Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday dribble: CAA thrillers and the Wright stuff

One buzzer-beating game-winner, one rally from a 16-point deficit and the team picked to finish last staying within a 3-pointer on the road against the defending champion until the final minute. A night for the ages? Not really. Just life in the new, anything-can-happen CAA.

Nor is there anything particularly unique about Virginia's Monica Wright leading her team to another victory. But on Thursday, the fabulous Wright outdid even herself, blitzing Boston College's Eagles with the best scoring night of her career.

Thursday's games

Virginia Commonwealth 60, Delaware 59: Hope they played "Thriller" at the buzzer because that's what it was. D'Andra Moss knocked down a 3 as time expired to keep VCU (13-5, 6-0) perfect in the CAA. Check out the box and you'll see another tantilizing performance by Elena Delle Donne (27 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals). But that wasn't enough to overcome 20 turnovers by the Blue Hens compared to VCU's eight. Moss, Courtney Hurt and Kita Waller scored 19, 16 and 14, respectively and it's beginning to look like the Rams are for real, despite a fan base (492 at the Siegel Center) that fails to appreciate it. As for Delaware, the Hens could easily be in that top spot in the league, having dropped three conference games by a total of five points.

Old Dominion 58, Georgia State 54: We told Lady Monarch fans it was going to be a bumpy ride. The days of the Lady Monarchs (7-9, 5-1 CAA) routing foe after foe are over in favor of a much wider open CAA where wins should be celebrated instead of bemoaned because they aren't routs. ODU had a miserable night from beyond the arc and struggled to score at times, but dug in to win its fourth straight and stay in second place in the CAA alongside Drexel. Shadasia Green's jumper just inside the foul line broke a tie with 21 seconds left to secure a victory over one of the more athletic teams in the league that came in with confidence after denying ODU in Atlanta last year. Another good sign: Jessica Canady's 15 points, 14 points and 34 minutes. ODU is very much in the league race when many counted them out, but the Lady Monarchs are no longer the runaway favorites.

James Madison 64, Northeastern 57: The Dukes (14-2, 4-2 CAA) can't seem to get their feet under them early. They got in a hole on Sunday against ODU and trailed by as many as 16 here before Sarah Williams' lone 3 of the game tilted it back their way. In the end, JMU needed Dawn Evans, and as usual the junior point guard delivered, scoring seven of the final nine points. Strange to see Evans without an assist, but good to see the Dukes get 10 from Lauren Jimenez, who had disappeared as an offensive threat for a pair of games.

Hofstra 68, William and Mary 51: We haven't picked on the dismal Tribe free-throwing lately, but 6-of-21 is hard to explain. Senior Tiffany Benson had her usual struggles (2-of-11), a night that won't improve her 28 percent FT statistic. W&M (9-8, 2-4) has yet to prove itself on the road in the conference at 0-3. The Trive has dropped four of its last five and has another road date, at George Mason, on tap for Sunday.

Drexel 59, George Mason 51: Another sign that the league is no gimme for anyone as the Patriots fall just short of the Dragons in Philadelphia. GMU trailed by just 3 in the final minute, but Gabriela Marginean rang up six of her 26 to finish the game. Foul trouble also played a role as 6-2 center Angelee LaTouche, who matched up well with Marginean, fouled out in 26 minutes. "I like our resolve," said GMU coach Jeri Porter. "I like how we battled to the end and we were still in it."

No. 25 Virginia 70, Boston College 68: Suggested slogan for this year's Cavaliers: "Virginia basketball. It's all Wright." To be fair, full credit to Paulisha Kellum for flipping in the game-winning layup - her only field goal of the game - with 2.3 seconds to play. Chelsea Shine (13 points, 8 rebounds) was pretty fine, too. But once again, the night belonged to Monica Wright, who delivered a career-high 39 points, the second-highest total in Cavaliers history. None of these were garbage-time points, either, as clearly the Cavaliers (13-5, 2-2 ACC) needed every one of them to get out of Chestnut Hill, Mass. with a W. No disrespect to the rest of the Cavaliers, but does any one player carry more of a responsibility for their team's success? Every now and then, the burden is too great for even Wright to haul along. But more often than not, the spectacular senior comes up with whatever the Cavaliers need, even if what's called for is the most productive night of her college career.

No. 6 Duke 69, Virginia Tech 38: With three games in the past seven days - along with the need to give the players a day off during that span - the Hokies (11-7, 1-3 ACC) could spend only one day preparing for the myriad of problems posed by the Duke defense. Clearly, that wasn't enough. The Blue Devils made 19 steals and scored 28 points off a season-high 26 Hokies turnovers while holding Tech to its lowest point total since joining the ACC in 2004. As bad as it was, though, there's no shame in losing at the No. 6 team in the country, a team still seething over being taken to the woodshed itself by UConn Monday night. And Tech center Brittany Gordon distinguished herself in the rout with 14 points and 8 rebounds. But the Hokies still need to find a way to get Lindsay Biggs untracked. After struggling against Virginia Monday, Biggs followed by hitting just two of 11 shots for 5 points with two turnovers and no assists against the Blue Devils.

Seattle 60, Longwood 51: Another down-on-its-luck team gets well at the Lancers' expense - the Redhawks snapped an eight-game losing streak four nights after Utah Valley St. beat Longwood to end a 10-game slide. But the bright side is the Lancers (4-16) are finally coming home, and they're actually going to stay there for a while as Tuesday's game against Winthrop will kick off a much-needed four-game homestand.

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