led the way with 19 points. But three other starters also finished in double figures as the Patriots roll into a Christmas break after a 7-3 start. And remember, this is a program that won just four games all of last season.

Wednesday's game

Radford (1-8) at Hampton (2-7), 5:30 p.m. The Highlanders average fewer points per game than all but two of the 332 Division I schools (47.5 ppg), while Hampton ranks dead last in shooting percentage. Bottom line - we're not expecting a high-scoring contest. But we are expecting a fiercely fought battle. Because while Radford has dropped three straight and has yet to beat a D-I school and Hampton has lost seven in a row, this is a game both teams expect to win. Hampton 51, Radford 49

Holiday Rankings

Not a lot of action last week with so many teams taking exams and preparing for Christmas. In the spirit of the holiday, we've compiled a wish list for each team.

1. James Madison (8-1) Last week: 1
Even though Dukes fall to Duke, they're still the class of the state.
Stocking stuffer: A DVD of Rodney Dangerfield on Saturday Night Live. JMU has been clamoring for a little respect all season.
Next: Tuesday vs. Lafayette at James Madison Tournament

2. Virginia (7-3) Last week: 2
Beating Georgia would have brought visions of the top 10 swirling in their heads, but it wasn't meant to be.
Stocking stuffer: Coloring books and markers for those Cavalier kids. You get the sense Debbie Ryan is having a blast with this bunch.
Next: Monday vs. Samford in the Cavalier Classic

3. Richmond (8-3) Last week: 3
Spiders beat up on in-state foe Radford to complete five-game sweep of state teams. It's those out-of-state games that have been a problem.
Stocking stuffer: They'd love to win a game they weren't supposed to. Upset of Dayton on Jan. 23? Also, Santa, how about a few fans for Richmond and the next school on our list, VCU. The teams played in front of 473 earlier this month.
Next: Dec. 29 vs. Chattanooga

4. VCU (5-5) Last week: 4
Duel in the Desert was more like Disaster in the Desert for the Rams, who lose three straight in Vegas tournament.
Stocking stuffer: Beth Cunningham should invest in surfboards or longboards -- anything that gets the message across that to win, you must rebound.
Next: Monday at Longwood

5. Liberty (6-2) Last week: 5
Flames came oh-so-close to Auburn but couldn't close out the comeback.
Stocking stuffer: A telescope for a better glimpse of those shooting stars. Five Flames, including four starters, are shooting better than 52 percent.
Next: Monday vs. Cornell in UVa.'s Cavalier Classic

6. Virginia Tech (7-4) Last week: 6
Nice tournament win against UAB; no shame in the loss at 11-1 St. John's.
Stocking stuffer: A buzzsaw. Tech will need it to navigate the upcoming ACC schedule.
Dec. 29 vs. NJIT in Hilton Garden Classic

7. Old Dominion (2-7) Last week: 7
Stellar free-throw shooting propelled ODU over Hampton, their only result of the week.
Stocking stuffer: A chemistry set. We can't say enough about Shadasia Green and Tia Lewis. But the junior and sophomore can't get it done themselves. Unless the Lady Monarchs find a way to put it together, it could be a long season in the CAA. And by the way, Santa, could you put a juicer under the tree? We could use a little help with something orange......
Next: Dec. 30 vs. Tennessee

8. Hampton (2-7) Last week: 8
Like we said a week ago, it's hard to win games shooting 31 percent.
Stocking stuffer: A basket. You know that phrase about not being able to buy one?
Next: Wednesday vs. Radford

9. George Mason (6-3) Last week: 10
Patriots had a week to rest on their impressive laurels, which include a 6-0 record at home for the first time in school history.
Stocking stuffer: Confetti. GMU is easily the most improved team in the state.
Next: Tuesday vs. George Washington

10. William and Mary (6-4) Last week: 9
Great to see freshman Taylor Hilton break through with her first double-double against Southern, but let's face it. Tribe shouldn't have had to settle for playing Southern in the consolation of the Gator Holiday Classic. W&M would have loved a shot at host school Gators but couldn't get by a High Point team that just lost to Longwood.
Stocking stuffer: Gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those are some gifts that Tribe would really value. As it stands right now, the Tribe wastes too many possessions.
Next: Dec. 30 vs Delaware State

11. Longwood (4-8) Last week: 11
Consecutive wins over Campbell and High Point provide a needed lift for Lancers.
Stocking stuffer: Aging cream. Longwood roster has one senior and one junior. The other nine are freshmen and sophomores. It's great to have so much youth, but they need to grow up in a hurry.
Next: Monday vs. VCU

12. Norfolk State (2-6) Last week: 12
Spartans double their win total from last year behind 30 points from Whitney Long in victory over Savannah State.
Stocking stuffer: High heels. Spartans could sure use some height.
Next: Dec. 30 vs. McNeese State

13. Radford (1-8) Last week: 13
Snow canceled Highlanders game against Davidson.
Stocking stuffer: Three Dog Night's version of "One is the Loneliest Number."
Next: Wednesday at Hampton

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tuesday dribble

If you're VCU, you have to hope what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas as three losses in Sin City have reduced the Rams to a .500 team that suddenly doesn't know how to close out games. Fortunately, JMU - rightfully still in the AP poll despite Friday's loss at Duke - William and Mary and Richmond all handled their business in style.

Monday's results

Arkansas 68, VCU 58: On Saturday, the Rams led UNLV by 6 with 12 minutes left and lost by 2. Sunday, they led Kansas State by 8 with 11 minutes to go and lost by 7. Monday, they led Arkansas by 6 with 10 minutes left and lost by 10. Sensing the pattern here? Not sure if it's lack of fitness, nerves or whatever, but because of their poor finishing kick the Rams (5-5) left three victories on the table at the Duel in the Desert.

JMU 85, Longwood 67: Credit the Lancers (4-9), who had won two straight coming in, for another competitive showing. But as usual, the No. 25 Dukes (8-1) countered with too much Dawn Evans, who torched Longwood for 32 points and 6 assists. Fun fact - in her last three games, Evans has scored 101 points in 101 minutes.

William and Mary 67, Southern 41: Shortly before the season, we interviewed Tribe freshman Taylor Hilton as part of our Newcomers series, but for various reasons (mostly self-induced), her profile didn't appear until Sunday. Since then, Hilton has flirted with a double-double against High Point, sealed the deal with a 16-point, 10-rebound effort against Southern in the third-place game of the Gators Classic and been named the CAA Rookie of the Week. Now we're not going to going to take any credit for Hilton's performances, but we are referring to this phenomenon as the "Ladyswish touch."

Richmond 74, Radford 40: Brittani Shells had a game-high 15 points and Crystal Goring added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Spiders (8-3), who also clamped down on Radford (1-8) with suffocating defense. Then again, the Highlanders aren't that difficult to suffocate. Radford ranks 330th of 332 Division I teams in scoring offense, and Monday marked was the fourth time the Highlanders have been held to 40 points or less.

Tuesday's games

Old Dominion (2-6) at St. Joseph’s (3-7), 1 p.m.
The last game before Christmas break is often a tricky one, as players' focus can wander with holiday plans just a couple hours away. But the Lady Monarchs really need to lock in on this one, as they've yet to win on the road and want to consolidate the gains they made in Sunday's 19-point victory over Hampton. A key will be keeping center Tia Lewis on the floor. On Sunday she scored nine points in the first five minutes and appeared on her way to a monster night. But foul trouble limited Lewis to just seven first-half minutes. Lewis has shown she can be effective against virtually any team, but she can't help ODU from the bench. ODU 65, St. Joe's 59

George Washington (2-6) at George Mason (6-3), 5 p.m.
GW dubs this matchup the "Battle of the Orange Line" in reference to the Metro train line that connects the two schools. But it may not be much of a battle, as the Patriots are a school-record 6-0 at home while the rebuilding Colonials have lost six straight and haven't played in 14 days.
Adding spice to the contest: Patriots reserve guard RaShauna Hobbs is the daughter of GW men's coach Karl Hobbs. George Mason 62, George Washington 55

Twittering along

Hey, guys. We've just started on Twitter, so follow us here in addition to reading our usual dribble. Guess that would make it a double dribble. Thanks!

Old Dominion icons start new careers

A couple of ODU greats -- Tracy Claxton and Adrienne Goodson -- have new careers in the coaching ranks.

Claxton is the new girls basketball coach at Hyde High School in her hometown of New Haven, Conn. (Team was 0-20 last season.)

Goodson is a bit closer to home, coaching at Caroline High School in Fredericksburg.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

25 things about...ODU-Hampton

25 random thoughts about Old Dominion's 83-64 victory over Hampton Sunday afternoon

1. Hampton guards Bernadette Fortune and Jerica Jenkins may be listed at 5-4, but since they both come up to Jasmine Parker's clavicle, we'd say that's stretching things a bit.

2. Hampton has now lost seven in a row, but the 19-point margin was the closest thing to a blowout in that streak. And as anyone who witnessed it can attest, this was no blowout.

3. Speaking of witnesses, there were 28 of them in stands behind one of the goals at tipoff, 50 if you add in the ODU pep band. Attendance was announced as 3,458. With all due respect to ODU officials, yeah, right.

4. That said, the crowd that was there was an appreciative bunch, responding to the Lady Monarchs as if they were 6-1, not 1-6.

5. Jessica Canady fired her lone 3-point attempt so hard we feared it might shatter the backboard. Otherwise, ODU's recovering All-CAA forward looked the best she has all season.

6. The Lady Monarchs made due with just two assistant coaches. Storm-related issues prevented a recruiting Belle Koclanes from making it out of New York.

7. The Lady Pirates continue to make due without injured starters Laura Lewis and Whitney Hill, who combined have averaged nearly 25 points this season.

8. Mairi Buchan's 3-pointer shot from the top of the key is a real weapon.

9. So is a Carolann Cloutier bomb from the baseline. When the rest of her game catches up with her stroke, ODU is going to have itself a baller.

10. When ODU's long-legged center Tia Lewis opened throttle and sprinted down the floor, even Hampton roadrunners Fortune and Jenkins couldn't keep up with her.

11. Hampton entered the game ranked last in Division I in field-goal percentage. Based on their marksmanship Sunday (30.9 percent), the Lady Pirates should retain that distinction for at least another week.

12. Given the Lady Pirates' reliance on pressure and turning defense into offense, they really could have used a friendly whistle. Instead, they were tagged for 29 fouls. "It takes us out of what we want to do, and that's the only way we can play," Pirates coach David Six said.

13. You know how they say that pressing teams don't like to be pressed? Well, Hampton sure didn't like it when the Lady Monarchs fed them their own medicine in the second half.

14. What happened to Jasmine Parker's offense? Poor girl isn't even looking for her shot these days.

15. Lewis hit 7 of 10 free throws. ODU's other four starters combined to make 15 of 15.

16. When Hampton saw Cloutier bringing the ball up the court, it was as though they smelled blood. Fortune picked the freshman clean once; another time Fortune and Jenkins sprinted about 20 feet to create a trap so secure Wendy Larry had to save the possession by calling a timeout.

17. On the other hand, when the Lady Monarchs used quick, decisive passes against Hampton's press, they carved it up.

18. ODU's "Dynasty Dancers" were in fine form at halftime. Of course, anyone would look good performing to Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams." Love that song.

19. Lady Pirates forward Quanneisha Perry is a fine player who appears even finer because she's lefthanded. A lefty J just looks sweeter, don't you think?

20. ODU forward Vicki Collier was instrumental in the game's defining sequence. With ODU ahead 42-40, her tip-in of a Lewis miss ignited the decisive 13-0 second-half run. Two possessions later, she stripped Jenkins at halfcourt and fed Shadasia Green for a layup that put ODU up eight.

21. Starting and turning in pivotal performances is probably what Collier dreamed about when she arrived at ODU in 2006. Now, several injuries and a pair of matching knee braces later, the redshirt junior's dream is finally coming true.

22. Every time a Lady Monarch hit a 3-pointer, freshman Becca Allison hopped out of her seat and double high-fived every player on the ODU bench.

23. The sound system was a little muddy for the halftime "Ask the Lady Monarchs" feature displayed on the Constant Center's overhead scoreboard, but as best we could tell Collier's all-time favorite Christmas present was an Easy-Bake Oven.

24. Statistics Lie Dept. - Hampton won the rebounding battle 44-36. Even Six couldn't believe it, as after the game he lamented "we got killed on the boards."

25. Not sure what ODU's future plans are, but Six would love to make Hampton-ODU games an annual habit. "Hopefully, they'll play us again," he said.

They're free, aren't they?

You know how they say defense wins championships? Free throws often win games in this sport, and problems from the line hindered all but one state team on Sunday. How bout those Lady Monarchs?

Old Dominion 83, Hampton 64: It's a yawner to watch a team go to the line 35 times, but all credit goes to ODU for converting 30 of those attempts. Pirates didn't go down quietly, pulling it to within a bucket at the 14:31 mark, but Lady Monarchs respond with a 13-0 run. Tia Lewis got what we're going to start calling her usual with 15 points and six boards, and Shadasia Green put up the exact same numbers. What's nice to see for ODU: Mairi Buchan adding 14 and Vicki Collier 10. Turnaround time isn't much for ODU , which looks for its first road win on Tuesday at St. Joseph's.

St. John's 75, Virginia Tech 62: The Red Storm misses nine free throws, Hokies miss four, but here's the killer. Tech went to the line 13 times. St. John's sat up shop there 30 times. Another Bigg game from Lindsay (15 points) who made the all-tournament team along with Alyssa Fenyn. Tech doesn't play again for eight days when they return against mood lifter New Jersey Institute of Technology, which will surely get the Hokies back in the win column. Teams played in front of 342 in Queens. Guess everybody was out shoveling snow.

Georgia 69, Virginia 53:
Monica Wright racked 'em up as usual (21 points) to reach the 2,000-mark plateau. Problem is nobody else had much to offer. Georgia led by 20 for most of the game. Cavaliers put in one of those "we can't wait to get home for Christmas" efforts.

High Point 66, William and Mary 58: Both teams miss 10 free throws. Tribe's problem is they went to the line 20 times; High Point was there 31 times. Tribe came closer than this, but High Point padded its lead with nine consecutive free throws to close it out.

Kansas State 73, VCU 67:
Rams (5-4) shot great (53 percent) but couldn't keep the Wildcats off the line where they buried 23 of 25. VCU connected on just 4 of 9 free throws, spoiling a 20-point performance by La'Tavia Rorie.

Monday's games

VCU (5-4) vs. Arkansas (6-5), 7th-place game, Duel in the Desert, 3 p.m.
The Rams, who are 0-2 in this tournament so far, could clearly use a return to form by D'Andra Moss, who scored just eight points in 28 foul-plagued minutes Sunday in a 73-67 loss to Kansas State. Arkansas comes in after losses to DePaul and Texas-San Antonio. VCU 72, Arkansas 69

William and Mary (5-4) vs. Southern (6-3), consolation game, Florida Gators Classic, 3:30 p.m.
Sadly, it appears to be something of a given that the Tribe will hover around the 50-percent mark at the free throw line. This just makes it even more important they drain the high-percentage shots (read layups) we've seen them miss far too many times. 32-percent shooting against High Point? C'mon, guys. William and Mary 64, Southern 53

Radford (1-7) at Richmond (7-3), 7 p.m.
Richmond is 4-0 against Virginia teams so far, having defeated George Mason, Hampton, VCU and William and Mary by an average of 18 points. Radford had hoped to tune up for this contest last Friday, but the Highlanders' game against Davidson was canceled due to the snowstorm. Richmond 69, Radford 51

Longwood (4-8) at JMU (7-1), 5 p.m.
The Lancers have won two in a row, including their first road triumph of the season Friday at High Point. But unless the Dukes' minds start wandering towards the impending Christmas break, they should have a nice bounce-back from Friday's loss at Duke. JMU 78, Longwood 58

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Introducing Taylor Hilton

You hear the word "focus" if you hang around college basketball long enough -- players and coaches seem to always be looking for it or talking about the lack of it -- but what you don't hear is overfocused. Unless, of course, you're chatting with William and Mary coach Debbie Taylor about freshman Taylor Hilton.

"She has no idea how good she is. She doesn't accept she's got really good guard skills. You have to badger her into shooting 3s. If there ever was an overfocused child, it's her. She does everything I tell her to do, and more. She's a delight to coach."

And also a pretty intelligent kid as we found out by spending a few minutes with the 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year for Washington, D.C, who is averaging 6.8 points and 5 rebounds and shooting 67 percent from behind the arc (OK. She's only taken three shots and made two of them, but we see what Taylor means about being shy to shoot the 3.)

Let's get this out of the way. You're high school......

Sidwell Friends. It's often called the Obama school. It's definitely gotten more attention since the Obama girls started going there.

You chose W&M over Boston College, Harvard and Delaware because?
"It was the perfect school I was looking for basketball-wise and academically. I was looking for a strong school for academics that had a good basketball program. I really got along with the girls on my visit, and I loved the coaches."

Speaking of academics, what's your toughest class?
Econ-micro. Supply and demand. I wish it were that simple.

Rag out your teammates a little here. Who's the funniest?
"Probably Emily Correal. She is hilarious. Very goofy. In the locker room we can be getting ready for a game and she'll spontaneously get on the floor and do some kind of funny dance stretch. She's 6-2, so it looks pretty funny. Then she just sits back down on her chair like nothing happened."

We think Debbie Taylor is the coolest coach in the CAA. What's the Debbie-ism about her that stands out?
"When she brings out that New York accent -- definitely."
(We've heard that, too. Funny thing is Debbie is from Fredericksburg.)

So after having scored more than 1,600 points in your high school career and averaging 23 points and 18 rebounds as a senior, anything stand out about the college game?
"I didn't know there were media timeouts. That's pretty cool -- breaks every four minutes. We didn't have those in high school."

How's the travel been so far?
"Seattle was interesting. It's one of the strangest most entertaining places I've been to. We had interesting runs with people on the street all the time. We kept seeing a homeless man selling kisses. He didn't get any business from our team."

You like reading?
"I love the 'Twilight' series. My best friend got me hooked.

You look like you're in great shape. Any secret indulgences?
"Chocolate fudge grown ice cream. They sell it in pints across the street from my dorm."

Other profiles in our ladyswish newcomer series:

Abby Redick, Virginia Tech

Simone Egwu, Virginia

Devon Brown, Liberty

Tia Lewis, ODU

Kquanise Byrd, ODU

Daily dribble

Two games, one score.

Saturday's results:

Virginia Tech 68, UAB 66 (OT): Call her Ms. Biggs Shot. That would be Lindsay Biggs, whose three-point play with 1:09 left in OT vaulted the Hokies (7-3) ahead for good in the opening round of the St. John's Classic. Ironically, Biggs had struggled with her shot most of the game before scoring six of her 11 points in the extra period. Meanwhile, freshman Alyssa Fenyn was solid all game long with a game-high 15 points and 9 rebounds. Next up for the Hokies - the host school in Sunday's 2 p.m. title game.

UNLV 68, VCU 66 at Duel in the Desert: Rams led almost all the way, but it wasn't their night in Vegas. They sure made it look nice and neat with 11 turnovers, but rebounding or lack thereof continues to cost the Rams games. Rebels win the boards battle by 14 and sink the winning layup with two seconds left. A near-miss 3 by Ebony Patterson doesn't fall but Rams (5-3) do despite leading by eight at the break. And with the arctic temperatures out there, doesn't a Duel in the Desert sound pleasant?

Sunday's games:

No. 19 Virginia (7-2) at No. 11 Georgia (9-0), 2:30 p.m. The Cavaliers nipped Georgia 62-60 a year ago, but that result should mean little today as the 2009-10 Lady Bulldogs include six freshmen - including one of the nation's best in combo guard Jasmine James - and UVa. is also littered with first-year players. Of course, the coaches have been around forever - Georgia's Andy Landers and Virginia's Debbie Ryan have combined for 1,522 coaching victories. Also of note: Monica Wright needs 10 points to become the third UVa. player to reach 2,000 for her career.

Hampton (2-6) at Old Dominion (1-6), 2 p.m.

Typically this wouldn't seem like much of a matchup, a veritable Cupcake Classic for the vaunted Lady Monarchs before they scurry off for Christmas break. But this is hardly a typical ODU team, at least not yet. The Lady Pirates have struggled, too, having lost six in a row. But they're 2-0 versus the CAA and have been a extremely tough out against everyone else - their last three losses are by a combined eight points. Like most MEAC teams, Hampton lacks quality size inside, so we're not sure what the Lady Pirates can do if ODU's Tia Lewis or Jessica Canady (if healthy) start feeling their oats. But Hampton knows how to turn teams over (UNC Wilmington and William and Mary combined for 54 of them against these guys), so if the Lady Monarchs aren't strong and decisive with the ball, they won't have it for long. We're going to give ODU the benefit of the doubt today, but let's face it, all this season has shown us so far is who the Lady Monarchs can't beat. It's still not totally clear who they can. Old Dominion 77, Hampton 61

Virginia Tech (7-3) at St. John’s (10-1), final of the St. John’s Tournament, 2 p.m.

The Hokies will have their hands full with the Red Storm, which is receiving votes in the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls and whose lone loss was a 10-point setback at North Carolina on Dec. 6. St. John's is 5-0 at home. St. John's 78, Virginia Tech 65.

William and Mary (5-3) vs. High Point (4-6), First round of the Florida Gators Classic, 4:30 p.m.

Both teams looked rusty and ragged in their initial post-exams contests Friday. The difference was that sluggish play cost High Point a loss at home against Longwood. The Tribe stumbled and bumbled yet still won by 28 at Norfolk State. We expect a much cleaner performance today, which will almost certainly set the Tribe up for a winnable title-game showdown with the host school. But no matter what happens, we envy the Tribe for getting to hang out in Florida while we suffer through this storm. William and Mary 83, High Point 59

VCU vs. Kansas State at Duel in the Desert, 4:30 p.m.:
Wildcats' 10-point loss to Hawaii in late game sets up matchup with Rams. VCU needs to watch for the 3. K-State (4-6) buried 12 on Saturday with freshman Brittany Chambers knocking down five. Kansas State 67, VCU 60

Friday, December 18, 2009

Daily dribble

While we were enjoying ourselves at the William and Mary-Norfolk State game, two other state teams enjoyed mixed results on the hardwood Friday night.

Friday's action

No. 7 Duke 79, No. 24 JMU 65: Dawn Evans (31 points) got hers, but the Blue Devils clamped down on everyone else to hand the Dukes (7-1) their first loss.

Longwood 76, High Point 68: Freshmen Chelsea Coward and Crystal Smith combined for 30 points as the Lancers (4-8) won for the second time in four days and first time on the road.

Saturday's games

Virginia Tech (6-3) vs. UAB (4-5), St. John's Classic, 3 p.m.
Assuming there's not too much rust to shake off after a 10-day layoff, a Hokies team that has won two straight and four of its last five should be able to survive this opener and set up a championship game Sunday with the 9-1 host school. And if the Hokies have any trouble working up a dislike for the Lady Blazers, they only need look at the UAB coach. Audra Smith spent four years as a player and 10 as an assistant coach at archrival Virginia. Virginia Tech 65, UAB 54

VCU (5-2) at UNLV (4-5), Duel in the Desert Classic,
The Rams may be the first team that doesn't mind opening a tournament against the host school, as UNLV is 0-4 this season in its own building. Tenth-ranked Florida State headlines the quality eight-team Desert field; the Rams will face either Hawaii or Kansas State Sunday on Day Two of the three-day event. VCU 72, UNLV 65

W&M-Norfolk State: Bet you didn't know

25 random things about William and Mary’s 80-52 victory over Norfolk State on Friday night.

1. The Tribe won this matchup by 60 a year ago, so for NSU, the outcome represented progress.

2. As expected, the final score reflected two distinct realities - William and Mary big, Norfolk State small. The Tribe’s 52-38 rebounding advantage only hints at the discrepancy; it looked much greater in person.

3. The undersized Spartans battled gamely throughout, and NSU coach Debra Clark smiles at this observation.

4. It’s a bit of a forced smile. “I want to win,” Clark said regarding her Spartans, who should win their share of games in the MEAC this season.

5. Where was everybody? (I know, out Christmas shopping). Only 235 turned out at Echols Arena. Not counting us.

6. William and Mary senior guard Kelly Heath led all scorers with 16 points.

7. Aesthetically, the game was - how can we put this gently - brutally ugly. The teams combined for 48 turnovers and seemingly twice as many missed layups. “It was like Ringling Bros. out there,” Tribe coach Debbie Taylor said. And her team won.

8. Long, lean Tiffany Benson chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds as she continues to work her way out of Taylor’s doghouse.

9. Speaking of Long, Spartan sophomore Whitney Long managed just four points, three nights after she destroyed Savannah State with a career-high 30. Long did rack up six assists.

10. Usually when a coach shrieks, “Are you serious?” she’s talking to the official. Taylor was talking to the Tribe during a timeout. It was William and Mary's first game in two weeks.

11. Thanks to no media timeouts (what are we, chopped liver?), the teams sped through the game in just over 90 minutes.

12. Why don’t more teams have 50-50 raffles? NSU had one Friday and the winner pocketed .... $35.

13. Oh, so that’s why.

14. Spotted in the stands: ODU coach Wendy Larry, no doubt scouting for her pair of upcoming matchups with William and Mary.

15. Halftime score 30-19 W&M. A year ago, 46-14, W&M.

16. The Spartans were 0 for 5 from 3-point range and are a dismal 4 of 42 from beyond the arc over their last five games. Conclusion - shooting from distance is not an NSU strength.

17. Speaking of 3s, why did the Tribe’s Robyn Barton jack one up at the buzzer with her team already ahead by 25?

18. We’ve been known to pick on Benson’s poor free-throw shooting, but she’s not the only one. The teams combined to miss 20 from the stripe.

19. No cheerleaders. No band. But a small and occasionally festive group of kids from the Boys and Girls Club was a nice touch.

20. You know what they should do with this gym? Get some partitions to seal off the upper decks. Now you’re playing in about a 3,000-seat, field house-style pit. It would give NSU a real home court advantage. Would look a lot better, too.

21. Play of the night: Benson blocks the shot and sprints up court for the transition basket. That block, by the way, lifted Benson into second place in the CAA for blocked shots (surpassing ODU's Nyree Roberts).

22. Look -- the ball’s wedged between the backboard and the rim. I love when this happens in women’s basketball, 'cause no one’s has enough hops to get it down.

23.Not that we’re full of ourselves, but our predicted score for this game was 73-53. Next stop: Vegas.

24. Tribe heads for Gainsville, Fla., in the morning for a Sunday game against High Point.

25. Spartans off until the day after Christmas when they prepare for McNeese State.

The greatest?

Talk about lofty praise - in ESPN's Graham Hays' nice profile of JMU's Dawn Evans, Drexel coach Denise Dillon essentially calls the Dukes star the most talented guard she's ever seen. Check that - "by far" the most talented guard she's ever seen.

Incoming Spartans

It's not easy finding players with size - ones with skillz, anyway - so hat's off to Norfolk State's Debra Clark for landing three players in the six-foot range among her four recruits in the early signing period. Some reports even list Herndon's Carlon Chambers at 6-foot-2, although apparently that's just when she's going out on a date since the Spartans have her at 6-0. Still, the Spartans are clearly assembling a promising cast for 2010-11. It's just too bad they can't suit up for NSU tonight - the gritty but diminutive Spartans could use all the frontline help they can get.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Daily dribble

It's showtime for James Madison, back to work for William and Mary and a couple of unheralded but tricky opponents for Radford and Longwood. Note - Due to an impending snowstorm, the start time for the Davidson-Radford game has been moved up to 3 p.m. The game was originally set to tip off of at 7 p.m.

Friday's action

No. 24 JMU (7-0) at No. 7 Duke (7-2), 7 p.m.
First of all, let's all breathe a sigh of relief that JMU star Dawn Evans has her health and appears set to return. But even though she's been out less than two weeks, no one should expect her to spin right back into Wonder Woman, especially against a Blue Devils defense that will pick her up the moment she sets foot in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke can be dysfunctional on offense at times, but the Blue Devils are tenacious defenders who will be playing with something to prove after Tuesday's setback at Stanford. They also know that JMU is legit, as the Dukes are 2-0 against Duke's ACC brethren (think Kenny Brooks won't bring that up a time or two during recruiting visits?). If the Dukes can reprise their effort against Virginia - and most importantly, if Evans is Evans, who knows? If not, well, a lot of really good teams haven't beaten Duke in Durham. Duke 78, JMU 72

William and Mary (4-3) at Norfolk State (2-5), 6 p.m.
Tuesday's 57-45 victory over Savannah State was a signature triumph for the Spartans as they beat a Division I team with a winning record on the road, three rarities for this program in the post-James Sweat era. Furthermore, while the Spartans are on what for them constitutes a roll, William and Mary hasn't played in two weeks. The problem is NSU simply doesn't match up with this team. NSU has no starter taller than 5-9; William and Mary's frontline goes 6-3, 6-3 and 5-11, with 6-2 All-CAA forward Tiffany Benson coming off the bench. When these teams met a year ago in Williamsburg, the Tribe won by 60. It won't be nearly that decisive this time, but unless the Tribe is extremely rusty, NSU's matchup problems should again prove fatal. William and Mary 73, Norfolk State 53

Davidson (3-7) at Radford (1-7), 3 p.m.
At the start of the season, Davidson 6-4 freshman Sophia Aleksandravicius was just a mouthful. Now she's also a handful, averaging 20.3 ppg and 10.0 rpg over her last four games. The Wildcats lost their first six games. Then Aleksandravicius figured things out, and they've gone 3-1 since. Bottom line - this game looked a lot more winnable for Radford two weeks ago. Davidson 69, Radford 55

Longwood (3-8) at High Point (4-5), 7 p.m.
Defense may win championships (it really doesn't, by itself anyway, but that's the cliche) - but offense has been the key in Longwood's three victories. The Lancers have scored at least 72 points in each of those games, but no more than 62 in any of their losses. Longwood's offense was certainly clicking in Tuesday's 72-55 decision over Campbell. But that performance won't frighten High Point, which owns a 21-point win over those same Camels. More importantly, the Panthers are 3-0 at home; the Lancers 0-6 away from home. High Point 72, Longwood 62

We know it's early, but.....

Welcome to Norfolk, Huskies! At least that's how ESPN prognosticator Charlie Creme sees it in his first attempt at picking the NCAA Tournament field of 64.

The Constant Center will host first and second round games in March. Creme slates UConn meeting Southern in the opening round and Temple vs. Michigan in the opposing 8/9 matchup.

He slates Virginia as a 5 seed; James Madison as a 9; and Liberty as a 13.

Creme's other three No. 1 seeds: Tennessee, Notre Dame and Stanford.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ODU's Fab Five

You have to choose five Old Dominion players as the five best. Throw out position. Pick the five greatest to wear a Lady Monarch uniform. That's what Debbie Antonelli was asked to do during this week's WBCA podcast.
How impressive is Lady Monarch history? Consider Wade Trophy winner Ticha Penicheiro didn't make the cut. Here's who Antonelli goes with:

Anne Donovan: She's the Babe Ruth on ODU's all-time great list. In case you need to be reminded, she led ODU to an AIAW title in 1980 and two more Final Fours. Donovan was a Kodak All-American three of her four years and graduated as the school's leading scorer (2,719 points) and rebounder (1,976) with an NCAA record 801 shots blocked.

Nancy Lieberman: If Donovan is Ruth, Lieberman is Gehrig. Lady Magic is ODU's all-time leader in assists with 983, ranks third overall in scoring (2,430) and second in steals (512). Lieberman is the only two-time Wade Trophy winner and was one of 10 players named to the Kodak All-American team recognized as the best to ever play the game.

Inge Nissen: Her 2,647 points and 1,459 rebounds are second only to Donovan and twice she was a national champion (1979 and 1980). Named a Kodak All-American her senior year, Nissen was a two-time Wade Trophy finalist and earned team MVP honors three of her four seasons.

Adrienne Goodson: A national champion her freshmen season (1984-85) when she scored 323 points. Goodson was a Kodak All-American and Sun Belt Player of the Year in 1987-88. Goodson's 1,574 points rank her 11th all time.

Medina Dixon: The Naismith finalist for the 1984-85 season when ODU won the national title. Her 1,968 points puts her at seventh all time.

Antonelli wrestled with two other names, Marie Christian and Rhonda Rompola, before narrowing her choice down to the Fab Five.

In case you're wondering, the Constant Center rafters honor the retired numbers of Donovan, Lieberman, Nissen, Penicheiro and Clarisse Machanguana.

We'd like to open this up for discussion. If you could only pick five all-time Lady Monarch greats, who would they be? We'd love to hear from longtime Lady Monarch fans on this topic.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Daily dribble

Tuesday's highlights include by a pair of victories by teams that have typically found those hard to come by, a near-miss by Liberty and one-half of a solid effort by the VCU Rams.

Tuesday's action

Norfolk State 57, Savannah State 45
In more ways that one, this victory was a Long time coming. The Spartans (2-5) came in having dropped 24 straight road/neutral court games since a 69-45 decision at Winston-Salem St. on Feb. 25, 2008. But NSU sophomore guard Whitney Long took care of that, as she blitzed the Lady Tigers for a career-high 30 points. Her output included a 11-of-12 effort from the free throw line, which was hardly a surprise since she began play with the highest free-throw percentage of any D-I player in the state (83.3). Long's play was indicative of the Spartans' effort on a night where, as is often the case, the more aggressive team prevailed. The Spartans made 31 trips to the free throw line, the Lady Tigers only five.

Longwood 72, Campbell 55
The Lancers (3-8) may not win many, but when they do prevail, they do it in a big way - their three victories have come by an average of 16 points and each one has been by double figures. Krystal Garrison had career highs in points (18) and rebounds (10) as the Lancers improved to 3-2 at home.

Auburn 70, Liberty 64
The Lady Flames (6-2) finally ran into a team it couldn't outrebound or contain defensively as the Lady Tigers became the first team to score 70 on Liberty in 35 games. The Lady Flames made it interesting, though, as Devon Brown (19 points, 8 rebounds) led a second-half rally that cut a 14-point deficit to three.

VCU 65, Winthrop 51
A 15-point victory on the road is nothing to apologize for, although the Rams (5-2) ought to be chagrined by 14-percent shooting in the second half. On the bright side it was another big night for D'Andra Moss, who notched a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) and made all 10 of her free throws.

State rankings - #6

Action has been so scarce with state teams of late there was almost no point in doing these weekly rankings. Almost. But it's always fun to take a closer look at each of the schools. Besides, the action will begin to heat up again this weekend - only to cool down again next week during the Christmas break.

Tuesday also brought more national recognition for JMU, which settled in at No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Wonder where Kenny Brooks ranked his Dukes....

1. James Madison (7-0) Last week: 1
As of Tuesday, the Dukes were one of 13 undefeated teams in Division I. If they're still in that group four days from now, stop the presses. Or to put it in 2009 parlance, freeze the download. Next: Friday at No. 7 Duke

2. Virginia (7-2) Last week: 2
Monica Wright is the reigning ACC Player of the Week after stuffing the statsheet against Furman. It's "only" the fourth time in her career Wright has claimed the honor, a relatively low number given Wright's production throughout a four-year career. It just shows how tough it is to get singled out in a high-quality, 12-team league. Next: Sunday at No. 11 Georgia

3. Richmond (7-3) Last week: 3
It's tough to complain too much when you're winning 70 percent of your games. Still, the Spiders have to be a little disappointed over the fact that they spit the second-half bit in two home games against quality opponents Georgetown and Drexel and suffered 15-point losses in both. Next: Monday vs. Radford

4. VCU (4-2) Last week: 4
This weekend's eight-team Duel in the Desert should be beneficial on two fronts - exposing the Rams to the (potential) three-games-in-three-days grind of the CAA tournament and matching them up against high-level competition - five of the teams made the NCAA tournament a year ago and a sixth went to the WNIT. Oh, and there's a third front - Las Vegas is a cool city in which to spend a weekend. Next: Tonight at Winthrop; Friday at UNLV's Duel in the Desert Classic

5. Liberty (6-1) Last week: 5
Defense rules at Liberty - the Lady Flames have held 92 consecutive opponents under 50 percent shooting and had kept 34 in a row under 70 points until Tuesday's 70-64 setback at Auburn. They currently rank among the top three teams in the nation in points allowed and field goal percentage allowed. Next: Tonight at Auburn; Dec. 28 vs. Cornell in UVa.'s Cavalier Classic

6. Virginia Tech (6-3) Last week: 7
The future continues to look bright for the Hokies, who next season will add the nation's No. 28 recruiting class to this year's promising cast of newcomers. Next: Saturday vs. UAB in St. John's Holiday Classic

7. Old Dominion (1-6) Last week: 6
Tia Lewis ranks first in the CAA at 9.3 rebounds per game, and more than half of her boards come off the offensive glass. But while we love the way Lewis goes and gets the ball, there are too many balls for her to go and get - ODU ranks in the bottom 50 of the 332 Division I schools in field goal percentage (35.6). Next: Sunday vs. Hampton

8. Hampton (2-6) Last week: 8
Speaking of a gang that can't shoot straight...The Lady Pirates rank dead last among D-I schools in field-goal percentage. Yet they continue to give opponents fits, making Hampton a case study in how competitive a team can be without actually putting the ball in the basket. Next: Sunday at Old Dominion (AKA the Brick Bowl)

9. William and Mary (4-3) Last week: 9
The Tribe will be returning to action this week after a two-week exam break. William and Mary has lost its first game after the break the past two years, both at home. The last time they were successful was three years ago, at Norfolk State. Looks like someone knew what they were doing when they put together the Tribe's 2009-10 schedule. Next: Friday at Norfolk State

10. George Mason (6-3) Last week: 10
Forget losing at home. George Mason has yet to even trail at any point in their six contests at the Patriot Center. The 6-0 mark is the best in program history. Next: Dec. 22 vs. George Washington

11. Longwood (2-8) Last week: 11
Despite the record, the long-term prognosis for the Lancers looks good. Freshmen Heather Tobeck (18th nationally in blocked shots) and Crystal Smith (formerly of Richmond's Meadowbrook High) have already proven to be keepers, and sophomore Morgan Smith has also been solid. In all, nine of the 11 Lancers are first- or second-year players. Next: Tonight vs. Campbell; Friday at High Point

12. Norfolk State (1-5) Last week: 12
Poor Tiffany McNair. After already missing two full seasons with shoulder injuries, the 6-2 redshirt senior has been forced to shut it down for good. It's also a tough break for the Spartans, who start no one taller than 5-9 and get killed on the boards most nights. Next: Tonight at Savannah State; Friday vs. William and Mary

13. Radford (1-7) Last week: 13
One thing the Highlanders do as well as anyone is steal the ball. Led by sophomore guard Denay Wood (2.8 spg), Radford's 12.4 steals per game is the highest figure among Virginia schools and the 9th-best in Division I. Next: Friday vs. Davidson

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daily dribble

Hey, coaches, have a little extra time on your hands during this exam week? How about making a recruiting trip to New Jersey to check out the world's tallest teenage girl? OK, so she's extremely raw. But you can always teach the fundamentals. You can't teach 6-foot-10.

Meanwhile, back on the Virginia college scene....

Tuesday's action

Liberty (6-1) at Auburn (6-3), 7 p.m.
Auburn won by 11 when these teams met in Lynchburg last season, but that means little as the Lady Flames graduated seven seniors off that team while Auburn bid adieu to four members of its starting five. What does figure to be relevant is Auburn's homecourt advantage, especially against a Liberty team that hasn't played in 10 days and won't play again until Dec. 28. The Lady Flames also must come up with an answer for Auburn's 6-7 center KeKe (Aircraft) Carrier, who is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds over her last three games. They don't grow 'em like that in the Big South. The Big West or the Big East, either. That said, no one has really been able to solve the Liberty defense so far. We're betting Auburn won't be the first. Liberty 59, Auburn 58.

Norfolk State (1-5) at Savannah State (7-3), 7 p.m.
Both teams struggle to put the ball in the basket; the difference is Savannah State is - statistically at least - the nation's best at preventing opponents from doing so (43.6 points allowed, 30.5 FG percentage allowed). But never mind who's going to win. The big question is which number will be greater: points on the board or fans in the stands? Don't laugh - on Sunday 88 people showed up at Tiger Arena to see Savannah State and Alabama State combine for 81 points. Savannah State 45, Norfolk State 43

VCU (4-2) at Winthrop (4-4), 7 p.m.
Talk about stepping up - D'Andra Moss' 20.3 points-per-game average - 21st in the nation - is more than double her figure in any of her previous three seasons. Winthrop is led by senior Shanice Cole (a team-high 10.3 ppg), a Richmond native and former Highland Springs High star, and coach Bud Childers, who led JMU to the 2001 WNIT semifinals but resigned mid-season in 2003 after a players revolt. VCU 70, Winthrop 61

Campbell (4-2) at Longwood (2-8), 7 p.m.
Sure, the overall record is dismal. But the Lancers can actually move a game over .500 at home with a victory tonight. It's that 0-6 mark away from Farmville that's weighing them down - and things won't get any easier as 11 of their final 16 games will also be on the road. Just one more reason why it's so tough to be a Division I independent. Longwood 58, Campbell 55

We're also keeping an eye on:

#7 Duke (7-1) at #2 Stanford (7-0), 10 p.m.
The transformation of Jasmine Thomas from good player to go-to player bodes well for the Blue Devils, as does their athleticism and ability to disrupt most teams on the perimeter. Stanford's overwhelming low-post game should still carry the day, though, and we wouldn't be surprised if they do it by 20 or more points. Stanford 79, Duke 62