Sunday, January 17, 2010

Monday dribble: UVa., Tech tangle on TV

Today's Commonwealth showcase is much more than just the television appetizer to ESPN2's 7 p.m. UConn-Duke game. Besides, we pretty much know how that one's going to turn out. Comcast's 5 p.m. Virginia-Virginia Tech clash offers much more intrigue, as it features a Virginia team on a continuous search for offensive rhythm against a motivated Tech squad eager to bag another big-name scalp.

Monday's games

Virginia (11-5, 0-2 ACC) at Virginia Tech (11-5, 1-1 ACC), 5 p.m. (Comcast)
Not sure what to expect here, from either team. Virginia's effort isn't in question, but the Cavaliers' offensive execution has been, how to put this gently, problematic in their two ACC games. The much-discussed final play of UVa.'s 61-60 loss to Maryland last Monday was a metaphor for the team's offensive woes - Monica Wright forcing up a shot surrounded by four defenders. Some of the struggles can be laid off on youth, some the result of Virginia lacking a true facilitator. The good news is Virginia has had a full week to prepare for this one, and we're sure they can execute better. They'll have to. As for the Hokies, their stunning 15-point romp over then-No. 10 North Carolina no doubt generated a lot of buzz on the Blacksburg campus, and the players have probably spent the past couple of days figuratively riding atop the shoulders of jubilant classmates. Can the Hokies shrug off all this newfound praise and apply the same laser-like focus tonight they targeted on the Tar Heels? And if those classmates really want to do some good, they'll show up at Cassell Coliseum in droves and turn the joint into a real pit for a Hokies team that is 9-1 at home and will be looking for the program's first victory over the Cavaliers in Blacksburg since 2002. Virginia Tech 66, Virginia 64

Hampton (5-9, 2-2 MEAC) at North Carolina A&T (9-7. 4-0 MEAC), 6 p.m.
Rematch of the 2009 MEAC tournament title game in which the Lady Aggies rolled to a 22-point victory. A&T returns much of that cast and as its conference record suggests again appears to be the class of the MEAC. The Lady Pirates can force turnovers out of anyone and distinguished themselves throughout a fairly rigorous non-conference schedule by playing quality teams tough. But until they can do something about those shooting percentages in the low 30s, they'll always have trouble closing good teams out. North Carolina A&T 71, Hampton 62

Howard (6-9, 2-2 MEAC) at Norfolk St. (2-10, 0-4 MEAC), 6 p.m.
Anyone looking for a reason to check this game out - what, watching the Spartans play isn't reason enough? - should note that the contest will double as Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and halftime will include a Celebration of Life parade featuring breast cancer survivors. As for the game, interesting team, this Bison. Stars Zykia Brown (18.3 ppg) and redshirt freshman Saadia Doyle (15.6 ppg, 11.6 rpg) combine to average about 34 points a game; the other three starters combine to average about five. And the seven-player bench consists of one junior and six freshmen. Somehow, the combination works (just ask Hampton). As usual, the Spartans will compete, especially at home. But when a big shot needs to be made come crunch time, who's got the goods to knock it down? Howard 55, Norfolk State 54

UNC Asheville (5-12, 1-4 Big South) at Liberty (11-4, 2-1 Big South), 7 p.m.
Presented with a five-game homestand, the Lady Flames have handled their business in style, going 4-0 so far with an average victory margin of 26 points. Hard to imagine these Bulldogs, losers of four straight, being anything other than victim No. 5, especially since Liberty has the added motivation - as though they need any - of knowing UNC Asheville was the last Big South team to defeat the Lady Flames at the Vines Center (2007). Also, keep an eye on Liberty freshman Jelena Antic, who has made 10 straight field goals over her last two games. Liberty 70, UNC Asheville 40

Presbyterian (2-13, 1-2 Big South) at Radford (4-11, 3-1 Big South), 7 p.m.
Funny headline on the Presbyterian official site - Liberty outlasts Blue Hose 73-27. Outlasts? Guess "destroys" or "obliterates" would be rubbing it in. The Blue Hose figure to be more competitive tonight - how could they not be? - but there are reasons these guys have lost 37 straight road games. Unless the Highlanders fail to take these guys seriously - and we're betting senior Kymesha Alston will make sure that doesn't happen - Alston and Radford's other starters should be able to watch much of the second half from their courtside folding chairs. Radford 68, Presbyterian 52

Longwood (4-14) at Utah Valley (3-15), 9:05 p.m.
Orem, Utah is a long way to go to get a victory, but when you're 4-14, er, what time's the flight? Once upon a time, the Wolverines showed up in Farmville with a 2-2 record. We even picked them to win. Instead, Longwood dismantled them 73-51, and that loss apparently spooked the Wolverines so much they've gone 1-13 since and are currently riding a 10-game losing streak. Now we're not crazy about the Lancers when they have to travel (1-11 in road/neutral games this season). But we don't want to get caught holding the Utah Valley bag again. P.S. - All kidding aside, Longwood's record may be anemic, but when you consider that 42 percent of its scoring is coming from freshmen Chelsea Coward, Crystal Smith, Heather Tobeck and Erin Neal, it appears as though a lot of the foundation is being laid this year for future success. Longwood 62, Utah Valley 58

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