Monday, November 30, 2009

Daily dribble

With several travel-weary teams easing into December, we're in for a few light nights on the hardwoods. But while we don't have quantity, JMU and Liberty should deliver high quality when two of the state's best square off in Lynchburg.

Monday's recap

George Mason 70, Fairfield 65: They had to overcome one of the great one-woman performances they'll see this season, as the Stags' Stephanie Geehan went off for 33 points and 17 boards. Ultimately, however, those heroics couldn't overcome another all-hands-on-deck effort from the surging Patriots (4-2), who knocked off an undefeated team, won their third in a row, remained unbeaten at home (4-0) and matched their victory total for last season in one ultra-satisfying result. Oh, and kudos to freshman Amber Easter, who on Monday was named the CAA Rookie of the Week.

Tuesday's showdown

JMU (4-0) at Liberty (5-0), 7 p.m.

Easily the most intriguing intrastate matchup of the young season features two unbeaten teams and the state's top two scorers in Liberty's Dawn Evans (26.8 ppg) and Liberty's Devon Brown (21.2). Athleticism and Liberty often don't fit comfortably in the same sentence, but the Dukes should be prepared for a more mobile Lady Flames group led by a slimmed-down Brown. As for the Lady Flames, their biggest concern is obviously Evans, but JMU freshman guard Tarik Hislop (13.3 ppg) can make Liberty pay for devoting too much attention to the Dukes' superstar. The home team has prevailed when these teams have met in each of the last three seasons, so this would seem to be Liberty's turn. But all other things being relatively equal, we'll lean towards the team with the best player. JMU 66, Liberty 63

Five reasons (plus) not to despair about 0-5 ODU

No team likes to exit November without a win. As dismal as the first five games have been for Old Dominion - and yes they have been ugly (they're shooting 31 percent and averaging 51 points per game) - there's reason for hope come December.

Here's five reasons for Lady Monarch fans to smile:

1. Jessica Canady hasn't played yet. Forget the 16 minutes next to the preseason All-CAA first-teamer's name in the Stanford box. Canady continues to heal from offseason knee surgery and her not playing these past five games, however distressing for fans, is the best thing for the 6-1 forward. ODU needs a healthy Canady, and sitting her out until she is 100 percent ready can only pay off in the long run. A healthy Canady will make a huge difference on the floor for an ODU team that desperately needs height and experience and more importantly, scoring.

2. The second half against Louisville. The Cancun trip was on the verge of being a disaster before the Lady Monarchs pulled it together to rally from 23 down against the Cardinals. They cut it to two behind career highs from Shadasia Green and Tia Lewis. Great to see that kind of fight in ODU and more significantly, something to build on.

3. As for Lewis, she's our third reason to smile. If Lewis can put up 24 against Louisville and 15 against Stanford, she can be a force in the CAA. No doubt the Conference USA Freshman of the Year who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules was rusty after not playing college basketball for a season. Particularly in Cancun, the player ODU fans have anticipated emerged in a manner that hopefully becomes routine.

4. The schedule has been brutal. Stanford is a national championship contender. Maryland at their place is daunting. As tropical as Cancun sounds, the Lady Monarchs had to be reeling from junior Jasmine Parker losing her brother the week before. But take a look at the next four games. ODU plays three straight home games against Ole Miss, Florida and Hampton. Ole Miss is 5-1, but those five have come against Florida Atlantic, San Jose State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Sam Houston State and SE Louisiana. Florida is 3-3, having defeated Stetson, UAB and Florida International. Hampton notably upended CAA foes William and Mary and UNCW, but has dropped its last three to Richmond, SMU and Fresno State. The lone road game for ODU in its next four is St. Joes (2-4). This team could easily rebound to 4-5. Of course, then they head to Knoxville.....

5. They're young. Really, really young. But youth grows up quickly as the minutes mount. We already like Jackie Cook's poise. JoNiquia Guilford has shown glimpses of the player she was in high school, and she's still working her way into shape.

Not convinced? Here's two more reasons not to count out the Lady Monarchs:

6. As nice as it is to knock off a team in the nonconference, here's what matters for ODU: a handful of games in March. The CAA is much improved, but it's not the SEC. ODU should be a viable contender for an 18th CAA tournament championship..

7. How you say? Here's our ace in the hole. Wendy Larry. With 17 CAA tournament titles to her credit, the Lady Monarchs coach, who is 31 wins shy of of 600, knows a thing or two about winning.

So, whadaya think?

You keep hearing a lot from us. Now, with the first half-month of the season in the books, we want to know what you make of your favorite team so far and going forward, the good, the bad and the ugly. Even shots at us are fair game. So fire away.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Delle Donne down

Delaware coach Tina Martin is kicking herself for leaving star freshman Elena Delle Donne on the floor Saturday night against Houston with less than four minutes remaining and the Blue Hens up 27. Delle Donne suffered an ankle injury and is expected to be out at least a week.

"I take full responsibility for it," Martin told the Delaware News Journal. "I should have taken her out at least a minute or two earlier."

Delle Donne leads the Blue Hens in scoring (25.0), rebounding (9.0), assists and steals and had 21 points and 10 boards against Houston before going down.

Her absence was clearly felt the following day, when the Blue Hens missed 23 of 27 first-half shots en route to a 67-44 loss to Colorado State in the final of Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational.

"We were just missing easy shots," Delaware's Lauren Carra said. "It might have been nerves. I'm not sure exactly what it was."

We have a pretty good idea.

Daily dribble

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving we're thankful Richmond prevailed and James Madison gave its coach a milestone.

What rocked
Kenny Brooks' classy comment after JMU handed him a signature triumph: "Got my 150th coaching victory thanks to my great players."

What reeked
Hofstra led Richmond 41-40 with less than two minutes to play but missed all five of its free throws the rest of the way. Final score - Richmond 42, Hofstra 41

Say what?
"Playing UConn on one night's preparation isn't the best situation, but playing them with 365 days preparation wouldn't be the best, either." - Richmond coach Michael Shafer after the mighty Huskies spanked the Spiders 86-37 Saturday night.

The rundown

Richmond 42, Hofstra 41:
You know what this score suggests. Both teams were clocked by UConn in this WBCA tournament and gassed after playing three games in three days. Spiders (5-2) shoot 24 percent and score 13 points in the second but win thanks to Katie Holzer's layup with 2.5 seconds left.

Morehead State 68, Longwood 62:

What was that that we just wrote about being gassed in a tournament? Longwood (2-5) is undone in their only Lancer Classic by Eagles bench, which scores 26 and rallies back from a 31-27 halftime deficit.

James Madison 80, Western Carolina 63:
Kenny Brooks gets win No. 150 (Dawn Evans should get partial credit for at least 50 of those). The Dukes diva scored 25 and does anyone realize, JMU is 4-0. Dukes have a showdown at Virginia in a week.

Howard 44, Radford 39:

You know that line about calling in the MEAC if you need a win? Somebody forgot to tell the Bison. With both teams shooting in the 20s, be glad you weren't one of the 237 there.

Monday's action

Fairfield (3-0) at George Mason (3-2):
Patriots are unbeaten at home and Stags are just plain unbeaten, having held their three opponents to under 50. Then again their three opponents were St. Francis, Lafayette and Rhode Island. As much as we like the name Desiree Pina (Stags leading scorer), we're banking on the Patriots in this one. George Mason 62, Fairfield 57

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh, what a night

Saturday's recap

What rocked
LaKendra Washington's shooting touch - after scoring 19 points in her first four games combined, the Liberty freshman poured in 21 as Liberty dismantled Lafayette.

What reeked
Norfolk State's shooting touch - the weary Spartans (mis)fired away at a 20.5 percent clip against Samford. Then again, we've seen worse.

What almost happened
What looked like another abysmal night for Old Dominion might have turned into the confidence boost these young Lady Monarchs need. They trailed by 23, misfiring on their first 10 3s, but what a second half! ODU nearly pulled the upset after cutting it to two behind 24 apiece from Tia Lewis and Shadasia Green.

Say what?
"Hi You all! I am back on line after a trip to the Bahamas with the team. Many amazing stories to tell. The players and Ms. Fitz (academic coordinator Natalie Fitzgerald) rode out a storm on of all things a banana boat! We had a fire at pre game that could have burned down the hotel. China (Crosby) took a charge my bad got called for a block and ended up in the island hospital. We won the Championship and got a beautiful Conch shell trophy. We made a lot of memories and didn't have phones to get in the way. I got NO tan!" - Virginia coach Debbie Ryan via Twitter after the Cavaliers' successful trip to the Junkanoo Jam

The games

Louisville 82, Old Dominion 75: What looked like a tropical depression in Mexico (they lost to Syracuse by 33 on Thursday) for the Lady Monarchs took a turn in the second half of this one. ODU outscored the Cardinals by 10 in the second half and rallied from 23 down to within a basket. At 0-5, they could sure use a win, but they got the next best thing -- a lift and that's without star forward Jessica Canady, still healing a bad knee. A few made free throws might have made the difference -- ODU was 21 of 34 -- but even without the win, this second half gives coach Wendy Larry something to build on after a grueling November.

UConn 86, Richmond 37
: Geno wins No. 701 as Huskies look like they could score 700. Michael Shafer's plan was to force them to shoot from the outside and that's exactly what they did, burying 13 three pointers.

Liberty 90, Lafayette 55: The Lady Flames (5-0) continue to capitalize on a schedule perfectly suited to a team in transition - the complete opposite of the situation at Old Dominion.

Virginia Tech 82, Elon 46: Lindsay lights it up again - Hokies senior Lindsay Biggs notched a game-high 18 points and has now hit 17 of 30 3-pointers over her last four games.

Samford 70, Norfolk State 33: Forty minutes played, one NSU assist. But we saw this kind of result coming. For all of the Spartans' obvious improvement, this team is still not quite ready to play two games in a 19-hour span.

Longwood 72, Texas Pan-American 62: It was a short night for Heather Tobeck (eight minutes), but junior Krystal Garrison picked up the slack with 17, one shy of her career high.

Fresno State 66, Hampton 54
: Here's what hurts. Pirates hit no 3s. Bulldogs drain eight. Credit the Pirates for hanging in, though. The score was tied at 30 at the break.

William and Mary 69, Seattle 58: Winless Redbirds are no match for Tribe (3-2) behind the unstoppable Taysha Pye (22 points, 11 boards). Attacking William and Mary went to the line 17 more times than Seattle.

Sunday's action

Hofstra (3-2) vs. Richmond (4-1), WBCA Classic in Storrs, Conn., 2 p.m.
Pride lost a heartbreaker to Clemson on Saturday. Spiders got stomped by UConn. Who's got something left? We'll go with the Spiders. Richmond 71, Hofstra 65

James Madison (3-0) at Western Carolina (1-4), 2 p.m.
Think the Catamounts are going to stop Dawn Evans (27.3 ppg?) We don't. James Madison 81, Western Carolina 59

Howard (1-4) at Radford (0-3), 3 p.m.
Need a win? Send out for a MEAC team. OK, it's not quite that simple, especially when you're a rebuilding team like Radford. But the Highlanders are rested and at home. It's the perfect set-up for them to finally put the hammer down on someone. Radford 66, Howard 45

Morehead State (3-3) at Longwood (2-4), Lancer Classic, 2 p.m.
Eagles, winners of three of their last four who lost in OT to Gardner Webb on Saturday, would relish being the spoiler. Morehead State 77, Longwood 73

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daily dribble

Friday's recaps

Richmond 86, Clemson 67: There may not be any lights left in Gampel Pavilion after the white-hot Spiders (60 percent FGs) shot them out Friday. Oh, and congratulations, Brittani Shells, on joining the 1,000-point club.

Virginia 78, South Dakota State 66: We were wondering how these Baby Cavs would fare in a game where Monica Wright (8 pts, 4-15 FGs) didn't have it. Now we know - with a career high from Paulisha Kellum, they can survive quite nicely.

George Mason 72, North Carolina Central 57: The Patriots roll, as expected, led by freshman Amber Easter's 20-point, 15-rebound performance.

UAB 56, Norfolk State 53: There's no quit in these Spartans, who nearly made it all the way back from a 19-point second-half deficit.

SMU 84, Hampton 71: A respectable showing by the Lady Pirates in a true road game against the defending Conference USA regular-season champs.

William and Mary 46, South Alabama 40: Judging from that score, we're kinda glad we didn't see this one. But hey, a win is a win, right?

Today's action

Norfolk State (1-3) vs. (Fred) Samford (4-1), UAB Tournament, noon
With four starters back from a 22-win club a year ago, it would appear as though Samford has a bit too much firepower for NSU. But the gritty Spartans have already proven they won't back down from anyone. Samford 72, NSU 58

Liberty (4-0) at Lafayette (1-4), 2 p.m.
Now in her ninth season at Lafayette, coach Tammie Smith has a career 42-163 record. No one can accuse Lafayette's administration of making snap judgments on the program's direction. Liberty 65, Lafayette 48

Hampton (2-2) vs. Fresno State (2-3), SMU Tournament, 6 p.m.
The Pirates will need to cool off Bulldogs junior Jaleesa Ross, who went off for a career-high 33 points in Friday's 83-75 loss to Boston College. Fresno State 85, Hampton 69

Elon (2-1) at Virginia Tech (3-2), 1 p.m.
With only 12 points in her last two games combined, Tech senior Utahya Drye is clearly in a slump. So Tech information man Torye Hurst couldn't resist. Among his headlines in the Hokies latest pre-game release: "Utahya hits Drye spell" Virginia Tech 69, Elon 55

Texas Pan-American (0-4) at Longwood (1-4), Lancer Classic, 2 p.m.
The price is right: admission to the tournament is free with a canned food donation to the Farmville Area Community Emergency Services (FACES). Longwood 62, Texas Pan-American 50

Richmond (3-1) at UConn (4-0), WBCA Classic, 7:30 p.m.
If the Spiders can shoot as well as they did Friday, who knows? OK, we know. But Richmond's sizzling performance against Clemson should at least give the Huskies something to think about. UConn 95, Richmond 55

William and Mary (3-2) at Seattle (0-6), Seattle Redhawks Tournament, 8 p.m.
Sophomore Taysha Pye is averaging 17.5 points through the first two games of this three-game road trip and was just about the only player on either team that could put the ball in the basket in Friday's 46-40 "defensive struggle" over South Alabama. William and Mary 61, Seattle 49

Old Dominion (0-4) vs. Louisville (3-1), Cancun Thanksgiving Classic, 8:15 p.m.
Never mind winning. A shooting percentage in the 40s, all-out effort for 40 minutes and (hopefully) no injuries are the realistic goals for a still-maturing Lady Monarchs team in over its head schedule-wise. Louisville 75, ODU 60

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Spiders over Huskies - you heard it here first

Richmond beats UConn!!!

It will never happen you say? Well, here's 10 ways it could.

10. At least it’s in a tournament, so they’re on a neutral floor. Say, where is this tournament anyway? O-o-o-o-ohhhh …

9. Richmond bus swings through Delaware and picks up Elena Delle Donne. But the game will have to be played quickly – Delle Donne only stays in Storrs for 48 hours.

8. Huskies freak out when they discover Richmond uses real spiders.

7. Six-on-five. Well, maybe seven-on-five.

6. Michael Shafer has a foolproof plan, which he is keeping in an attaché case handcuffed to his wrist, and he’s not going to open it until just before the opening tipoff.

5. Tell defender her shoe is untied. When she looks down, drive past and shoot uncontested. Keep repeating until the Huskies catch on.

4. Tina Charles abruptly transfers, declaring she really does want to go to Stony Brook.

3. Geno cuts a side deal – His team will throw the game if the Spiders let Nykesha Sales get two more points.

2. Make Pat Summitt a ref.

And finally, the No. 1 way Richmond might beat UConn....

1. Borrow the best players from ODU, James Madison, William and Mary ... and the Boston Celtics.

Daily dribble

Thanksgiving recap

Virginia 84, Indiana 79: Judging from her game-high 39 minutes played, it would appear as though China Crosby's tailbone injury is a thing of the past. Disregard that final score; for the most part the Cavs cruised to Friday's Junkanoo Jam final in a game that wasn't as close as the score suggests.

Syracuse 65, Old Dominion 32:
--Yuck. ODU scores 11 in the second half and sets a new program low, shooting 20.3 percent. . Louisville is next. Yet. To be fair, Lady Monarchs are without their top player and Jasmine Parker flew in late due to her brother's funeral. Simply put, these Lady Monarchs are not whole, and the schedule is unforgiving. Next up: NCAA runner-up Louisville.

Friday's action

Virginia (4-1) vs. South Dakota State (2-3), Junkanoo Jam final, 8 p.m.
The upstart Jackrabbits are disciplined, don't beat themselves and when they're on can hit shots from anywhere. But hey, the Cavaliers learned all that three years ago. We're sure Monica Wright remembers, and we're betting she comes out determined to make sure it doesn't happen again. Virginia 77, South Dakota State 67

Richmond (3-1) vs. Clemson (3-1), WBCA Classic in Storrs, Conn., 5 p.m.
The Spiders will be playing on UConn's court. Let's hope some of that Huskies magic seeps through their shoes. Richmond 68, Clemson 64

Hampton (2-1) at SMU (4-0), SMU Tournament, 7 p.m.
Host teams try to guarantee they'll make their own final by scheduling an opponent they believe they'll surely beat. Fans and sponsors are also banking on an SMU win, so the Lady Pirates better thrive on us-against-the-world scenarios because no one at Moody Coliseum is going to want them to succeed. SMU 65, Hampton 55

Norfolk State (1-2) at UAB (1-3), UAB Thanksgiving Classic, 7 p.m.
See Hampton-SMU comment - different teams, same scenario. Again, it's really tough to beat the host school in these spots. And don't be too put off by UAB's record. The losses have come to Ohio State, Florida and Miami. UAB 75, Norfolk State 62

North Carolina Central (0-4) at George Mason (2-2), 7 p.m.
The Patriots haven't been over the .500 mark in more than two years, but that should change at about 9 p.m. Friday. Not only is Mason unbeaten at home (2-0), but the Lady Eagles are being outscored by 28 points a game this season. George Mason 71, North Carolina Central 51

William and Mary (2-2) vs. South Alabama (2-1), Seattle Redhawks Tournament, 8 p.m.
Freshman Jaclyn McKenna continues to torch the nets, as she's shooting at a 77.3-percent clip, has not missed more than two shots in any game and is perfect (2-2) from 3-point range. Neither of these teams have won away from home, so when we're in doubt, we'll lean towards the local team...barely. William and Mary 72, South Alabama 69

Chowing down with...Virginia Tech

If you're a Hokie women's baller, you're used to holiday dining in exotic locales. Four years ago, the setting was Dallas. Then it was Malibu. The Bahamas came next. Nashville followed. And this year, what's more exotic than...Shawsville, Virginia? OK, we admit we'd never heard of it. But Beth Dunkenberger sure has. It's where the the Hokies coach grew up. And with no travel on Thanksgiving for just the second time in her six years, the Hokies will bond/pig out Shawsville style with the entire Dunkenberger clan. Of course, to make sure they have big appetites, Dunkenberger will work them out in a morning practice. Then again, after Wednesday's 27-point rout of Radford, we doubt she'll be too hard on them.

Also see: Chowing down with Liberty; Old Dominion

Chowing down with...Old Dominion

A Thanksgiving burrito? Well, when you're spending the day in Mexico and Syracuse is on tap in a few hours, you can't afford to be too choosy. They have managed to scare up a traditional turkey. But the bulk of the Lady Monarchs' feast/pre-game meal will consist of a Mexican buffet served up at the team's hotel. So pass the guacamole. But hold the Oranges - they'll deal with those tonight.

Also see: Chowing down with Liberty

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chowing down with...Liberty

Basketball teams don't celebrate turkey day in the traditional manner. While most of us lounge around watching the NFL and eating too much, many teams spend the time together in faraway places like the Bahamas and Cancun. We asked the state's teams what they're doing to celebrate the holiday and we'll post their responses as they come in.

Liberty has a practice scheduled for Thanksgiving morning in the Vines Center before leaving for a road game in Easton, Pa., against Lafayette on Friday. Locals like Devon Brown (Waynesboro), Brittany Campbell (Rustburg) and Kylee Beecher (Roanoke) can enjoy some home cooking. For others it's not so easy. Jelena Antic hails from Macedonia; Dymond Morgan is from Lynwood, Calif; and Amber Mails is from Pasadena. Calif. Head coach Carey Green and his wife, Denise, are having many of the players over to their house for the Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving dribble

We're thankful for the light schedule Thursday because, hey, we like to eat, too. So dig into this brief recap, then enjoy the holiday!

Wednesday's recap

Virginia Tech 78, Radford 51: Highlanders (0-3) had a lead for the first time all season. The next step: learning how to hold it.

Thursday's action

Old Dominion (0-3) vs. Syracuse (4-0)(Cancun Thanksgiving Classic), 8:15 p.m.

- ODU would be thankful for any kind of win here to avoid an 0-4 start. They'll need to shoot better than their 35 percent average. Help could be on the way as star forward Jessica Canady has hinted she might give it a go. We're hoping she doesn't, as the Lady Monarchs will need a 100-percent healthy Canady for the CAA season. These games would be nice to win; those will be crucial. Tia Lewis would love to make up for her 1-of-9 debacle against N.C. State, and she'll have her hands full at the other end trying to check senior forward Nicole Michael, coming off a 36-point, 17-rebound assault on Binghamton. Several Lady Monarchs are overdue for good games, but while we hope it's today, we want to see it first. Besides, ODU almost never beats a team in orange. Syracuse 78, ODU 68

Virginia (3-1) vs. Indiana (3-1)(Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas), 2:15 p.m.

- While we feast on turkey and football, these guys are basking in the Caribbean under the sun. Pass the sunscreen, Debbie. As glamorous as it sounds, most of the time teams see little more than the inside of a gym and a hotel room. Here's hoping Ryan lets her young Cavaliers do some jammin' in Junkanoo. A victory would certainly lighten the mood. Virginia 82, Indiana 66.

In case you missed it

Via Youtube: the clip of Brittney Griner's first collegiate dunk. Not bad. But based on what she's capable of, we're only giving this one a 5.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Slam dunk!

We went 4-for-4 on our picks (making us 28-7 on the season, by the way, though we would have preferred our average go down if it meant Longwood and William and Mary picking up wins....) But our dunk is nothing compared to Brittney Griner becoming the seventh woman to dunk in NCAA history. We're betting it's the first of many for the 6-8 Baylor freshman.

Richmond 64, Hampton 46: Spiders beat a pretty good Pirates team, but yikes! Richmond committed 26 turnovers to Hampton's 24. Rebounding numbers are more favorable for the Spiders, who nabbed 16 more.

Iowa 78, William and Mary 54: Hawkeyes expand a 32-27 halftime lead with a 16-4 run to open the second, spoiling a generous night for the Tribe. William and Mary (2-2) had 18 assists on its 23 field goals. CAA preseason first-teamer Tiffany Benson accounted for just one of those baskets in another disappointing effort. The senior, who has lost her starting spot, played just 11 minutes.

James Madison 83, Austin Peay 56: Welcome home, Dawn Evans. Hope Evans is enjoyin' the family over the holidays after a 26-point output in her native Clarksville, Tenn. No rally necessary for tonight's Dukes, who dominated this one from the tip.

Troy 74, Longwood 57: FifAlign Centerty-seven free throws? Wish we were there. Lancers are out of the gate at 1-4, but they gotta like freshman Chelsea Coward leading them in scoring. The 6-1 guard from Richmond's Hanover High, who had 21 tonight, is still looking for her first start.

On tap:
Radford (0-2) at Virginia Tech (2-2), 3 p.m.: The Highlanders need some offense; they're only scoring 44 per game. They could also use a win, but they're not likely to get it here. Hokies have taken 11 of the last 14 in this series. Virginia Tech 74, Radford 52

State rankings - #3

Hampton makes a big move up, Old Dominion's youth and schedule has it on a steady decline and Radford needs to pick up a win to avoid evicting Norfolk State from the Ladyswish basement. Remember, though, it's early.

In case you missed them, here are the latest AP and ESPN/USA Today polls.

1. Virginia (2-1) Last week: 1
- Ryan's Baby Cavs not quite ready for prime time but still a solid Top-20 team with considerable upside. Next: Thursday vs. Indiana in the Bahamas

2. James Madison (2-0) Last week: 2
- Barring any stumbles, the Dukes will get a shot at the top spot on Dec. 6 when they visit the top-ranked Cavaliers. Next: Tonight vs. Austin Peay

3. VCU (3-0) Last week: 5
- JMU-Virginia isn't the only marquee matchup on Dec. 6. That same day the Rams will put their 19-game home winning streak on the line against No. 4 Richmond. Next: Dec. 2 at East Carolina

4. Richmond (2-1) Last week: 3
- If the Spiders thought Drexel was tough, wait 'til they get a load of top-ranked UConn Saturday. Next: Friday vs. Clemson at WBCA Classic in Storrs, Conn.

5. Liberty (4-0) Last week: 6
- Last weekend's Navy Classic title gave the Lady Flames their fourth regular-season tournament crown in the last three seasons. Next: Saturday at Lafayette

6. Old Dominion (0-3) Last week: 4
- The Lady Monarchs' brutal schedule continues this week in Cancun - Syracuse is 4-0 and Louisville sits just outside the AP Top 25. Next: Thursday vs. Syracuse in the Cancun Thanksgiving Classic

7. Virginia Tech (2-2) Last week: 8
- Really opened our eyes with Sunday's near-miss at JMU. Next: Wednesday at Radford.

8. Hampton (2-0) Last week: 12
- If the Lady Pirates can do this much damage to CAA teams, imagine the havoc they'll wreak in the MEAC. Next: Tonight at Richmond

9. William and Mary (2-1) Last week: 7
- Fabulous freshmen: Jaclyn McKenna leads the team in the scoring (13.3 ppg) while Emily Correal paces the entire CAA in rebounding (12.7 rpg). Next: Tonight at Iowa

10. George Mason (2-2) Last week: 9
- Rebuilding Patriots are already halfway to their victory total for all of last season. Next: Friday vs. North Carolina Central

11. Longwood (1-3) Last week: 11
- Youthful Lancers will try to pick up steam this weekend at home against a manageable field in their own Lancer Classic. Next: tonight at Troy

12. Radford (0-2) Last week: 10
- Tech will be tough tomorrow night, but that elusive first win could come Sunday at home against Howard. Next: Wednesday vs. Virginia Tech

13. Norfolk State (1-2) Last week: 13
- Last season, the Spartans didn't get their first win until Feb. 21, a staggering 23 games into the season. Next: Friday at UAB during UAB's Thanksgiving Classic


CAA award time

One averaged 28 points and led her team to a pair of comeback victories, while the other went off for 33 points in a tournament final. So we suspect the CAA needed about 30 seconds before deciding on JMU's Dawn Evans and VCU's D'Andra Moss at Co-Players of the Week.

It would have been 15 seconds except the league had to at least consider Delaware face-of-the-franchise Elena Delle Donne, who averaged 27 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3 assists in two contests. The key difference: Despite Delle Donne's heroics, the Blue Hens lost at Princeton Saturday. Evans and Moss would not let their teams lose.

Evans is amassing quite a collection of these things; she won/shared it five times last year. As for Delle Donne, she claimed her first (but clearly not her last) CAA Rookie of the Week honor.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The one that got away

Monday's recap

N.C. State 62, Old Dominion 52
- Kudos to ODU for breaking out the pink uniforms in honor of the late Kay Yow, the legendary former N.C. State coach. But it was an otherwise disappointing night for the Lady Monarchs (0-3), who after being overmatched in their first two outings were simply outplayed Monday. Defensively, ODU did a decent job on the perimeter but too often were unable to control the defensive boards and allowed the more aggressive Wolfpack second- and third-shot opportunities. But the offense was the real culprit. With leading scorer Jasmine Parker suffering through a tough shooting night (understandable given the circumstances) and Tia Lewis (1 of 9 FGs) surprisingly tentative in the low post, the turnover-prone Lady Monarchs were rarely able to string consecutive scores together and a winnable game slipped away. Yes, the Lady Monarchs are young and losing to N.C. State is hardly a disgrace, especially when your best player (Jessica Canady) remains sidelined by a balky knee. But with the Wolfpack kind of stumbling around at times themselves, an ODU victory was there for the taking. The Lady Monarchs just couldn't take it.

George Mason 57, Jacksonville 49
- Nice defensive effort by the Patriots (2-2), who held the Dolphins to 34-percent shooting, won the rebounding battle and forced 23 turnovers. Now, about that 48-percent free throw shooting....

Today's action

Hampton (2-0) at Richmond (2-1), 4 p.m.
- After impressive victories over CAA foes William and Mary and UNC Wilmington, David's Six Shooters step up in class to take on a Spiders team chagrined by a subpar effort in last Friday's loss to Drexel. Richmond 82, Hampton 68

Longwood (1-3) at Troy (1-1), 7 p.m.
- In Sunday's loss to Kennesaw State, Longwood's top three scorers were freshmen - Heather Tobeck (16 points), Richmond's Crystal Smith (16) and ex-Hanover High standout Chelsea Coward (13). Troy 75, Longwood 58

James Madison (2-0) at Austin Peay (0-2), 7 p.m.
- Otherwise known as the Dawn Evans Invitational, as the game will be played in the Dukes star's hometown. Expect Evans to really put on a show; then again, doesn't the Sports Illustrated preseason All-American do that every night? JMU 78, Austin Peay 74

William and Mary (2-1) at Iowa (3-1), 8 p.m.
- After shuttling between Hampton and Williamsburg for their first three games, the Tribe will begin their first real road trip with this visit to Iowa City followed by two dates in Washington state Friday and Saturday for the Seattle Redhawks Classic. Iowa 76, William and Mary 70

Daily dribble

Today's action

North Carolina State (3-1) at Old Dominion (0-2), 7 p.m.

- After two games against towering frontlines, the Lady Monarchs (Tia Lewis especially) should welcome an N.C. State team with no starter taller than 6-1 (the Wolfpack can bring size off the bench, though). Don't read too much into ODU's record; most teams would be 0-2 after opening against Stanford and at Maryland. The Lady Monarchs have played with great zeal and energy during the play-for-pride second halves of both contests. The trick now is to produce that kind of effort from the jump. With the Constant Center crowd behind them we're going to assume they will, so.... ODU 79, N.C. State 70

Jacksonville (2-2) at George Mason (1-2), 7 p.m.

- The Dolphins pounded the Patriots by 20 when these teams met in Florida last year, and Mason has looked anemic offensively in back-to-back road losses. So while we're still on the Patriots bandwagon, we've got our hand on the "Next stop, please" button. George Mason 61, Jacksonville 60

Sunday's recap

Tennessee 77, Virginia 63

- The largest crowd in the program's history turned out, and Debbie Ryan clearly enjoys working with the young cast she's assembled. There's a lot of work to be done, though, and on Sunday the Lady Vols showed just how much.

JMU 66, Virginia Tech 59

- Another great escape for the Dukes, who for the second straight game rallied from a double-digit second-half deficit. OK, so they're resilient. But why do they keep falling so far behind?

William and Mary 73, Davidson 64

- A 23-point deficit? No problem for this Tribe.

Hampton 66, UNC Wilmington 52

- Continuing our slow start, fast finish theme, the Lady Pirates didn't score a point until the game was nearly eight minutes old. Fortunately for Hampton, that still only left them behind by two points.

Kennesaw State 72, Longwood 61

- Great effort in defeat for Lancers freshman center Heather Toubek, who narrowly missed an unconventional triple-double: 16 points, 13 rebounds and 9 blocks. Toubek is averaging 5.5 blocks per game.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tennessee at Virginia: Hot dog!

They gave away hot dogs at John Paul Jones Arena on Sunday. But what Virginia needed was some beef to match up against a tougher Tennessee Lady Vol team. The outcome was 77-63, and even though they didn’t play it, it was all Rocky Top.

It's so orange in here. Trouble is there’s Tennessee orange and Cavalier orange. Who’s who?

Virginia’s orange is the one that keeps missing shots. -- 4-of-16 so far. Not gonna get it done.
Hey, there’s a guy toting his free hot dog and Coke. Pepsi, actually.

Love the idea of that kind of promotion to get folks in the door. But as full as this place is, it’s awfully quiet. Oooh, Monica Wright just made some noise with a 3, cutting it to 21-15 …. make that 24-15. Stricklen's 3 quieted this hot dog-loving crowd.

It’s up to the Cavs to get ’em fired up. And I’ll bet this place will go nuts if they do. Look at all these people. Bet there’s way more than 11,000 in here.

Hey, about that promo during the timeout that had the winner get a free breakfast from Hardee’s. Wonder what the loser got.

Two free breakfasts from Hardees?

3-pointer by Bjorklund. If she heats up, we’ll never hear from this UVa. crowd. That is, unless they start shooting off T-shirts again.

Glory Johnson just made a nice move for the layup. Being an unabashed Tennessee rooter at times, I’ve always believed this kid named Glory, who hails from Knoxville, knew she was destined to end up under Summitt’s wing.

Summitt must have had a lot of guts to recruit that kid. Because as you know, no guts, no….

Don’t say it.

Virginia cut it to nine after a very Husky-like weave of passes that ended with a freshman hitting the layup.

Yeah, but that groan you heard from the crowd was because they just posted the Redskins score. No touchdown again? Wow.

Wonder if the Redskins could beat Groh’s Virginia.

Nice finish by the Cavs. It’s halftime and they’re only down 7. Maybe we’ve got a game after all. Hey, let’s go talk to the guy dressed like a hot dog.

2nd half

Can you believe it? One guy dressed like a hot dog in the building and we lose him.

He must be in line getting a burger.

Wright for 3 again. She’s torching this Tennessee zone. Can’t do it by herself, though.

She’s trying. Not even five minutes in, and she picked up her third foul with a charge.

You’re right about Wright. She’s jacking it up a lot now. And they’re not falling. Ryan’s about to give her a little blow to settle down. ‘Hoos down by 13. So what do you think about ‘em?

Right now Debbie Ryan should ask Summitt if she can borrow a tape of that crowd noise Tennessee piped into practice earlier this week. The Cavs could use a lift from this crowd. Credit Angie Bjorklund for being the silencer. As for Virginia, they remind me a lot of Tennessee a year ago. A collection of talent that hasn’t quite figured it out yet.

At least they’re playing hard. And I’m not sure the Lady Vols have it all figured out, either. Never seen ‘em play so much zone. And I think the Cavaliers could make ‘em pay for it if they’d try to break it down. Instead, they’re settling for jumpers and the shots aren’t falling. Not even Wright’s any more.

Still, the Cavs are within 10 with 11 minutes left. One good spurt could put them in position to steal this one.

Except the drought continues for Virginia. They could sure use one of those freebie Pepsis. Or better yet, say an uncontested layup. Tennessee up 62-48 at the eight-minute mark.

It’s so quiet in here you’d think it was a Virginia football game.

Are there any hot dogs left? They could give away seconds. The ‘dogs with a little help from the Vols brought in 11,895.

Nice gimmick. They ought to try it again, with one adjustment.

What’s that?

Next time, don’t invite Tennessee.

You’ve got our take. Here’s their take:

“They’re tough. Their guard play was a big challenge for us. I thought we did a good job of defending.” – Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt

Virginia’s young team full of highly touted recruits reminded Summitt of her own Lady Vol team a year ago. “I see a lot of similarities. There’s going to be growing pains.”

No more exile for the Lady Vols, who earned the right to return to their locker room in Knoxville. “We celebrated for about five minutes after she told us,” – Johnson

“When she got 35 last year, we were going to make sure that never happened again.” – Johnson on Monica Wright, who amassed 35 points a year ago when Virginia upset Tennessee in Thompson-Boling. Wright was held to 21 in this one on 8-of-21 shooting.

From Virginia:

Freshman point guard China Crosby played sparingly after suffering a tailbone injury last week. With Crosby limited, sophomore Ariana Moorer battled for 31 minutes and scored 12 points but hit just 4 of 17 shots and did not record an assist...Virginia pulled to within three at 42-39 early in the second half, but Angie Bjorklund’s four-point play and Taber Spani’s 3-pointer shot the Lady Vols back up by 10. Wright said the Cavaliers must do a better job of responding at critical “pressure points.” So thrilled was Ryan by the turnout that she grabbed a sideline microphone at game’s end and promised, “By the time we finish this season, we will be winning championships!”

Ryan had no complaints with the effort given out by the Cavaliers, particularly her first-year players. “That’s the hardest we’ve played all year,” she said. “I told them if this is the way you’re going to play, you’re going to beat a lot of people.”

“We have a scout team, but I don’t think they play as hard as Tennessee does. I’m going to get on them a little bit.” – Ryan

“I didn’t know what to expect. All I heard was all these stories about hot dog night 22 years ago.” – Wright……The original hot dog night was Feb. 5, 1986 against North Carolina at University Hall, which drew a standing-room crowd of 11,174. Before Sunday, the largest crowd to watch a Virginia women’s game in John Paul Jones Arena was 7,106 against Maryland on Feb. 11, 2007.

While many of the players were the same, Wright said this year’s Lady Vols team bore little resemblance to the group UVa. dispatched 83-82 in Knoxville a year ago. “A lot more physical, a lot more in synch. Yeah, overall they were just a lot more experienced and better.”

Wright cautioned against her young teammates letting their disappointment over Sunday’s result seep into future performances. “We can’t let Tennessee beat us twice."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Daily Dribble

Sunday's action

Tennessee (2-0) at Virginia (3-0), 4 p.m.
- The Cavaliers will have the best player on the floor, perhaps the largest crowd in the program's history behind them and the knowledge that they beat the Lady Vols in Knoxville last season. Somehow, we get the feeling this still won't be enough. Sure hope the threes are falling.... Tennessee 75, Virginia 68

Virginia Tech (2-1) at James Madison (1-0), 2 p.m.
- If you believe in trends, JMU may be in trouble. The Hokies have won 9 straight against the Dukes (including an overtime win in Blacksburg last year) and have taken four straight in JMU's gym. Fortunately for the Dukes, we don't believe in trends. JMU 77, Virginia Tech 62

Davidson (0-3) at William and Mary (1-1), 2 p.m.
- We're not worried about Davidson beating the Tribe. Our question is, will William and Mary continue to beat itself? Take Friday's loss at Hampton (please). Full credit to the Lady Pirates, but when you see 30 William and Mary turnovers and 51-percent free-throw shooting, you have to figure there was a whole lot of Tribe self-destruction going on out there, too. William and Mary 69, Davidson 62

UNC Wilmington (1-1) at Hampton (1-0), 4 p.m.
- On Thursday, the Seahawks bombed against East Carolina's Lady Pirates. Now they'll try their luck with Hampton's version, otherwise known as David's Six Shooters. Hampton 66, UNC Wilmington 63

Longwood (1-2) at Kennesaw State (1-1), 1:30 p.m.
- Friday's rout of Utah Valley suggests the Lancers operate best when star guard Becky Fernandes is more playmaker than scorer. Let's see her teammates can continue finishing what Fernandes starts on this quick turnaround trip to Georgia. Longwood 71, Kennesaw State 61

Saturday's recap

VCU 75, Morgan State 68 (2OT)
- Last February, D'andra Moss tore the ACL in her right knee. In Saturday's title game of the Seton Hall Classic, Moss torched the Lady Bears for 33 points. Guess we can assume her recovery is going well. Then again, it's no surprise Moss knows a thing or two about rehab. As a senior in high school, she tore the ACL in her left knee. Tough kid.

Liberty 55, Navy 43
- How dominant was Liberty's second-half defense in this Navy Classic final? Lady Flames rising star Devin Brown scored 14 points after the break; the entire Navy squad managed just 11.

Mount St. Mary's 52, Radford 49
- After a shaky opener against William and Mary and a poor first half Saturday, the Highlanders snapped out of it and outscored the Mount by 14 points after intermission. Let's hope it's a sign of things to come.

Crank it up

Word is they piped in noise this week at Tennessee Lady Vols practice to prepare the team for the big-time crowd expected at Virginia. In the event you've lived in a cave and haven't read Lady Swish all week, you might not know that the Cavaliers are trying to sell out John Paul Jones Arena for Sunday's juicy matchup between No. 6 Tennessee and No. 12 Virginia. In addition to the incentive of great basketball, fans can also savor a free hot dog and 12-ounce Pepsi. Tip is 4 p.m.

Here's a thought for Tennessee opponents who must deal with monster crowds of their own when they go play at Thompson-Boling (ODU is there on Dec. 30). Pump in some Rocky Top. That's sure to motivate any basketball player not wearing orange.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sis boom bah, Spartans!

Yea, Spartans! We're not against cheerleading here at Lady Swish (we'll get into a debate about whether that's a sport at another time.) Right now it's great to see Norfolk State get a win in November. Granted, it's over a Division II team, but, hey, these Spartans are light years ahead of the debacle that took the floor last season.

Norfolk State 77, St. Paul's 74
: Four, count 'em, four Spartans scored in double figures led by Whitney Long's 19. NSU finished 21 of 29 from the line and improves to 1-2. First win for coach Debra Clark, who has that curious interim label that NSU loves to saddle its coaches with.

Liberty 63, Tulane 52: Flames on fire! Liberty is 3-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Boosted by an early 24-2 run, Liberty never trailed and is in today's championship game of the Navy Classic.

Longwood 73, Utah Valley 51
: Now that's more like it Lancers! (Excuse our glee. We're still excited about Norfolk State.) A 14-0 second half run turned a close game into a blowout and gives Longwood its first victory of the season. (Extraneous fact of the night: Utah Valley hosts Boise State on Tuesday. Admission is $1 if you're from Idaho and you get in free if you're from Boise. (OK, so you don't get a free hotdog like you do in Charlottesville on Sunday when Virginia hosts Tennessee....). Why's Boise so big at Utah Valley. It's all in honor of senior Blake Reynolds who hails from Boise.

Drexel 67, Richmond 52: The squeaky clean Spiders only turned it over nine times. But the stat of the night is Gabriela Marginean and Jasmina Rosseel scoring 43 of the Dragons' 67 points. The 21 was a career high for junior guard Rosseel, who drained five of Drexel's nine 3s.

Virginia Commonwealth, 72, Arkansas State 43
: It was a blue night for the Red Wolves, who managed just 14 field goal versus the Rams' defense. VCU is 2-0.

A quick peek ahead to Saturday......
Mount St. Mary's at Radford, 7 p.m.: It's been a long wait between games for the Highlanders, who lost by 30 at William and Mary on Sunday. We're hoping for Radford to score its first win here, but funny thing is Radford is 0-4 at home against The Mount. Since we like writing The Mount, here's two more tidbits: Mount St. Mary's plays 10 of its first 13 on the road and is 1-1 (the win is over Canisius). Mount St. Mary's 62, Radford 51.
Liberty at Navy, 7 p.m.: It's gotta be about defense, something you'd think Navy would know a thing or two about. The Midshipmen drained 11 treys to romp over Loyola, but we still like the Flames in this one. Liberty 68, Navy 60.
Virginia Commonwealth vs. Morgan State: The Bears killed the gate by knocking off host Seton Hall. Look for VCU to roll. Virginia Commonwealth 79, Morgan State 48

Another one bites the dust

Today's surprise folding of the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs leaves us with one burning question: Who gets custody of Ticha Penicheiro?

Calling all 'Hoos

We're planning blow-out-the-budget coverage on Sunday's Tennessee-Virginia matchup (OK, so we don't have a budget. We'll blow out something). We've seen the Lady Vols, and they are as tough and ornery a bunch as you'd expect from a team coached by a humbled Pat Summitt. But this will be our first look at the Cavaliers, and with so much new/young talent in the fold we're not sure what to expect. So, Virginia fans, give us the scoop. What will it take for the Cavaliers to spring the upset? What's the traffic situation like when 11,000-plus show up? Does China Crosby really have a broken tailbone?

Daily Dribble

Thursday's results

Maryland 84, Old Dominion 67: More learning the hard way for the Lady Monarchs, who as in their opener against Stanford were exploited by bigs inside (Maryland's 6-3 Diandra Tchatchouang and 6-4 Lynetta Kizer combined for 41 points). The bright spots: another determined second-half effort to fight off an impending blowout, success with their pressure defense and a career scoring night from Jasmine Parker (24 points).

Parker's performance was even more stunning given her personal tragedy. Classy tweet from Maryland coach Brenda Frese: Admiration for the toughness of Old Dominion's Jasmine Parker. Played great against us while dealing w/family tragedy. Wish her the best!

Virginia Tech 70, George Mason 41: 26-percent shooting will cost you every time. Great Tech defense, or poor Mason offense? For the Patriots' sake - and Tech's too, for that matter - let's hope it's the former.

Hampton 71, William and Mary 66: Once again for William and Mary, the worst things in life were free. The Tribe spoiled an otherwise solid effort with 19-of-37 shooting from the line, with the lowlight a 5-of-13 performance by All-Everything Else forward Tiffany Benson. Wonder what these guys are working on this afternoon.

Friday's games

Drexel (1-1) at Richmond (2-0), 7 p.m.
- The Dragons typically take a few games to fine-tune their precision offense; the veteran Spiders already seem to have their stuff down cold. Richmond 62, Drexel 58

VCU (1-0) vs. Arkansas State (2-1) (Seton Hall Classic), 8 p.m.
- The Rams better come braced for battle - on Monday Arkansas State pulled off an 80-79 overtime win at Kansas State. The winner faces either Seton Hall or Morgan State tomorrow. VCU 74, Arkansas State 72

Liberty (2-0) vs. Tulane (1-0) (Navy Classic), 4:45 p.m.
- Maybe it's the number - Megan Frazee wore No. 40 through four star-studded years at Liberty. The number now belongs to redshirt freshman Devon Brown, who has scored 26 points in both of the Lady Flames' games. Today's winner faces either Navy or Loyola (Md.) for the title. Liberty 68, Tulane 56

Utah Valley (2-2) at Longwood (0-2), 5 p.m.
- Lancers must cut down their turnovers (24 per game) to give themselves a chance. Utah Valley 67, Longwood 62

St. Paul's (0-1) at Norfolk State (0-2), 6 p.m.
- A Division II opponent, at home, should be just the ticket for the improved Spartans to break into the win column...shouldn't it? Norfolk State 71, St. Paul's 55

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Daily dribble

Tonight's lineup

Old Dominion (0-1) at Maryland (2-0), 7 p.m.
- After her near-double-double against the mammoth Stanford front line (16 and 9), ODU center Tia Lewis faces another tough matchup in beefy 6-4 sophomore Lynetta Kizer (17 ppg, 8 rpg). Of the Lady Monarchs, only Lewis (2nd half), Shadasia Green and Jasmine Parker really stood up to Stanford. Add a healthy Jessica Canady and you've got the nucleus of a dangerous team. But with Canady still nursing her surgically repaired knee, the Lady Monarchs are going to need some big-time efforts from some unlikely sources to keep the Terps from pulling away. Maryland 88, ODU 75

George Mason (1-1) at Virginia Tech (1-1), 7 p.m.
- Matchup features two of our favorite newcomers: Tech guard Alyssa Fenyn and Mason guard and Boo Williams AAU alumnus Rahneeka Saunders. Fenyn has exceeded expectations so far (14 ppg, 6 rpg through 2 games); while Saunders is still getting the hang of things. Virginia Tech 68, George Mason 59

William and Mary (1-0) at Hampton (0-0), 7 p.m.
- We loved what we saw from the Tribe in their season opener Sunday. As for Hampton, we'll bet even David Six isn't sure what to expect from his Lady Pirates - or the Lady Pirates from Six -when they all make their 2009-10 debut tonight. A year ago, the Lady Pirates defeated the Tribe by 13 in Williamsburg. But the feeling here is tonight a deeper, more cohesive William and Mary bunch gets its revenge. William and Mary 75, Hampton 61.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unknown hurdle -- ah, Turtle

Quick, how many Maryland Terrapins can you name? What's that? Marah Stickland did you say? She's joined Dawn Staley in South Carolina. Dee Liles? Left the program due to academic reasons. Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman? WNBA, baby. Drey Mingo? Adios. Lynetta Kizer? Now you're getting warm. Last year's ACC Rookie of the Year is the lone starter back from the 31-5 Terps who lost in the fourth round of the NCAA tournament.

So now that we know who these Terrapins aren't, who are they? We don't know yet. They've routed North Carolina Central and New Hampshire. Nine freshmen are on the roster, including France's Diandra Tchatchouang, daughter of Eugene Tchatchouang and Jeannelte Noganmy, sibling to Pola, Ciryl, Raelys and Romuald. Diandra, by the way, was MVP of the European championships two years ago.

Dara Taylor is the new Toliver on this team who needs just 742 assists to surpass Kristi (she also must hit a mind-blowing 3-pointer to force overtime in a national title game). Coach Brenda Frese is already gushing about her freshman point guard, who she regards as the strongest player on the team with a "wicked passing ability." Taylor has the other kind of smarts, too, having been accepted at Maryland's prestigious business school already.

Sophomore Kim Rodgers is finally playing starter's minutes for Maryland, though she's come off the bench in her first two games. Lethal from behind the arc as always, Kim is finally healthy after enduring horrific knee problems since she left Princess Anne High School.

It might be a rebuilding year for these Terrapins, but with Frese having already recruited the No. 1 class for 2010, they won't be in reconstructive mode for long. For now they're a question mark, their defense as suspect as always. Statistics in the first two games tell us little except five folks shoot better than 50 percent, they have 32 turnovers to 29 assists and they shoot 60 percent from the free-throw line.

Duke has already lost in an ACC race that's as wide open as it has been in years. By season's end, don't count out the Terrapins. But don't be surprised if they endure a few growing pains along the way.

Wednesday wrap-up

JMU 79, Georgetown 76: It was ice cream for everybody - Convocation Center fans get a free scoop whenever the Dukes score at least 79 points. JMU needed every one of them, too, as the Dukes trailed by 16 in the first half and for most of the night before tracking G-town down in the final minutes.

Virginia 110, USC Upstate 63: Enough with the tune-ups. Bring on the Lady Vols!

Wofford 77, Norfolk State 75 (OT): Another game effort by the Spartans, who already look more like a Division I team than they did at any point last year.

The daily dribble

Last night

Liberty 60, UNC Greensboro 42: The '85 Bears didn't play defense this well. Let's see if the Lady Flames can keep it up against stiffer competition.


Georgetown at James Madison, 7 p.m.
The Hoyas eked out a win when these teams met in Washington last year, and some people even think this year's G-town edition is a Top-25 contender. Still, we're giving the edge to the team that's 20-2 against non-conference opponents (49-5 against anyone) at the JMU Convocation Center the last four years. JMU 71, G-town 65

- Family connections: Hoyas coach Terri Williams-Flournoy continues to tap into her brother's Elite AAU squad for infusions of talent. Monday's signings brings the number of Boo Williams' alumni to sign with the Hoyas to four.

USC Upstate at Virginia, 7 p.m.
A bit of a trap game for the youthful Cavaliers as Tennessee visits Sunday. Consequently, the Cavs had better not sleepwalk through this one or Debbie Ryan will make their lives miserable in practice the rest of the week. Especially since tonight will mark Ryan's 1,000th game walking the sidelines (701-298 career record). Virginia 78, USC Upstate 60

- The start time for Sunday's Tennessee-Virginia game has been moved from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to avoid a conflict with a UVa men's soccer NCAA second-round tournament match. At present 7,700 tickets have been sold; the goal is to break the current attendance record of 11,174

Norfolk State at Wofford, 6 p.m.
The Lady Terriers went 5-24 last year and are coming off a 31-point loss at UNC Wilmington. In other words, if the Spartans are going to get a road victory, this is the spot. But until they actually pull it off.... Wofford 58, NSU 55

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ho, hum UConn wins No. 41 (straight)

Here's the understatement of this early season: UConn is awfully good. Yep, they miss Renee Montgomery. Everything doesn't look as smooth and effortless as it did a year ago when the Huskies scorched the field at 39-0. But it's November. As much as I like the hype about Notre Dame and have to believe that the Huskies' Dec. 23 game against Stanford is must-see TV, I can't honestly say I don't expect UConn to win everything again.

Without losing a game? Probably not. But it's a definite maybe.

Here's why. UConn seems to score on every trip down the floor. And when they don't, they stop you from scoring. Texas was no slouch defensively, but when the Longhorns shined for a couple of possessions in the first half, they forgot to score. Texas was stuck on 9 for an eternity while UConn built its typical double-digit lead.

I like Stanford. I love Appel. I'm already to christen Ogwumike an All-American or at least a thoroughbred to bet on in the Kentucky Derby. The Stanford guards looks great. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the Cardinal perimeter can have an off night. I don't see Maya Moore having an off night. And then there's Tina Charles and Tiffany Hayes.......

The Huskies don't blow you away with bench and Lorin Dixon is already hurt. But UConn is never deep. Remember that 2002 team that some might say is the greatest ever? Maria Conlon was the sixth woman. There was no seventh. (This is my chance to toss in one of my favorite extraneous tidbits. Conlon had 15 bridesmaids when she got married in 2008. Do you know how many of them were Huskies?)

UConn was not all that crisp against Texas. And they still won by 30. And did I mention that it's only November?

Other musings......

*No knock against Moore -- she truly is the best player in the country -- but how many times do we have to hear she is special from the ESPN crew? Tell us something we don't know.

*Nice to see UConn and Tennessee in the same arena again. It would be even better if it was at the same time.

*Geno is an incredibly articulate guy, but ever notice how he stumbles through the early going of the halftime interview? Frankly I believe this is his attempt to hog the camera longer than necessary. Of course, when you coach the Huskies, are there really a bunch of halftime adjustments to make?

*Master of the obvious, Kara Lawsen. Who else do you like other than UConn? Stanford, she says.

*Looking for a Virginia reference in this post? The Huskies play Richmond on Nov. 28 -- in Storrs. OK, I know they're in San Antonio now, but doesn't it seem as if the Huskies are always in Storrs? Unless it's Dec. 23 and they're playing Stanford. In Hartford.

Around the state

Since the season is less than a week old, it's hardly surprising that there's little movement from the preseason poll in this second batch of rankings. Always look for this list on a Tuesday; this way we can fold in the results of the handful of marquee games that typically are scheduled on Mondays.

1. Virginia (2-0) Last week - 1
- Tune-ups against UMBC, Manhattan and USC Upstate (Thursday) sound like a perfect way to spoon-feed a young team before serving up a heaping helping of Tennessee on Sunday. Next: Wednesday vs. USC Upstate

2. James Madison (0-0) Last week - 2
- Freshman guard Tarik Hislop scored 20 points and Dawn Evans was Dawn Evans in Friday's exhibition. But watch out for Georgetown, where the Hoyas' "Sugar" enjoyed a sweet debut. Next: Wednesday vs. Georgetown

3. Richmond (2-0) Last week - 4
- The fast start should be no surprise - the Spiders are now 8-0 in November games since the 2007-08 season. Next: Friday vs. Drexel

4. Old Dominion (0-1) Last week - 3
- Jessica Canady is a warrior. So here's a request for the ODU coaching staff - please don't let your warrior play until her knee can at least see 100 percent. Next: Thursday at Maryland

5. VCU (1-0) Last week - 5
- We're still not sure who all of these Rams are, but that was one heck of an introduction Monday. Next: Friday vs. Arkansas State in Seton Hall Tournament

6. Liberty (1-0) Last week - 6
- Another group that looks to be smoothly retooling on the fly. Next: Tonight vs. UNC Greensboro

7. William and Mary (1-0) Last week - 8
- Congratulations, Emily Correal. But some of those rebounds should belong to Tiffany Benson. Let's get it together, Tiff. We want to see you out there dominating again. Next up: Thursday at Hampton

8. Virginia Tech (1-1) Last week - 7
- With 2 3-pointers so far, freshman sharpshooter Abby Redick only needs 455 more to catch big brother J.J. Next: Thursday vs. George Mason

9. George Mason (1-1) Last week - 9
- Rookie point guard Rahneeka Saunders is going to be a star, but her numbers so far (28 percent shooting, 7 assists, 13 turnovers) tells you how tough it is to learn to run a team. Next: Thursday at Virginia Tech

10. Radford (0-1) Last week - 10
- Sunday's disaster at William and Mary was a classic case of stage fright for a host of newcomers. Next: Saturday vs. Mount St. Mary's

11. Longwood (0-2) Last week - 11
- One bright spot - 6-4 freshman Heather Tobeck is averaging 4.5 blocks per game. Next: Friday vs. Utah Valley

12. Hampton (0-0) Last week - 12
- With no (public) exhibitions and no games so far, the Pirates remain something of a mystery. Next: Thursday vs. William and Mary

13. Norfolk State (0-1) Last week - 13
- Among the reasons why the Spartans should improve on last season's debacle - a more sensible schedule. Goodbye, Utah and Old Dominion; hello St. Paul's and Savannah State. Next: Wednesday at Wofford

Monday's scoreboard

Our fondness for hoping rebuilding teams turn things around cost us our first beating in daily picks. Don't worry, Tech and Longwood. We're not giving up on you guys. Doesn't mean we'll be picking you to win. But we'll keep an internal faith.

VCU 72, Virginia Tech 58: Too many turnovers, Tech. And so much for questions about who'll pick up VCU's the scoring slack - looks like everyone will. Oh, and happy birthday, Stephanie Solomon.

Richmond 78, George Mason 52: Another efficient, professional execution by the Spiders. Drexel comes calling on Friday.

USC Upstate 71, Longwood 59: Told you Upstate was no joke - the Spartans trailed by 18 late in the first half before roaring back. Now let's see if Upstate has anything for Virginia on Wednesday.

In the only game involving a state team tonight, UNC Greensboro visits Liberty at 7 p.m. The Lady Flames dominated Winston-Salem St. in Friday's opener and we expect their good times to keep rolling. Liberty 75, UNC Greensboro 57

Elsewhere in the region, Delaware launches the Delle Donne Era tonight at St. Francis (Pa.). And couch potatos can feast on ESPN's women's hoops doubleheader: Tennessee vs. Texas Tech at 7 p.m. (ESPNU) followed by mighty UConn vs. Texas at 9:30 (ESPN2).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pickin' and grinnin'

Not sure we agree on the picks today, but if our perfect picking record remains intact after tonight, we'll share the credit. If anything's wrong, it's his fault.

Virginia Tech (1-0) at VCU (0-0), 7 p.m.
Meaningless stat of the day - VCU has won 18 straight at home. That's nice, but the group they'll put on the floor tonight hasn't won anything. And we'd like their chances better if lockdown guard Kita Waller wasn't sidelined with a knee injury. The restocked Hokies have already played a game to work the kinks out. Despite the home-court advantage, VCU's kinks get exposed tonight. Virginia Tech 65, VCU 62

George Mason (1-0) at Richmond (1-0), 4 p.m.
The Patriots cruised in their opener, but these Spiders are no Spartans. We like the talent Jeri Porter has attracted to GMU and Ladyswish fave Ashleigh Braxton delivered as advertised from long distance in the opener. But asking the young Patriots to travel and take down the Spiders is asking too much too soon. Richmond 71, George Mason 55

USC Upstate (1-0) at Longwood (0-1), 7 p.m.
Any school called "Upstate" doesn't sound very threatening, does it? The Spartans are no joke, though, and even if they were, these Lancers can't afford to overlook anyone. But after Friday's drubbing at Virginia Tech, Becky Fernandes and Co. will certainly welcome a challenge more their own speed. Longwood 63, USC Upstate 52

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Talking Radford-William and Mary

Tired of reading the same dribble about women’s basketball? Well, we don’t want to write it, either. We call our musings“He said, she said” and here’s how we broke down Sunday’s season opener for William and Mary and Radford:

There’s a woman knitting in the front row.

Why not? She’s a Tribe fan, and this game’s already over. 36-14 at the half? Boy, what‘s up with Radford?

Well, that’s a gorgeous tailored red suit Tajama Abraham Ngongba is wearing.

I was asking about the team.

The Highlanders don‘t have much beef. William and Mary’s freshmen look like they could start for Radford -- if height got you into the starting lineup.

It’s tough when you’re counting on so many freshmen, especially in a first game. On the road, no less. Imagine how bad it would be if Tiffany Benson was going strong. Seven minutes into the second half and she still hasn’t taken the court.

She’s on the court now.

Thanks, smart-ass, but you’re avoiding my point. Why’s she coming off the bench?

Maybe she did something silly like oversleep and miss a class. The Tribe doesn’t need her today. The freshmen look like they’ve been playing on this team for years.

I don’t know. Benson’s on the cover of the media guide, and they handed out these huge posters of her lording over the rest of the players when we walked in. Seems someone like that ought to get more than just scrub minutes. Make her run some extra laps or something. But on game day, she’s your horse. Ride her.

That’s why you’re not a coach. I trust Debbie Taylor. She knows what she’s doing.

Fine. So what do you think about the rest of the Tribe?

I already love Taylor Hilton, and not just because she’s from the Obama kids' school. She just made a great move to the basket and didn’t hang her head after they called a charge. You can already see with Hilton and fellow freshman Emily Correal, that they have bought into Debbie Taylor’s system. What’s so cool about the Tribe is, Taylor is a master at teaching them to play within themselves. Take away Benson and this isn’t a team of great athletes. But they know what they can do and they do it well.

Did Taylor pay you for that testimonial?

Funny, but lame. Radford, meanwhile, is still searching -- hardly a surprise for a team with seven newcomers and a second-year coach.

Uh-oh. Little kids’ dance contest time. I hate these things.

As someone wise once told me, it’s not for you. Hey, the woman has put away her knitting.

Just like William and Mary is putting away Radford. 65-33 now. Speaking of Radford, see anyone in red you like -- besides Abraham Ngongba, that is?

Kymesha Alston is the only one on the floor who really seems to know where she’s supposed to be. No surprise she’s got all the points.

I don’t know. I like the Crosier kid. And No. 11’s not bad. I’m sure they can all play. They’re just
not ready for all this.

Hey, Taylor’s swigging from a bottle of Coke. (No cup!)

She’s the coolest coach in the CAA.

There you go again.

Reminds me of a more glamorous Debbie Taneyhill. Very comfortable in her own skin. Just like her players.

Cooler that Geno?

Geno isn’t in the CAA. Besides, as candid as he is, he’s always doing his shtick.

Face it, you’re a Summitt suck-up. Just because she invited you to her house for an interview that time…. Hey, this puppy’s done now. 70-40 Tribe. Think William and Mary is a CAA contender?

I think nobody’s going to want to play the Tribe, especially here. They’ll upset a few, but they’re not going to contend for a title. Not that they’re all that far away. Nobody in that league is all that daunting, though JMU in Harrisonburg is no piece of cake. Then there’s this kid named Delle Donne…..As for the Summitt crack, it’s pretty cool when your career winning record has four digits.

As for Radford, tough one today, but I'm going to keep an eye on them. Besides, it’s not like they play in the SEC….

Enough from us. Here’s the other side:

The William and Mary perspective

- Benson’s meager numbers (four points, 14 minutes) were no accident. Taylor said Benson was being disciplined for violation of several team rules and for a lackluster effort in the preseason. That’s not exactly what you’d expect from a CAA first-teamer. Debbie Taylor explains: “She really hasn’t worked very hard all preseason. She needs to earn it.”

The discipline appears to be having the desired effect. Taylor was pleased with the role Benson did play, which included cheering her teammates from the bench.

Said Taylor: “This is probably the greatest thing that could have happened to her.”

- Tribe true freshmen Emily Correal, Jaclyn McKenna and Taylor Hilton combined for 23 points and 25 rebounds. But what really excited Taylor about the newcomers is their infectious enthusiasm and desire to please.

“Did you see the way they sprinted off the floor?” Taylor said. “They look me in the eye and do exactly what I say. They’ve restored my faith in this generation.”

The Radford perspective:

- Seven Highlanders made their Radford debut Sunday. Unfortunately for Abraham Ngongba, the group played like newcomers. William and Mary scored 21 of the game’s first 25 points.

“Once the first few shots didn’t go down they got frustrated and it snowballed,” Abraham said. “I mean, we ran like two offensive sets the whole first half. The kids were like, ‘What the heck am I doing?’ ’’

- Although the Tribe had a huge size advantage, Abraham Ngongba said many of her Highlanders’ misses came on uncontested looks.

“It’s like we were waiting for some monster shot blocker to come and get us,” the coach said.

- A preseason first-team All Big South pick and the team’s lone senior, Kymesha Alston finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds but hit just 8 of 24 from the field and generally struggled along with the rest of the Highlanders. With such a young group, Abraham acknowledged that, at least in the early going, as Alston goes, so go the Highlanders.

“We can’t afford for her to have a bad game,” said Abraham Ngongba.

- Despite Sunday's pounding, Abraham Ngongba remains high on the team's long-term outlook and virtually guaranteed a better showing in the weeks ahead.

"We're going to be OK," she said.

The Wright stuff
In the day's only other Division I game involving a Virginia school, Monica Wright poured in 31 points as No. 14 Virginia roared past Manhattan 86-68