Sunday, January 3, 2010

Monday dribble: Drexel, ODU post statement wins

Two absolute thrillers got Colonial Athletic Association play off to a rousing start.

Sunday's recap

Drexel 68, No. 25 JMU 67:
In a rematch of last year's CAA championship game, Dawn Evans turned in her 12th 30-point game, but it wasn't enough to overcome Drexel (7-5, 1-0), which led the entire second half to secure its first win over a Top 25 program. Gabriela Marginean, who scored 14 of her team-high 23 points in the second half, sank four free throws for a 66-62 lead with 18 seconds left. Drexel got two more from the line from Marisa Crane, which proved more than cushion given Evans swished it in from just over half court as time expired. JMU (10-2, 0-1) dominated the boards by 14, but the Dragons had the advantage at the line, where they nailed 21 of 24 shots. The Dragons got a huge boost from freshman Taylor Wootton, who averages 4.3 ppg, but scored 11 and a team-best five rebounds.

Old Dominion 60, Delaware 59: The doctor couldn't have ordered a better way for the Lady Monarchs (3-8, 1-0) to kick off the conference season. They won, they rallied to do it and they halted Delaware's six-game winning streak while preserving one of their own: ODU is 19-0 in CAA openers. This one wasn't in the bag until the final buzzer as Delaware rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne (28 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals) looked like she was going to sink another buzzer beater. Instead, with 12 seconds left, Delle Donne dished off to Lauren Carra on the backdoor cut. With Kquanise Bryd applying pressure, Carra missed the basket and Tia Lewis nabbed the rebound as time expired. That wasn't the only drama for the Lady Monarchs, who were down s six before rallying behind Jasmine Parker (15 points, 7 assists, 5 steals). The junior point guard not only took Delle Donne's charge with 1:31 left, but buried the game-winning shot, a 3 from the right side. ODU shot a season-best 49 percent including 43 percent from 3. The balanced ODU attack included eight from Shadasia Green, six from Byrd, Lewis, Carolann Cloutier and Vicki Collier. Alena Voronina added five, including a 4-of-4 effort from the free-throw line. We weren't right in our prediction (we're happy to be wrong), but we were right when we said don't count ODU out of the CAA race.

William and Mary 55, Hofstra 48: After spending most of the first half watching her teammates misfire, Taysha Pye showed 'em how putting the ball in the basket is done after the break by scoring 15 of her game-high 20 points. But the story of this game was the Tribe defense. Pye and Janine Aldridge hounded Hofstra's guards on the perimeter, and Emily Correal and particularly Tiffany Benson (11 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks) made life so miserable for the Pride's bigs Jess Fuller, a preseason All-CAA pick, did not score a point in 25 offensively challenged minutes. Tribe coach Debbie Taylor called it one of the best games of Benson's career. We call it a clear sign that, after a turbulent pre- and non-conference season, the Benson who projected to be one of the conference's elite players is back to her old self.

Towson 60, George Mason 46: Never mind the 32-percent shooting. The Patriots were outrebounded 51-30 and gave up almost as many offensive boards (26) as they had total boards. Clearly the Patriots (7-5, 0-1 CAA) are capable of a much better effort on the glass than this - and they'd better be if they plan on staying competitive in the CAA. On the (somewhat) bright side, 14 points is the smallest margin of defeat on Mason's 0-5 road record.

VCU 78, Northeastern 54: Talk about turning defense into offense; the Rams scored exactly half their points (39) off 30 Huskies turnovers. Seniors La'Tavia Rorie (I just love that name!), Kita Waller and D'Andra Moss led the way, combining for 53 points in a steamroller of a performance. The Rams came in off two other blowout victories last week over Longwood and Coppin State. But, well, that was Longwood and Coppin State (no offense, Lancers). Northeastern has proven it can hang with quality teams. That the Rams could take them apart so thoroughly as well is a real eye-opener.

Virginia Tech 77, UMBC 44: The Hokies shut down the Retreivers' main weapon, limiting them to 4-of-22 shooting from the 3-point line. They also dominated the boards (55-29), never trailed and had seven players each score between 8-14 points, all against a very solid team. All things considered, this might be the Hokies' most impressive performance to date.

Monday's games

St. Bonaventure (12-2) at Virginia (10-3), 7 p.m.

Thank goodness for charter flights, as the Cavaliers got back from Saturday's 75-59 victory at Colorado in a tidy two hours and 45 minutes. Good thing, too, for this is no time for jet lag - tonight's non-conference finale pits them against a St. Bonaventure team that won its first 11 games and has received votes in the AP Top 25 poll the past four weeks. The Bonnies are excellent shooters from the field, the line and the 3-point stripe. The Cavaliers must force them to take most of the 2s and 3s under pressure.

Richmond (9-4) at Wake Forest (9-4), 7 p.m.

Not sure what to make of the Spiders, who haven't operated as efficiently as we thought given they have so many returners from a 24-win team. Richmond has won three straight against Wake Forest and last year at the Robins Center held the Deacon Demons to 33 points, the fewest by a Spiders opponent in 19 years. This suggests the Spiders should have an edge against these guys. But based on how the Spiders have performed so far, we're not quite sure what to expect.

Longwood (4-11) at Campbell (7-4), 7 p.m.

The Lancers pilfered their way (15 steals) to a 72-55 victory over the Lady Camels when these teams met on Dec. 15 in Farmville. The number 72 appears to be a key for the Lancers - they're 4-0 when they score at least that many points, 0-11 when they don't.

Radford (1-10, 0-0 Big South) at Gardner-Webb (12-2, 1-0 Big South), 7 p.m.

Tough conference opener for the Highlanders for after No. 11 North Carolina, the Bulldogs probably represent the toughest team Radford has faced so far. Here's hoping the Highlanders can build on their effort in Saturday's 70-66 loss at Marshall; despite the defeat it was one of Radford's most encouraging performances of the season.

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