Sunday, February 28, 2010

Monday dribble: UVa., ODU, Richmond post key wins

It's certainly not surprising to see Old Dominion atop the CAA, it's the way they captured the honor this time that's been so remarkable. The Lady Monarchs got more good news from Harrisonburg as James Madison upended William and Mary to claim sole possession of second place. If the Dukes can stay there, ODU won't have to worry about facing JMU on its home floor at the CAA Tournament until the final.

Meanwhile, while few have been paying attention Hofstra has won seven of eight and has now positioned itself to get one of the four first-round byes in the conference tournament. Defending champion Drexel has lost two straight - each one by the score of 60-58 - and is now in danger of falling out of a top-four slot. This much is clear - with Hofstra, Drexel and VCU all tied for third place, someone from that group will be facing a four-games-in-four-days path to winning the conference tournament.

Finally, Virginia wrapped up its ACC season in style with a fitting tribute - not to mention a victory - for the great Monica Wright. Click here for more on the ACC and Atlantic 10 (featuring Richmond) tournaments which kick off later this week.

Sunday's games

Virginia 55, Virginia Tech 46: Every team wants to win its final home game, but Paulisha Kellum revealed that the Cavaliers have had an extra circle around this one since Jan. 11, when Virginia fell to Maryland on the night Monica Wright became the program's all-time leading scorer. "I kept in mind with the team that we owed Monica one," Kellum said. "It was just a reminder to the team that this was payback, and we needed to win this one for her." Of course, one of the great things about Wright is she usually doesn't need much help. Judging by her 27-point, 10-rebound effort, clearly Sunday was one of those days. Big ups to the Cavalier fans for recognizing that saluting Monica was a can't-miss event as 6,264 turned out (and Virginia didn't even have to throw in free hot dogs). We'll give Debbie Ryan (via Twitter) the final word on the subject: "Not everyone gets to know or work with an athlete of Monica Wright's caliber. I consider myself blessed and fortunate to have this unbelievable good fortune."

Old Dominion 67, VCU 65: The Lady Monarchs shot lights-out (everywhere except the free throw line), the Rams countered by grabbing every offensive rebound in sight and both teams played as though their pants were on fire. But once again the Lady Monarchs made just enough plays down the stretch to turn a 50-50 game in their favor. ODU is now 4-0 in CAA games decided by two points or less, 7-0 when the spread is five or fewer and 9-2 in conference games decided by single digits. This from the program that over the past 17 and a half years had patented the 20-point CAA blowout. As for the Rams, they're trending downward having lost four of their last six. The good news is that the Rams' high-mileage starters played with great energy today so the fatigue we feared might tell on them late in the season doesn't appear to be a factor. As long as they can keep that up, VCU will continue to be a factor.

James Madison 71, William and Mary 59: Nice send-off for Dukes senior Sarah Williams (15 points) as a season-high 4,782 turned out to see JMU seize sole possession of second place in the CAA. William and Mary competed hard and actually led by two with 5:45 left in the second half. Problem is, they didn't score against until just 39 seconds remained. Alas, the most consistent thing about the Tribe offense is its inconsistency. Taysha Pye had five points Thursday, 26 points Sunday. Janine Aldridge scored 23 points Thursday, no points Sunday. And so on and so on and so on....

George Mason 47, Georgia State 43: OK, so Panthers star Danyiell McKeller didn't play because of a hamstring injury (must be pretty serious since today was GSU's Senior Day). All hail a determined Patriots squad that refused to let little things like 10-game losing streaks and 0-12 road records stop it from competing like CAA contenders throughout the past month. It took a while, but they're finally getting the payoff - their first two-game conference winning streak since the 2005-06 season.

Richmond 67, St. Louis 59: Brittani Shells scored 25 points to lead the Spiders, who rallied from a 10-point second half deficit in their regular-season finale. After reeling badly through a large portion of the conference season, the Spiders should feel pretty good about the way they've been playing the past few weeks.

It's conference tournament time

Quick looks at this week's ACC and Atlantic 10 tournaments. Click on the conference title links for complete bracket and tournament info.

When: Thursday through Sunday
Where: Greensboro Coliseum
Why we care: Virginia is the No. 3 seed and earned a first-round bye, while Virginia Tech is seeded 10th and will open Thursday at 6 p.m. in first-round action against No. 7 Boston College. Neither team should have any complaints with its draw. Three of the four conference teams that beat Virginia (Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest) are on the other half of the Cavaliers' bracket. Virginia did go 0-2 against second-seeded Florida State and could see the Seminoles again in the semifinals. But in the teams' last meeting, the Cavaliers came within an open 6-footer at the buzzer of knocking FSU off. If that matchup occurs again, the Cavaliers should take the floor knowing they can beat that team. As for the Hokies, they'll open against a BC team they've already beaten.

Atlantic 10
When: Friday through Monday
Where: Show Place Arena, Upper Marlboro, Md.
Why we care: Richmond is seeded 8th in the 12-team field. The Spiders came by their seeding honestly, as they went 0-7 against the top seven teams and 7-0 against teams 9-16. Richmond will open against No. 9 UMass on Friday at noon. The winner advances - or perhaps we should say is sentenced - to play top-seeded Xavier in a Saturday noon quarterfinal.
By the way: Poor LaSalle. Only 12 of the A-10's 14 teams qualify for the tournament, and the Explorers, Rhode Island, Fordham all tied for the final spot. After the league had exhausted all of its tiebreakers, Fordham and LaSalle remained deadlocked. Fordham wound up getting the 12th and final spot on a coin flip. For the record, LaSalle had "tails".

ODU clinches top seed in CAA tourney

They didn't cut down any nets at the Siegel Center in Richmond on Sunday because it was back to business as usual for the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs. They beat VCU to win the regular season, clinching the top seed for the CAA tournament. If anybody's counting, they've now won it all in the CAA 18 of the last 19 years.

Most of the Lady Monarch faithful doubted it after ODU's gloomy nonconference finish. But we're patting ourselves on the back, just a bit, for recognizing the ace in the hole: Wendy Larry. Come to ODU and Larry instills in you the value of the CAA. It didn't work last year. It hasn't always been pretty this year. But the Lady Monarchs made play after play down the stretch to pull out the close games they needed to in order to receive a No. 1 seed. This team has no first-team all-league conference players, though we'd like to see Jasmine Parker the nod. That's not a surprise. ODU hasn't had one superstar for years. Larry pieced this team together brick by brick, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows her resume.

She's our Coach of the Year for meshing together a team full of youth that had to hold up while senior Jessica Canady healed. Parker had to heal, too, from the devastating loss of her brother. How about Vicki Collier, leaping again despite two braces climbing up her legs? Tia Lewis making a shot with six tenths of a second left versus Georgia State? The triumph over Madison in Harrisonburg?

CAA tournament is coming up. Who ya picking?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sunday dribble: The Wright time is now

It'll be Monica Wright Day at UVa. as the Cavaliers will honor one of the greatest players in program history. At game's end we think her teammates should carry Wright off the court; after all, she's been carrying them all season.

Meanwhile, Old Dominion will look to clinch first place in the Colonial and exact some revenge for the severe spanking the Rams gave them in Norfolk a few weeks ago. And in other CAA news, Delaware star Elena Delle Donne is expected to return to the Blue Hens lineup today at Towson, the News-Journal's Kevin Tresolini reports. Delle Donne sat out Thursday's home victory over Northeastern after stepping in a pothole (seriously) and spraining her right ankle.

Sunday's games

Virginia Tech (15-13, 4-9 ACC) at Virginia (20-8, 8-5 ACC), 1 p.m.
Here's hoping Cavaliers fans pack John Paul Jones Arena for the final home appearance of Monica Wright, Virginia's all-time leading scorer and the soon-to-be ACC Player of the Year. We were at Wright's first game at JPJ four years ago, which was also the first game in the history of the building. The then-freshman Wright had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists as the Cavaliers routed Old Dominion 92-72, and we remember looking at Wright's frame, poise and skill-set and thinking, this kid is really going to be something. She's turned out even better than we thought.

Old Dominion (15-11, 13-3 CAA) at VCU (18-10, 11-5 CAA), 2 p.m.
Should be an emotional Senior Day as the Rams celebrate the stellar careers of stalwarts D'Andra Moss, Kita Waller, Stephanie Solomon and La'Tavia Rorie, who had her career end prematurely last month after an ACL tear. Still, it's hard to imagine the Rams playing with more spunk and physicality than they did on Feb. 7, when they came to ODU's Constant Center and crushed the Lady Monarchs 75-56. ODU backed down when the Rams grabbed them by the throat in that game, but the Rams should expect a 40-minute fight from the Lady Monarchs team that is one victory away from clinching the top seed in the CAA Tournament.

Richmond (17-11, 6-7 Atlantic 10) at St. Louis (11-17, 5-8 Atlantic 10), 1 p.m.
Regular-season finale for both. The Spiders can clinch the 8th seed in this week's A-10 tournament with a victory. Even with a loss, there's a good chance the Spiders will still be in the 8-9 game and have a rematch with these Billikens.

William and Mary (11-16, 4-12 CAA) at James Madison (21-6, 11-5 CAA), 2 p.m.
When these teams met on Feb. 11, Dawn Evans didn't play, Taysha Pye went nuts (33 points) and the Tribe stunned the Dukes 64-56. Think the Dukes might be a bit fired up about a rematch?

George Mason (9-18, 2-14 CAA) at Georgia State (14-13, 5-11 CAA), 2 p.m.
The Patriots' last chance to get a road win (0-12), and it may be a halfway decent chance if GSU's leading scorer Danyiell McKeller can't go. McKeller injured her hamstring in the first minute two games ago and hasn't played since. Then again, even without McKeller the Panthers had enough to take down Drexel on Thursday.

Saturday's games

Hampton 47, Delaware State 41: A win is a win, but this must have been an eyesore of a contest as the Lady Pirates won despite shooting just 29 percent. Hampton played without star forward Quanneisha Perry, who sat out with a sore knee that's been troubling her for a few games now.

Liberty 94, UNC Asheville 66: If you justs told us the Lady Flames (21-5, 11-2 Big South) won by 28 points, we'd have guessed a score more like 65-38. That's how Liberty usually gets its routs, so this show of offensive muscle must have been fun to watch.

Radford 70, Presbyterian 60: Speaking of offense, the Highlanders (6-19, 5-9 Big South) reached the 70-point plateau for the third time in four games - and added a little defense this time - for their first victory since Jan. 18.

Morgan State 80, Norfolk State 62: As expected, unfortunately. Game was tied at 39 with 16:44 left in the second half before the Lady Bears said that's enough, NSU.

Perfect:: 28 things about 28-0 Christopher Newport

UNDEFEATED: What the crowd at the Freeman Center chanted on Saturday afternoon when Division III Christopher Newport University (28-0) completed a perfect season with an 82-70 victory over Ferrum. We salute the USA South champs and celebrate their accomplishments in our own quirky way.

1. 5: Number of teams undefeated in Division I, II and III: UConn, Nebraska, Gannon, Amherst and Christopher Newport

2. March 6, 2009: Last time CNU lost a game (75-61 to York)

3. Feb. 14, 2010: Last time CNU almost lost a game. Chelsie Schweers drained a 3 with 1.7 seconds left to send the CNU/Ferrum game into OT. CNU prevailed 86-80.

4: Sweet 16: Furthest CNU has ever advanced in the national tournament (1991-92)

5. Twice: Number of times Schweers has been an All-American. The junior will no doubt receive the honor this year, too. CNU has never had a four-time All-American in any sport.

6: 10: Number Schweers wanted to wear. CNU retired No. 10 in honor of Karen Barefoot, so Schweers took No. 11, the number closest to 10.

7. "Dance My Pain Away": Last song the Captains here before they leave the locker room. Schweers never gets tired of hearing it.

8. Dayna Cheek: Fashion diva on the team.

. Jessica Moore: Owner of the cell phone with the most annoying ring

10. No cell phones: Coach Carolyn Hunter's policy on road trips. "I tried to sneak mine once," said freshman Brandy Thomas. "I worked for a while and then I got caught. There was a snitch."

11. CNU, Hampton, UNC Greensboro: Schools Barbara Davis has attended. At 6-foot, Davis is the tallest player on the roster.

12: "Absolutely not!": Coach Hunter-ism

13. "That's not it!": Coach Hunter-ism

14. "Focus, focus, focus:!" : Coach Hunter-ism

15. Focus: What Schweers struggles with during film sessions. "After a few minutes, I start to draw," she said.

16: A football game on the beach at Nags Head that turned into a sand storm when wind and rain arrived: Why the CNU players will never play football with coach Hunter again. "I didn't know she was that competitive,"Cheek giggled. "She played quarterback, running back, every position. She was running through everybody; we couldn't tackle her. It started raining, sand was flying everywhere. We wanted to go in. She said we weren't going anywhere until we finished the game!"

17. Singing and dancing: What the Captains love to do with their free time

18. Reeses Peanut Butter Cup: Schweers' favorite indulgence

19. 10: Schweers' age when she hit her first game-winning 3, at nationals with the Boo Williams Red Tide.

20. A gray Florida Gators shirt: What Schweers must wear before every game. Her longtime boyfriend, a Gator, gave it to her.

21. Texas, Hampton: Where Hunter was an assistant prior to becoming CNU's head coach (she also was an interim head coach at Hampton in 1996).

22. 233-98: Hunter's record in 12 seasons at CNU, making her the all-time winningest women's basketball coach there.

23. Kevin Hart: Comedian who keeps the Captains laughing on road trips. Davis mimics him to a tee.

24. 3'oclock in the morning: Time Brandy Thomas said she can call any one of her teammates. "We're always there for each other," she said.

25. Kelly Halverson, Jennifer Falin: most studious Captains

26. 1: Number of seniors on this team (Thomas)

27. 1: Number of players who don't list Virginia as their home. Thomas hails from Omaha, Neb. (Freshman Shayla Drakeford was born in Germany but lists Woodbridge as her hometown).

28. Monday at 12:30 p.m. on When the Captains find out their first-round NCAA opponent.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Saturday Dribble: Spiders win; Virginia falls to Duke

We're glad the Spiders are back on the right track, but otherwise it wasn't that eventful of a day in D-I basketball around the state. Everybody's legs are looking weary in these dog days of the regular season, but come tournament time, everybody will be jacked up, including us!

Friday's games:

Richmond 78, George Washington 54
Great to get a win in the nation's capital; just ask Obama. Spiders (17-11) rout one of the youngest teams in Division I to break a three-game losing streak. Abby Oliver scores 27 -- you rock, girl.

No. 6 Duke 83, No. 18 Virginia 65

An upset here would likely have boosted Virginia's seeding in the NCAA tournament. But there's no shame in losing to the Blue Devils (unless you're UConn or Stanford). Duke has won the last 17 over Virginia (20-8), meaning Monica Wright doesn't know what it feels like to beat the Blue Devils. Wright did her part as usual (27 points) and will be honored at the Cavaliers' senior day on Sunday.

NC Central 74, Longwood 66
Seven 3s by the Lancers (7-18) and an 18-of-30 effort by Central at the line didn't add up to a victory, but Erin Neal (8 points, 2 assists) got to play in front of the home town folks.

Virginia takes its shot against mighty Duke

The Duke Blue Devils can clinch the top seed in the ACC tournament, it's their Senior Night, they've won 16 straight against Virginia and haven't lost to the Cavaliers in Durham since 1997. Other than that, UVa.'s chances look pretty good....

Friday's games

No. 21 Virginia (20-7, 8-4 ACC) at No. 6 Duke (23-4, 11-1 ACC), 8:30 p.m. (Comcast)
Duke excels at crashing the boards, forcing turnovers and generally disrupting an opponents' offense so the Cavaliers must be sharp on fundamentals like boxing out and being strong with the ball. And they'd better be sharp from the opening tip as teams that aren't prepared for Duke's aggression can get blown out early, especially on a night when they'll already be jacked up wanting to send their three seniors out in style. Virginia knows about Duke's knockout punch better than most - in last year's ACC Tournament quarterfinals the Blue Devils scored 17 of the first 19 points in a 76-53 rout of the Cavs. And this season, they scored 20 of the first 22 points in a 73-43 rout of the same Florida State team than on Monday nipped Virginia at the JPJ Arena. Can the Cavs spring the upset? They've played well of late, and any team with Monica Wright has to be taken seriously. But we'll know within the first 10 minutes if they'll even have a chance.

Richmond (16-11, 5-7 Atlantic 10) at George Washington, (6-19, 3-9 Atlantic 10), noon
The middle game of a bang-bang-bang three-game set - the Spiders hosted Temple Wednesday and will conclude the season Sunday at St. Louis. Richmond can finish no higher than an 8th seed in the A-10 tournament, and while the pairings aren't set yet, the most likely scenario has the Spiders winding up an 8th or 9th seed and opening tournament play with a second straight game against St. Louis. The Colonials are the more desperate team as they're currently 11th in the 14-team tournament and still have some work to do to qualify for the 12-team tourney field. The Spiders won by 31 over an injury-ravaged GW team on Jan. 18 in Richmond, but the Colonials have been playing more competitively of late.

Longwood (8-18) at North Carolina Central (9-16), 6:30 p.m.
Regular-season finale for the Lancers, who are 4-2 in their last six games are will be looking for their second straight road win (they beat Savannah State last Saturday) after winning just one of their first 14 road/neutral contests. Freshman Heather Tobeck has 45 blocks and needs three more to tie the school's single-season record. The Lady Eagles are 2-0 lifetime against Longwood and are coming off a respectable 76-63 loss at Wake Forest.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Friday dribble: ODU in CAA driver's seat

The CAA regular-season title - does such a thing really exist? - is Old Dominion's to lose. Thursday's results, most notably losses by Drexel and VCU, put clear separation between the Lady Monarchs and the rest of the pack, and now ODU needs just one victory in its final two games to clinch the top seed in the CAA tournament.

Also, nice effort by Delaware, which played without Elena Delle Donne (twisted ankle) but still outlasted Northeastern 60-49. So the third-largest crowd in Blue Hens history (3,142) didn't get to enjoy who they came to see. But they did get to witness something they probably didn't expect - a Blue Hens victory with their franchise player wearing a walking boot.

In Thursday's games involving Virginia schools:

Old Dominion 70, William and Mary 52: The victory boosted the Lady Monarchs' conference record to 13-3; Drexel, VCU and James Madison all have five CAA losses with two games remaining. While the outcome of this one never really seemed in doubt, the contest offered yet another example of how important Jasmine Parker is to ODU's fortunes. When Parker left the game after picking up her third foul at 11:28 of the second half, Janine Aldridge quickly led the Tribe to within five. Parker returned at 10:45 and on consecutive possessions hit a 3-pointer and made a steal and a layup to vault ODU back up by 10. Parker scored 13 of her team-high 17 points in that final 10:45. A tip of the hat also to Mairi Buchan, who hit a pair of Tribe-trumping jumpers on a couple of other occasions when William and Mary got frisky.

James Madison 79, VCU 72: One week ago, the Dukes were trailing Delaware in overtime and just minutes from falling into fifth place. Three rousing victories later, they're in a three-way tie for second and clearly the "it" team in the CAA. The Rams led 49-45 with just over 12 minutes left, but Dawn Evans scored JMU's next seven points to put the Dukes in front to stay. A 13-0 JMU run then sealed the deal, and the components of that burst are revealing - the Dukes made five layups; the Rams missed four jumpers. For the game, the Rams shot just 34 percent and were unable to produce the high-volume steals that trigger their transition game. The Dukes, meanwhile, got it done inside and out, as Evans went for 34 and 7 assists while post players Jalissa Taylor and Lauren Jimenez combined for 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Virginia Tech 70, Clemson 69: Wild Senior Night at Cassell as the Hokies (15-13, 4-9 ACC) tossed away (13 second-half turnovers) an 18-point second-half lead, then rode seniors Brittany Gordon, Lindsay Biggs and Utahya Drye to their second straight victory. It was also a potentially season-extending victory, as Tech needs to have a .500 or better record to be WNIT-eligible. The Hokies are now covered even if they lose Sunday's regular-season finale at Virginia and in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

George Mason 63, UNC Wilmington 53: Bye-bye, 10-game losing streak. Nice to see a Patriots group that has been battling hard for the past several games without success finally get a payoff.

Rutgers' Stringer out of line with WNIT comments

Ladyswish is disappointed in C. Vivian Stringer's comments about the WNIT. After Rutgers lost to St. John's on Wednesday, Stringer said if the Scarlet Knights do not receive an NCAA tournament bid, she would decline one from the WNIT.

“I guarantee I won’t be coaching a team that goes to the NIT," Stringer said in the postgame press conference. "So if we don’t go the NCAA, we ain’t going. I’m not going to the NIT. That’s second, in my opinion, and I never will accept that. Never have accepted it. So don’t even ask me that question. Ever.”

Said Khadijah Rushdan, “Any team that is playing like this would be frustrated too. “To hear our coach talk like that hurts. I don’t blame here because she brings us up as not being second-class citizens and to go to the NIT would be just that. ”

Rutgers (15-13) has lost its last three and has a current RPI of 32 and a strength of schedule of 3. The Scarlet Knights' best win is over DePaul (28 RPI); their worst loss is to George Washington (246 RPI).

Stringer is among the most respected coaches in the game and advancing to the WNIT isn't the insult she makes it out to be. South Florida (27-10) defeated Kansas (22-1) in the championship game that drew a record 16,113 to Allen Fieldhouse a year ago. The win gave South Florida its first postseason championship in any sport and the 2009 WNIT champions are celebrated on the team's website. Nebraska, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Syracuse, St. John's, Richmond, Marquette, Georgetown, Hartford --- are these second class teams? All played in the WNIT a year ago.

Four sophomores, including Rushdan, are on the Scarlet Knights roster. So are two freshman. Denying a young team the chance to play in the postseason doesn't make much sense when what your teams needs is chemistry and experience. Stringer's comments are also a slap in the face to an evolving WNIT (there's 64 teams this year), which is good for the game. As an ambassador for the sport, Stringer should be thinking about what's good for the game. Is it really smart to pack up your toys and go home when maybe you could learn a thing or two when you stay and play?

The WNIT is about opportunity. To slight it is just plain foolish.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thursday dribble: CAA still too close to call

Thursday kicks off a huge two-game set for VCU - at James Madison tonight, home against league-leading Old Dominion Sunday. Two victories and the Rams will own at least a share of first place in the CAA. Two losses and they'll be flirting with no first-round bye in the conference tournament. Things are that uncertain as we near the end of a wide-open CAA race.

In other CAA action Thursday, Old Dominion hosts William and Mary, UNC Wilmington visits George Mason, Drexel goes to Georgia State, Towson hosts Hofstra and Northeastern is at Delaware.

A breakdown of Thursday's games involving Virginia schools:

Clemson (12-16, 3-9 ACC) at Virginia Tech (14-13, 3-9 ACC), 7 p.m.
Not only are the Tigers 0-6 in ACC road games, but they've been blown out of every one. Their closest loss came by 14 points, and three of the six were by 20 or more. Of course, this doesn't guarantee the Hokies anything. But if Tech competes as well in its final home game as it has in its previous three contests, Clemson should be staring at an 0-7 road mark by night's end. The winner of this game will move out of a three-way tie (Miami is also 3-9) for last place in the ACC. Miami is hosting No. 9 Florida State.

William and Mary (11-15, 4-11 CAA) at Old Dominion (14-11, 12-3 CAA), 7 p.m.
The Lady Monarchs have owned this "rivalry" for decades, and they can't afford to mess around with these guys tonight, not with the Drexel-VCU posse on their tails in the CAA race. The Lady Monarchs surely won't shoot 17.9 percent in the first half again the way they did Sunday against James Madison. But they can't count on the 61.8 first-half performance they blitzed the Tribe with when these teams met in Williamsburg last month, either. Then again, they probably won't need to shoot lights-out, as outside of Taysha Pye the Tribe usually has trouble scoring enough to keep up. But we would like to see ODU clean up some of those unforced turnovers.

VCU (18-9, 11-4 CAA) at James Madison (20-6, 10-5 CAA), 7 p.m.
If the Rams are the type of competitors we think they are, they can't wait to tip this one off. A couple of weeks ago, VCU rushed shots and played without poise while a mostly Dawn Evans-less JMU slapped the Rams around their own floor in a 71-56 rout. VCU is a lot better than it showed that night. Then again, this time the Dukes should benefit from a full dose of Evans, who turned her ankle midway through the first half at VCU and did not return. All signs point to an all-out war between two teams that could very well meet again on this floor in a couple of weeks with a whole lot more at stake.

UNC Wilmington (10-16, 5-10 CAA) at George Mason (8-18, 1-14 CAA), 7 p.m.
The Seahawks have won 11 straight in the series, but when these teams met two weeks ago in North Carolina, Wilmington needed a late 3-pointer to hold off the Patriots 51-47. Despite its record, Mason has played very competitively of late. If the Patriots are going to get another CAA victory, this seems like the spot.

Wednesday's game

Temple 77, Richmond 67: Brittani Shells had 21 points, Crystal Goring had 13 and 8 rebounds and, as expected, the Spiders (16-11, 5-7 Atlantic 10) used their defense to turn the Owls over (20 times). Unfortunately for Richmond, when Temple wasn't giving the ball away they were shooting it at a 48-percent clip. Furthermore, they had no giveaways over the final 7:12, a span in which they erased a three-point Richmond lead and pulled away with a 10-0 run inside the final three minutes. Still, this marked the third straight quality effort by the Spiders; they're just 1-2 in those games but are starting to have the look of a squad that is on the verge of better results. That is, if they can negotiate a tricky bit of scheduling that has them at George Washington Friday at noon and ending the regular season at 2 p.m. Sunday in St. Louis.

Let's play favorites

Ever get a tune stuck in your head and it keeps playing itself over and over? The song I haven't been able to shake lately is this old Rodgers and Hammerstein diddy (Wikapedia 'em, kids) called "My Favorite Things". The actual lyrics don't do much for us, so we've updated the content with a Commonweath hoops flair. Click here if you've never heard the tune or if you just want to laugh at what kind of music gets stuck in this head. And see if you can find your favorite team.

A.Moorer dishing and Monie Wright swishing
One MEAC win, NSU, we’ll keep wishing
CAA battles with all their wild swings
These are a few of our favorite things

Brittanni and Chelsea and all those young Lancers
Parker at crunch time she keeps finding answers
ODU’s Wendy with all of her rings
These are a few of our favorite things

Js from D’Andra and steals by K-Waller
No-calls on Gabi, the Drexel fake faller
Back-breaking 3s and the way each one stings
These are a few of our favorite things

When the Sox choke
Skins stink? No joke
These things make us sad
But then we remember our favorite things
And then we don’t feel so bad

Tiffany Benson, the queen of rejection
Hokies on offense with good shot selection
Liberty’s D forcing all those wild flings
These are some more of our favorite things

Evans from 40 and don’t think that’s funny
Even from halfcourt that kid’s shot is money
She can get hotter than Buffalo wings
Chalk up one more of our favorite things

Rebounds secured by the long arms of Tia
Guarded by Fortune? Would not want to be ya
Brittani Shells’ scoring and all that she brings
These are a few of our favorite things

When the Sox choke
Skins stink? No joke
These things make us sad
But then we remember our favorite things
And then we don’t feel so bad

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wednesday dribble: Richmond takes aim at Temple

Just one game on Wednesday's hoops docket as Richmond tries to rev up for a big finish against a Temple squad some believe is NCAA tournament-bound. Speaking of Richmond, be sure to check out our interview with Brittani Shells. Shells talks the way she plays - quickly, decisively and with great enthusiasm. Here's hoping all the Spiders perform this way, because against these Owls, they'll have to.

Wednesday's game

Temple (20-7, 9-3 Atlantic 10) at Richmond (16-10, 5-6 Atlantic 10), 7 p.m.
The schedule-makers did the Spiders no favors - of the four A-10 teams that have already won 20 games (Xavier, Dayton, St. Bonaventure and Temple), the Owls are the only one Richmond gets to play at home. The Spiders will be looking to build on Sunday's effort against St. Joseph's in which they lost on a buzzer-beater but according to coach Michael Shafer competed more passionately than they have all season. But just playing hard probably won't be enough against the talented Owls. The Spiders must turn defense into offense by creating steals, the one thing Richmond does better than any team in the A-10. Simply put, when the Spiders can impose their style on an opponent, they win. They average 14.4 steals a game in their five A-10 victories; 8 steals a game in their six conference losses. And Temple may be vulnerable to Spiders pressure - in A-10 games the Owls turn it over more than any other league team (18.8 per game). There aren't many other weaknesses on this team so the Spiders are going to have to exploit the heck out of this one. And history isn't on Richmond's side - the Owls have won four straight in the series and eight of the last nine. But hey, guys, it's your final home game of the season. Why not let it all hang out? Richmond 62, Temple 60

NOTE: Although your schedule may not reflect it, Richmond will be also be in action on Friday when the Spiders visit George Washington. The game was originally scheduled for Feb. 10 before being postponed because of the snowstorm that buried the nation's capital.

Ladyswish state rankings

1. Virginia (20-7, 8-4 ACC, 3rd) Last week: 1
RPI: 14
The Cavaliers may have lost that heartbreaker to Florida State Monday, but given the way they battled we actually feel a little better about them now than we did going in. Next: Friday at No. 6 Duke

2. James Madison (20-6, 10-5 CAA, 4th) Last week: 4
RPI: 43
Have the Dukes played their way back into consideration for an at-large NCAA tournament berth? Maybe, but clearly there's no margin for error and the focus needs to be solely on winning the CAA tournament. Dawn Evans has made 15 straight free throws and 29 of 31 since over her last four games. Next: Thursday vs. VCU

3. VCU (18-9, 11-4 CAA, 2nd-tie) Last week: 3
RPI: 108
When you consider that the Rams lost their top two scorers from a year ago, then saw four-year starter La'Tavia Rorie go down with a knee injury last month, that Beth Cunningham has this team within a game of the CAA lead at this stage of the season is pretty remarkable. Can't wait to see Sunday's ODU-VCU rematch; the Rams manhandled the Lady Monarchs when the teams met in Norfolk. Next: Thursday at JMU

4. Old Dominion (14-11, 12-3 CAA, 1st) Last week: 2
RPI: 57
Sure, that 17.9 percent first-half shooting against JMU was ghastly. But every team, UConn included, has night when the shots don't fall. That the Lady Monarchs also had 14 first-half turnovers suggests something else was at work, that perhaps facing their biggest conference rival in front of a season-high crowd had them too jacked up to perform up to snuff. Funny, too, for the Lady Monarchs shot 50 percent and had just four turnovers after intermission. Next: Thursday vs. William and Mary

5. Richmond (16-10, 5-6 Atlantic 10, 8th) Last week: 5
RPI: 82
The Spiders' recent struggles have eliminated any chance of a first-round bye and set them up to have to win four games in four days in one of the deepest conferences in the country. Furthermore, the way we read it the most likely scenario is for the Spiders to end the season as the league's No. 8 team, which would set them up for a second-round tournament game against mighty Xavier. Next: Friday at George Washington

6. Liberty (20-5, 10-2 Big South, 2nd) Last week: 6
RPI: 90
Lady Flames reached the 20-win plateau for the 12th time in 14 seasons and have now won at least 10 Big South games 11 straight years. Weird stat - Liberty is 8-1 when making zero or one 3-pointer in a game. Next: Saturday at UNC Asheville

7. Hampton (15-11, 10-4 MEAC, 2nd) Last week: 7
RPI: 160
The Lady Pirates' are only a half-game ahead of Morgan State for second place in the MEAC - the Lady Bears have played one less game - but if both teams win out, Hampton owns the tiebreaker courtesy of the 74-37 whipping they put on Morgan in the teams' lone regular-season meeting. Next: Saturday vs Delaware State

8. Virginia Tech (14-13, 3-9 ACC, 10th-tie) Last week: 8
RPI: 107
In two games of having to assume point-guard duties after an injury to Nikki Davis, Lindsay Biggs scored a combined three points. In the six games since, Biggs is averaging 16.8. Next: Thursday vs. Clemson

9. William and Mary (11-15, 4-11 CAA, 10th-tie) Last week: 9
RPI: 193
Apparently it takes a half season for Taysha Pye to get going. Last year she averaged 19.6 ppg over her last nine regular-season games. Now the sophomore is at 25.3 ppg over her last four. But who beside Pye can Debbie Taylor consistently count on offensively? Next: Thursday at Old Dominion

10. George Mason (8-18, 1-14 CAA, 12th) Last week: 10
RPI: 235
The Patriots havel lost 10 straight but have been extremely competitive in their last four, three of which have come on the road. Mason finished 2-16 in conference play a year ago. Next: Thursday vs. UNC Wilmington

11. Longwood (8-18) Last week: 12
RPI: 259
The Lancers will conclude regular-season play Friday at North Carolina Central, then face Central again in the first round of Longwood's year-ending Independent Tournament March 6-7 at Willett Hall. Seattle (6-22) and Florida Gulf Coast (22-5) round out the four-team field. Next: Friday at North Carolina Central

12. Radford (5-19, 4-9 Big South, 7th) Last week: 11
RPI: 268
Da'Naria Erwin-Spencer, who has scored in double figures in six straight games and 10 of her last 11, earned her second straight Big South Freshman of the Week award. But the Highlanders' losing streak is now at eight. Next: Saturday at Presbyterian

13. Norfolk State (4-19, 0-13 MEAC, 11th) Last week: 13
RPI: 343
Turns out NSU's 70-52 victory over Winston-Salem State Saturday was a bad omen for the Spartans, who fell to South Carolina State two days later and were denied their first MEAC victory. Norfolk State hasn't won back-to-back games since Jan. 28 and 30 of 2006. Next: Saturday at Morgan State

Catching up with Richmond's Brittani Shells

We caught up with delightful and candid Brittani Shells, who leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring with 16.5 ppg. The Spiders junior, listed as 5-7, recently became made the buzz list for the Nancy Lieberman Award. She has been Richmond's high scorer in 19 of 26 games and is No. 1 in the conference in steals (2.7 spg).

How'd you land at Richmond?
My junior year I wasn't heavily recruited. Maryland had been recruiting me even after they won the national championship and then it just stopped. I was like 'Great,' but then I realized that wasn't God's plan for me. I still could have gone to Vanderbilt, Boston College, Temple, but it seemed like Richmond wanted me more.

You're a marked woman this year....
Be careful what you wish for! I love to work hard and I love to be in the gym. At the same time, it's frustrating. I'm 5-6 putting up shots against 6-footers.

What would you like to work on in your game?
I need to work on a pure pull-up jumper. They put a lot of tall girls on me.

You're related to someone famous....
Tamecka Dixon (one of the original WNBA players, Dixon announced her retirement last week). She's my cousin. I spoke to her on the phone last week. She said everything was going fine in Italy. She said when I go up to New Jersey this summer, she'll work me out.

Who do you like to watch in the game?

Allen Iverson has always been my all time favorite player. I love Stephen Curry. He's deadly from the outside.

Given your from Delaware (Camden, to be exact), do you know Elena Delle Donne?

I played against her in AAU. Her dad gave me a couple of compliments, once. I went to high school a couple of hours away from her, so I don't really know her.

Your major?
I'm majoring in communication and I was minoring in theater, but that turned out to be something different than what I originally thought it was, so I'm going to change that. I actually want to go into entertainment, the film industry, and focus on editing.

You must love movies. Have a favorite?
"Love and Basketball," of course. I also have to say "The Great Debaters." Favorite actor, I'd have to say Denzel Washington, he's good. I like Omar Epps, too."

Do you Twitter?

"I don't Twitter. I'm scared nobody would follow me!"

Outside of basketball, tell us more about yourself.

I'm a strong person who loves the Lord. I'm a leader in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). I like to spend time with other believers. I go to Bible study all the time. I hate partying.

Like to read?

I read the Bible every day. And I love "The Great Gatsby."

A lot of Hill Songs. They're a Christian group. I love Jay-Z. I like a lot of Christian rap.

It's been a topsy-turvey ride for the Spiders (16-10, 5-6 A-10). The wheels came off in Dayton (Spiders fell 83-31 behind 18 percent shooting and are 2-6 in their last eight games.) But Richmond led No. 7 Xavier with 3:45 left only to drop that one 67-55. Coach Michael Shafer benched three of his starters early against St. Bonaventure a week ago, and a buzzer beater cost them Sunday's game against St. Joseph's. Shafer went out of his way to say how proud he was of the Spiders' effort in that one.
"Dayton, I have to say 'Wow." That was a tough game mentally and physically. I'd have to say that was a fluke. We got down on ourselves. (Against St. Bonaventure), honestly, I can't even lie. Kara Powell, the point guard and I were confused. Maybe he was saying I wasn't playing hard enough or I wasn't playing hard in practice. .... He seems OK with me now, and I'm OK. Hopefully we can go out and finish strong.

Any story behind the "I" in your first name?

My mom. She had to be different.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cavaliers fall in another Monday night classic

Another Monday night, another exciting Virginia game. The Cavaliers' one-point loss to Maryland - "Timeout!" - was featured on the ACC's Monday night television showcase, and so was last week's double-overtime win over North Carolina. So when things got interesting between the Seminoles and the Cavaliers, we merely shrugged and said, "Here we go again."

Monday's games

No. 9 Florida State 59, No. 21 Virginia 58: The lasting image of will be of Ariana Moorer's 6-foot runner in the lane falling short at the buzzer and Moorer crumpling to the ground in frustration. But Cavalier fans should also remember - and celebrate - the 8-0 run Virginia engineered over the final two minutes, when the combination of Monica Wright's defense - aided by an officiating crew that swallowed their whistles - and clutch plays by Wright, Chelsea Shine and Paulisha Kellum lifted the Cavaliers to a brief lead in a game we thought had gotten away. Moorer shouldn't feel too badly about her last-second miss; the sophomore's play kept Virginia afloat in the second half when the Seminoles (24-4, 10-2 ACC) were threatening to pull away. Virginia fans shouldn't be too upset, either. After all, Florida State is really good. And if the Cavaliers (20-7, 8-4 ACC) can put up that kind of performance against that kind of team, it means they must be really good, too.

South Carolina State 63, Norfolk State 51: Thud. And so goes the Spartans' best chance to avoid going 0-for-the-MEAC. Of course, anything is possible, but only road games remain on NSU's schedule, and the Spartans (4-19, 0-13 MEAC) haven't won a MEAC road game since 2007.

Hampton 65, Florida A&M 48: Nice bounceback effort by the Lady Pirates (15-11, 10-4 MEAC) after Saturday's clunker at Bethune-Cookman. The victory was Hampton's ninth in its last 10 games, and combined with Maryland-Eastern Shore's victory over Morgan State and Delaware State's win over Bethune, it left the Lady Pirates alone in second place in the MEAC standings.

Liberty 65, Charleston Southern 55: Avery Warley and Devon Brown combined for 42 points and 22 rebounds as the Lady Flames (20-5, 10-2 Big South) beat the Buccaneers for the 27th straight time.

Coastal Carolina 62, Radford 50: The losing streak is now at eight for the Highlanders (5-19, 4-9 Big South), and a team that is 1-11 on the road will have to travel for its final three games.

James Madison's Evans slighted in Lieberman voting

Can anyone explain why James Madison point guard Dawn Evans is not one of the eight finalists (she didn't even make the buzz list) for the Nancy Lieberman Award? Evans is fourth in the NCAA in scoring (25.5 ppg) and No. 1 nationally in 3-pointers per game. Twice she has scored 38 points in games this season (including in Charlottesville when JMU upset Virginia). She had 28 on Sunday with seven assists versus ODU.

The award recognizes a point guard for floor leadership, play making ability and ball handling. Sounds an awful lot like Evans, a five-time CAA Player of the Week, to us.

Are the Cavaliers in Florida State's class?

Although Virginia has done a lot of terrific things this season, its resume lacks a signature win, the kind of we-didn't-see-that-coming triumph that would show what this team is capable of against elite competition. Here's their chance.

Monday's games

No. 10 Florida State (23-4, 9-3 ACC) at Virginia (20-6, 8-3 ACC), 7 p.m. (Comcast)
Both teams come in on five-game winning streaks. Virginia is 1-3 versus ranked teams this season, with the victory coming over a North Carolina team that had lost four in a row and was ranked only because the latest ESPN/USA Today poll hadn't come out yet. Defense and rebounding are always keys, especially against the rugged Seminoles. Those are also givens, though - for us the focus will be on what Virginia does when it has the ball. The Seminoles rolled to a 68-50 victory when these teams met last month in Tallahassee, but the Cavs led 34-32 before suffering an offensive meltdown throughout most of the second half. That was back in the days when if teams could make things hard on Monica Wright, the rest of the Cavaliers tended to become confused and ineffective. The Cavaliers supporting players seem much more settled in their roles these days and this time may be able to make the Seminoles pay for devoting too much attention to the great Wright.

South Carolina State (8-17, 3-10 MEAC) at Norfolk State (4-18, 0-12 MEAC), 4 p.m.
It was almost a year to the day (Feb. 21, 2009) that NSU snapped a 26-game losing streak by whipping South Carolina State 75-52 at Echols Arena. Now the Spartans will try to use the Lady Bulldogs to a 16-game MEAC losing streak. South Carolina State prevailed on a buzzer-beater 74-73 when these teams met in Orangeburg last month.

Hampton (14-11, 9-4 MEAC) at Florida A&M (13-12, 8-5 MEAC), 6 p.m.
Saturday's loss at Bethune-Cookman dropped the Lady Pirates one-half game behind Morgan State in the battle for second place in the MEAC behind North Carolina A&T. Here's why being No. 2 is important - the expanded WNIT is offering automatic bids to the top team in each conference that isn't invited to the NCAA tournament. The goal of course is to win the MEAC. But it would be nice to know you're guaranteed a postseason spot if A&T wins, too.

Coastal Carolina (14-10, 5-7 Big South) at Radford (5-18, 4-8 Big South), 7 p.m.
Although Saturday was dubbed Senior Day, tonight will actually mark Highlander star Kymesha Alston's last game at the Dedmon Center. Here's hoping she goes out with a bang - and that she and her teammates can end this seven-game losing streak.

Charleston Southern (15-10, 7-5 Big South) at Liberty (19-5, 9-2 Big South), 7 p.m.
The Lady Flames have won 26 straight in this series but almost certainly won't be taking things for granted. Not after having to sweat out Saturday's 57-55 decision over Coastal Carolina, a team they had beaten 32 straight times.

Monday dribble: The CAA plot thickens

Old Dominion tried to shoot its way out of the CAA lead, but Drexel's overtime loss to surging Hofstra ensured the Lady Monarchs remain alone atop the conference (12-3 CAA record) for at least a few more days. Drexel fell into a tie with VCU for second with 11-4 marks, and James Madison remained by itself in that all-important fourth slot (10-5), one game ahead of Delaware and Hofstra. Watch out for the Pride, as they've won five of their last six and own victories over JMU and VCU in addition to Sunday's decision over Drexel.

Sunday's games

James Madison 65, Old Dominion 59: A great crowd (5,179) came together for a great cause (Hoops For the Cure). Too bad the Lady Monarchs couldn't respond with a great performance. In fact, they shot themselves out of it quickly by misfiring on 23 of their 28 first-half field goals. Every team tosses in a clunker now and then so we don't want to sound too many alarms about a team that's won 12 of its last 15 games. Then again, it was just two weeks ago when VCU slapped the Lady Monarchs (14-11, 12-3 CAA) around at this same Constant Center. It sure is strange to see CAA teams celebrate in that building. As for the Dukes (20-6, 10-5 CAA), the bigger the challenge, the better these guys seem to like it. Since Feb. 4 they've gone 3-0 against the top three teams in the CAA standings with an average victory margin of 12.6 points. They're 1-2 against everyone else during this span with the lone victory coming in overtime.

Virginia Tech 69, Boston College 64: The Hokies dominated the effort categories (rebounding, forcing turnovers), saw center Brittany Gordon outplay BC stud Carolyn Swords and generally behaved like a team that believes they're much better than their record (14-13, 3-9 ACC). We've wanted to believe in Tech all season, so we'll happily take this as a sign that the Hokies are set to finish strong. We have to consider a WNIT bid is a longshot, even with the expanded field. But you have to have a winning overall record to even be eligible. Given Tech's remaining schedule (Clemson, at Virginia, ACC Tournament), a plus-.500 finish would be a nice achievement.

St. Joseph's 67, Richmond 66: Right shot, wrong Brittani for Spiders fans, who watched in dismay as the Hawks' Brittany Ford nailed a jumper with three seconds left to steal victory from Brittani Shells and Co. But we're encouraged by how Richmond coach Michael Shafer went out of his way to say how "incredibly proud" he was of how the Spiders competed. For starters, we're usually not treated to comments from the coach after losses in Richmond's postgame summaries. Guess Shafer operates on the theory that if you don't have something nice to say, button your lip. That Shafter made a point to praise the Spiders even in defeat suggests he must really mean it. And if he's satisfied, so are we. Because we still think Richmond (16-10, 5-6 A-10) can do damage in the A-10 tournament. By the way, what's up with Abby Oliver? A career-high 21 points Sunday, 17.0 ppg in her last five games? When did she turn into Kobe Bryant (OK, poor man's version, but that's still one heck of a player)?

Delaware 65, William and Mary 52: Sure, it was another loss, the Tribe's third straight and seventh in their last eight games. But this one featured a pretty stout defensive effort against a Blue Hen team that torched them for 84 points less than three weeks ago. Elena Delle Donne was way off her game shooting-wise, but even when she struggles her numbers add up (24 points, 13 rebounds).

VCU 65, George Mason 55: We'll say it again - we love the way the undermanned Patriots continue to battle in a game we thought might get out of hand. And nice to see 2,657 turn out, a crowd that fell just short of being one of the top five in program history. No, the Patriots didn't win. But effort-wise, they certainly didn't let all those folks down, either.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunday dribble: ODU vs. JMU on tap

Used to be that matchups with James Madison were about the only times Old Dominion got challenged in CAA play. This year fresh challenges have come virtually every time out, and one of the most interesting things this season has been watching the creative ways ODU comes up with to pull these games out. So today we'll get to see the CAA's best last-minute team against JMU's Dawn Evans, the conference's best last-minute player.

Sunday's games

James Madison (19-6, 9-5 CAA) at Old Dominion (14-10, 12-2 CAA), 3 p.m.
When ODU spanked JMU 67-58 in Harrisonburg on Jan. 17, Evans made just 8 of 28 shots. One might think Evans simply had an off day. But when you consider that Drexel's Gabriela Marginean got frustrated when she visited Norfolk and Delaware's Elena Delle Donne said she "couldn't hit the side of a barn" during her Constant Center appearance, you have to believe the Lady Monarchs know a thing or two about gameplanning against elite scorers. That said, if Evans gets hot she can make shots from Kenny Brooks' lap. So the bottom line is we're expecting that when we look up at the scoreboard with 20 seconds left, it'll still be anyone's game. If Evans has the ball, we like the Dukes. And if it's in Jasmine Parker's hands, brace yourself for yet another great ODU escape. By the way, this is the seventh annual Hoops for the Cure game, and fans are encouraged to wear pink to raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer. The Lady Monarchs will be wearing pink uniforms and shoelaces. Also, a victory today would be ODU's 100th at the Constant Center. ODU 72, JMU 70

Delaware (16-9, 8-6 CAA) at William and Mary (11-14, 4-10 CAA), 2 p.m.
When these teams met on Feb. 4, Elena Delle Donne scored "only" 23 points. William and Mary's problem was that her teammates combined for 60 and the Tribe got routed. So maybe this time they should try paying a little less attention to Delle Donne and focus on.... Nah, that's probably not the way to go. Delaware 75, William and Mary 65

St. Joseph’s (14-10, 7-4 Atlantic 10) at Richmond (16-9, 5-5 Atlantic 10), 2 p.m.
It's as though the Spiders still haven't recovered from the 51-point beating they took at Dayton on Jan. 23. Richmond is 2-4 since, with all the losses coming by double digits. Coach Michael Shafer continues to pull levers to snap the Spiders out of it; his latest tactic was benching starters in Wednesday's 58-45 loss to St. Bonaventure. Let's hope whatever message he was sending got driven home because this team isn't going very far with Brittani Shells playing only 12 minutes. Look, there's still a really good team in there somewhere, and there's enough time left for the Spiders to still position themselves as a team no one wants to play in the A-10 tournament. But they've got to shake that Dayton hangover. Richmond 58, St. Joseph's 54

Boston College (14-12, 5-6 ACC) at Virginia Tech (13-13, 2-9 ACC), 2 p.m.
Tech spent its past two games proving it could hang with Top-10 teams Florida State and especially Duke. Now they need to make those performances pay off. For while the Hokies are clearly an improved team, that ACC record is starting to look eerily similar to the 2-12 marks of the past two seasons. It's time for Tech to make a stand, and while there are no gimmes in the ACC, the Hokies should be primed and ready for a winning effort. Virginia Tech 66, Boston College 58

VCU (17-9, 10-4 CAA) at George Mason (8-17, 1-13 CAA), 1 p.m.
It's "Pack the House Day" at the Patriot Center and, with the help of local girl scouts, the goal is to break the program's all-time attendance record (3,152). Not sure how much noise all those folks are going to make, though, as these Rams had an easy time against William and Mary Thursday and are good enough to make relatively quick work of the Patriots, too. VCU 77, George Mason 55

Saturday's recaps

Bethune-Cookman 63, Hampton 52: Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that after Monday's emotional, near-perfect performance in downing North Carolina A&T, the Lady Pirates (14-11, 9-4 MEAC) would come up a bit flat the next time out in Daytona Beach. Hampton still might have gotten away with it were it not for lights-out shooting by the Lady Wildcats (54.1 percent) that put an end to the Lady Pirates' eight-game winning streak.

Norfolk State 72, Winston-Salem State 58: The Spartans needed this. Instead of having just one player trying to carry the offensive load, the Spartans (4-18) had multiple producers (Raychele Payne, Genor Dalton, Whitney Long) for a change and dominated the hapless Lady Rams (2-24). Now let's see if they can carry this momentum forward for 48 hours and pick up their first MEAC victory on Monday when South Carolina State comes calling.

Charleston Southern 84, Radford 78: For the second straight game, the Highlanders (5-18, 4-8 Big South) wound up on the wrong end of a high-scoring shootout. This time an inability to defend the 3-pointer fueled their demise, as the Buccaneers drained 11 of 'em, including five by Kelsey Wasmer (career-high 33 points). The loss was Radford's seventh straight.

Liberty 57, Coastal Carolina 55: The Lady Flames (19-5, 9-2 Big South) led by 11 with 3:37 left before a 9-0 Coastal run made things interesting. In fact, the Lady Flames couldn't have felt too comfortable when a team that had already made nine 3-pointers had the ball with 17 seconds left down two. Liberty survived, though, and has now beaten the Chanticleers 33 straight times.

Longwood 60, Savannah State 36: Who said the Lancers can't win on the road? OK, we did. Well, we stand corrected. Saturday's win makes Longwood 2-14 in games outside of Farmville. All kidding aside, we love the way the young Lancers are finishing strong. Longwood is 4-2 in its last six games, with the losses coming to Maryland and Virginia.

Pat Summitt in Virginia Beach

First Geno, now Pat.

Hard to miss the winningest coach in the game on Friday night sitting in the bleachers at Ocean Lakes High School in her Tennessee orange colors, watching the junior post player everyone in the nation covets. Summitt and her assistant Dean Lockwood saw a routine performance by 6-3 prodigy center Elizabeth Williams of Princess Anne High, who bagged 15 points and 14 boards and was even more imposing on the other end of the floor where it's hard not to gawk at her leaping ability. Williams is rumored to be ACC bound -- Duke, NC, Virginia, maybe -- but it must be nice to look up and see the game's elite.

Two weeks ago Geno was in town to watch Williams at Bayside High School.

Unfazed, Williams said she's used to all the attention from AAU and Princess Anne coach Darnell Dozier agrees this kid keeps her poise. "She could play in front of Obama," he said.

Summitt visited Virginia Beach fresh from giving her own team a tongue lashing in Alabama, where she said her Lady Vols disrespected the game for their flat play against the SEC's last place team.

"We'll see if it does any good," said Summitt, who wasn't allowed to speak to Williams due to those pesky NCAA rules, though she flashed a thumbs up as Princess Anne collected its sixth straight Beach District tournament trophy. Typical Summitt was ever so gracious with the kids in the crowd, posing with babies and kids while cell phones and digital cameras snapped away. Another night in a high school gym might get old for a coach who has done this for 36 years, but says Summitt: "Not if you need players."

She also had a kind word for the CAA's first-place team, the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs, whom the Lady Vols spanked 102-62 in Knoxville two months ago.

"Wendy and I had dinner that night," she said. "She's so good. I knew it would be a matter of time before they got it together."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday dribble:MEAC, Big South teams in action

Red-hot Hampton looks to make it nine victories in a row while at this stage, slumping Radford and Norfolk State would happily settle for just one.

Friday's games

Hampton (14-10, 9-3 MEAC) at Bethune-Cookman (13-11, 8-4 MEAC), 4 p.m.
Everything was working for the Lady Pirates in Monday's 90-80 victory over MEAC heavyweight North Carolina A&T, as Hampton hit season highs in field-goal percentage (52.6), 3-point shooting (58.8) and assists (20). Performances like that don't come along very often, but the Lady Pirates were almost as flawless the last time they met Bethune-Cookman in an 81-44 rout on Jan. 23 in Hampton. Jerica Jenkins led the assault by draining 8 of 14 3-pointers.

Longwood (7-18) at Savannah State (9-19), 2 p.m.
If this matchup seems familiar, that's because these teams just met seven days ago in Farmville. The Lancers won by 31, and while they've struggled on the road - OK, they've been horrible on the road (1-14) - one week can't have been enough time for the Lady Tigers to make up that big of a gap.

Charleston Southern (14-10, 6-5 Big South) at Radford (5-17, 4-7 Big South), 3 p.m.
The Highlanders will honor their best player and lone senior, Kymesha Alston, in a pre-game ceremony. Alston, a Manhattan transfer and avowed Twitterer, ranks in the top 10 in the Big South in scoring, field goal percentage and blocks and will be appearing in her 100th career game. If her last game is any indication, Alston appears to be trying to singlehandedly pull the Highlanders out of what is now a six-game losing streak - she had a career-high 24 points in Monday's loss at High Point.

Coastal Carolina (14-9, 5-6 Big South) at Liberty (18-5, 8-2 Big South), 4 p.m.
The Lady Flames have won 32 straight over the Chanticleers, the seventh-longest active streak against an opponent in Division I. This includes Liberty's 57-38 decision on Jan. 22, although that game was a lot closer than the final score suggests. Coastal actually led by 10 early in the second half before the Lady Flames rallied and closed the game on a 24-2 run.

Winston-Salem State (2-23) at Norfolk State (3-18), 4 p.m.
Sure, the Spartans are hungry for a victory. But the Lady Rams are downright famished with their losing streak now at 21. That stretch includes a 60-56 loss to these same Spartans on Jan. 23, a game in which NSU freshman center Batavia Owens went for 22 points and 20 rebounds. The Lady Rams are now led by former Hampton coach Walter Mebane, who took over last week after Winston-Salem fired head coach Dee Stokes. Today's game is also a homecoming for Winston-Salem sophomore Jordhan Peterson and junior MaLisa Bumpus, both of whom starred at Norfolk Collegiate School.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Friday dribble: Dawn vs. Delle Donne worth the hype

After reviewing the tapes of the myriad of ways Delaware's Elena Delle Donne can put points on the board, James Madison coach Kenny Brooks said he turned to his assistants and remarked, "She could very well get 50 tonight." Boy, was he wrong.

James Madison 88, Delaware 83 (OT): Brooks' Dukes survived one of the greatest scoring nights in Division I history, as Delle Donne lit 'em up for 54 points and singlehandedly forced the extra period by draining two 3-pointers in the final 9.3 seconds of regulation. "I now know what it's like to coach against Kobe Bryant," Brooks said. "She was unstoppable." Good thing the Dukes were unflappable. Instead of whining about why this kid didn't just stay at UConn, the Dukes got tough in OT and held the Blue Hens scoreless for nearly four minutes. Meanwhile, JMU's remarkable Dawn Evans scored 10 of her school record-tying 38 points in the extra period to finally slay the great Delle Donne. The victory put the Dukes (19-6, 9-5 CAA) alone in fourth place in the CAA race, a pivotal spot since the top four teams receive first-round byes in the conference tournament. Meanwhile, it was yet another heartbreaking loss for Delaware (16-9, 8-6 CAA), whose six conference losses are all either in overtime or by two points or less. Delle Donne did all she could, though. In fact, scoring-wise she did more than just about anyone else has ever done. "She's the best player I've ever had to prepare for, man or woman," Brooks said. Problem is, even Kobe Bryant needs help.

Old Dominion 63, Georgia State 61: Good thing Jasmine Parker has eyes for Tia Lewis, and vice versa, because that's how the first-place Lady Monarchs (14-10, 12-2 CAA) stole victory Thursday night and survived another nailbiter. Trailing by a point with 7.3 seconds left, Jasmine Parker dribbled the length of the court and fed Tia Lewis for a game-winning layup with 0.6 seconds left. As Parker continued her mad dash to the hoop it appeared as though she was driving into a dead end. But on the postgame radio show, Lewis indicated that she and Parker made eye contact and she was ready and waiting for Parker's feed. We'll buy Lewis' story, especially since it worked. We're also buying ODU's remarkable ability to finish out these close games, as they're now 8-1 in CAA games decided by single digits. So get your tickets early for Sunday's showdown against JMU, and plan on sticking around until the end. With this team, that's when all the exciting stuff goes down.

No. 10 Florida State 78, Virginia Tech 68: Not exactly the type of game we were expecting; we thought Tech would struggle to score against the typically stingy Seminoles. So while Florida State held a comfortable lead throughout most of the second half, credit the Hokies (13-13, 2-9 ACC) for acquitting themselves fairly well on the road against one of the nation's best teams. Coming on the heels of Sunday's performance against Duke, that's two straight respectable showings against Top-10 opponents. Another effort like this Sunday at home against Boston College should put an end to Tech's six-game conference losing streak.

VCU 83, William and Mary 58: Just what the Rams needed, a laugher in which they wouldn't have to put a lot of high mileage on the treds of their starters. Eleven VCU players saw action - only six played Sunday against Drexel - and none of them played more than 29 minutes. It was pretty much a disaster on the other side, thanks in large part to a fatal cocktail of pressure by VCU (17-9, 10-4 CAA) and sloppiness by W&M (11-14, 4-10 CAA). Key stat is this regard: the Rams scored 33 points off 24 Tribe turnovers.

Hofstra 59, George Mason 49: Competitive road effort by the Patriots (8-17, 1-13 CAA), who to their credit haven't given up as their season's turned sour. Two weeks ago, the Pride won by 33 points when the teams met in Fairfax. But they had no answers for Hofstra's low-post terrors Shante Evans and Jess Fuller, who combined for 35 points and 18 rebounds (17 by Evans).

Oh, what a night, Elena!

Random notes about Elena Delle Donne's 54-point night in Delaware's 88-83 loss to JMU:

- It's the highest scoring game of the season, eclipsing the 49 points Memphis guard Brittany Carter dropped on Sacramento State on Nov. 27;

- It's the highest scoring game in Division I by anyone since March 10, 2000, when Southwest Missouri State's Jackie Stiles went for 56 against Evansville;

- It's tied for the seventh-highest scoring game in Division I history. The record is 60 points by Long Beach State's Cindy Brown on Feb. 16, 1987. February seems to be the month for record-setting point totals, as eight of the nine highest-scoring games in Division I history occurred during the second month of the year;

- It set a CAA record, breaking the mark of 51 by George Mason's Keri Chaconas nearly a year to the day (Feb. 17) in 1995 against East Carolina.

- Delle Donne's 18 field goals ties the CAA mark also shared by ex-UNC Wilmington stars Tressa Reese (Feb. 13 - there's that month again - 1991 vs. Charleston Southern) and Wanda Carroll (Dec. 19, 1986 vs. Coastal Carolina).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

VCU's Rorie still part of team despite ACL tear

We've read about ACL tears. We've written about them. They perpetuate the women's game in such a wicked way that we know the storyline by heart before we read it. The pop. The pain. Lost season. Surgery. Rehab.

How painful must it be if it's not just your season that ends that way, but your collegiate career? That's what happened on Jan. 12 when VCU guard La'Tavia Rorie, a senior from Charlotte, N.C., crumbled to the floor when her knee buckled on a baseline drive. Anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus torn. Third degree sprain. Rorie had started 79 of the Rams 81 games at the time, averaging 13.2 ppg and shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc.

"It's pretty much the worst thing ever," Rorie said after a recent game. "I didn't think I'd ever have to deal with this."

Ever heard of a kid named Emery Wallace? The senior's promising collegiate career at Maryland is over after four knee surgeries. Kansas senior Danielle McCray won't play any more college basketball, either, after ripping her knee two weeks ago. USC's Jackie Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath, eight ACL tears between them, aren't seniors, but are there any expectations they will finish their careers without another knee mishap?

Rorie admits to not being over this. She cried a lot at first. "The first week I didn't let show anybody how much it hurt," she said.

It never hurts more than when the Rams lose.

"It's fine when we're winning; it's a stress relief," she said. "When we're losing, I feel bad. I feel like I could be out there helping my teammates."

Rorie does help, said Rams coach Beth Cunningham. The Rams listen to her. She's one of them.

"She's been there, done it," Cunningham said. "She helps with scout reports. It's hard for a kid who has been so involved in our program to find herself in a completely different role."

Teammate D'Andra Moss appreciates Rorie being in her ear. "I know how she feels," said Moss, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear a year ago. "We keep her involved. She motivates us."

As far as moving on, Moss noted, "You never forget."

Thursday dribble: Evans may need kidney transplant

James Madison's Dawn Evans may need a kidney transplant as early as this summer according to this AP story. The point guard missed one game in December related to testing for the disease. The kidney disorder affects her blood pressure and leaves her with a low energy reserve, which is why coach Kenny Brooks rested her at William and Mary last week.

We had an eerie feeling upon reading the reports of that game, as the official word was that Evans sat out for "medical reasons." Everyone knew Evans was playing on a gimpy ankle; she sprained it during a regionally televised game two weeks ago. If it had been just the ankle that was keeping Evans out, "medical reasons" would have been unnecessarily vague. Now we understand why JMU's language was so cryptic.

Tough hombre that she is, Evans is determined to play out this season, telling the AP's Hank Kurz that leading the Dukes to the NCAA tournament "is a huge goal, at the top of my list." And don't think she's not capable. Since sitting out that game in December for the kidney testing, Evans has had six games of 30 points or more.

Ladyswish is thinking and praying for Evans and her family during this difficult time. And here's hoping that the junior star can have an uninterrupted run through the rest of the season before gearing up for the much bigger battles that lie ahead.

Wednesday's game

St. Bonaventure 58, Richmond 45: No shame in losing on the road to the tough Bonnies. But we're not sure what happened to Brittani Shells. The Atlantic 10's scoring leader finished with two points in a meager 12 minutes. It wasn't foul trouble, as Shells collected just one of those. And it doesn't appear to be injury because Shells was on the floor at the end of the game; she scored her only basket with 12 seconds left. Whatever the case, Shells finished 15 points under her average in a game the Spiders lost by 13. And a Spiders team that thrives on turning defense into offense finished with just six steals; Shells is also the A-10's steals leader. Strange. Can't wait for the explanation.

Thursday's games

Delaware (16-8, 8-5 CAA) at James Madison (18-6, 8-5 CAA), 7 p.m.
A week ago at this time, the Dukes looked like solid candidates for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Two upset losses later, their main concern now is avoiding a first-round game in the CAA tournament. The top four seeds earn first-round byes and these two teams are tied for fourth. As difficult as her kidney problems must be for Evans, she's proven she can still dominate games despite her condition. She's also one of the best clutch players in the country; just the type of performer capable of dealing more heartbreak to a Blue Hens team that has continually been nosed out at the finish line. The Blue Hens will counter with Elena Delle Donne, the nation's leading scorer who is coming off a 35-point outburst Sunday against Georgia State. The Dukes have the kind of guards who can frustrate Delaware's not-always-sure ballhandlers and thwart the Blue Hens' offense before the ball gets in Delle Donne's hands. Now if the 6-foot-5 Delle Donne heats up from 3-point range, there isn't much JMU - or anyone else for that matter - can do about it. But if JMU can "hold" Delle Donne in the 25-point range, the Dukes at home should have just enough to pull this out. JMU 63, Delaware 61

Virginia Tech (13-12, 2-8 ACC) at No. 10 Florida State (22-4, 8-2 ACC), 7 p.m.
Tech's last trip to Florida turned out quite well, thank you. But beating Miami and taking down FSU's defensive juggernaut are two different deals, particularly for a Hokies team prone to offensive droughts. Consider this: Florida State is 17-0 when holding an opponent under 40 percent shooting; the Hokies haven't shot 40 percent since that stunning victory over the Hurricanes on Jan. 24. Tech is 0-5 in ACC play since, and while the Hokies acquitted themselves well Sunday against ACC leader Duke in the friendly confines of Cassell, it's hard to see them scoring enough points to do much more than keep things competitive in Tallahassee. Florida State 62, Virginia Tech 48

Old Dominion (13-10, 11-2 CAA) at Georgia State 13-11, 4-9 CAA), 6 p.m. Only two road games left? We used the "it's getting late early" line a few days ago, but wow, it's almost March. (A caveat: Did you see Charlie Creme's latest bracketology? He's got ODU as a 13 seed versus No. 4 Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, with no at-large bid going to any CAA team.) OK, back to this game. ODU lost in this spot a year ago and escaped the Panthers by two a few weeks ago. Doesn't help that Georgia State has the CAA's best defense, holding teams to 56 ppg, and ODU has averaged a mere 59 ppg in its last four. We're going with ODU, but just barely. And we're not betting the house. ODU 62, Georgia State 57

George Mason (8-16, 1-12 CAA) at Hofstra (14-11, 7-6 CAA), 2 p.m. It's Family Fun Day in Long Island, and we have no doubt that the Pride and the kids in attendance will have a pretty good time. Hofstra is living the good life these days, having won three of its last four, including a defeat of VCU. Last time GMU played the Pride, the Patriots scored 39. And the last time was two weeks ago. Go offense! Hofstra 66, George Mason 41

William and Mary (11-13, 4-9 CAA) at VCU 16-9, 9-4 CAA), 7 p.m. It's hard to say a team is living large when it has dropped five of six, but we bet the Tribe is still giddy over upsetting James Madison a week ago. If Taysha Pye stays hot (the sophomore averaged 29 ppg last week), VCU could be in for a bigger test than the records reflect). The Rams need the win to remain relevant in the CAA race. In its last four games, VCU has lost to Drexel, Hofstra and JMU while beating first-place ODU in Norfolk. So what does that say? We're not sure. At home, we like the Rams, but the short bench might be taking its toll. VCU 68, William and Mary 59

Ladyswish state rankings

1. Virginia (20-6, 8-3 ACC, 3rd)
RPI (as of Feb. 15): 12
Dominating Longwood and making a bigger impact against ACC teams are hardly the same. But if Simone Egwu's performance against the Lancers (18 points, 16 rebounds) boosts her confidence against the bigger fish on UVa.'s upcoming schedule, Tuesday's oddly-timed Longwood game was just the ticket.

2. Old Dominion (13-10, 11-2 CAA, 1st)
RPI: 61
The biggest reason the Lady Monarchs are in first place has been their ability to make just enough plays at crunch time. Eight of the Lady Monarchs' 13 CAA games have been decided by single digits; ODU is 7-1 in those games.

3. VCU (16-9, 9-4 CAA, 3rd)
RPI: 104
Rams used just six players in Sunday's 70-62 loss to Drexel, VCU's third defeat in its last four games. Ebony Patterson played 34 minutes, the other four starters all played at least 38. Winning on three straight days at the CAA tournament is going to be extremely tough for these guys.

4. James Madison (18-6, 8-5 CAA, 4th-tie)
RPI: 53
Dukes showed two weeks ago in routs of VCU and Drexel that at their best, they're capable of being the class of the CAA. But the team is just 5-4 since Jan. 17 and we can't shake the nagging sense that, save for occasional flashes, this team peaked in December.

5. Richmond (16-9, 5-5 Atlantic 10, 7th)
RPI: 72
The Atlantic 10 is very tough at the top and the Spiders have been forced to play the league's best teams on the road. Still, we expected more out of Richmond (all five of their A-10 losses have come by at least 12 points). For whatever the reason, this group simply hasn't played to its potential.

6. Liberty (18-5, 8-2 Big South, 2nd)
RPI: 103
On Feb. 8, Gardner-Webb became the first team in 106 games to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. In the Lady Flames' next game exactly one week later, they held Winthrop to 11.9 percent shooting in a 52-18 victory. Guess they're determined to start a new streak. By the way, the NCAA record for fewest points by one team in a game between two Division I schools is 16.

7. Hampton (14-10, 9-3 MEAC, 2nd)
RPI: 164
The Lady Pirates haven't just won eight in a row; they've dominated every step of the way. Monday's 90-80 decision over defending champion North Carolina A&T was the closest game in that stretch; the other seven victories all came by at least 13 points. Star forward Quanneisha Perry says humilty is the key to Hampton's surge.

8. Virginia Tech (13-12, 2-8 ACC, 11th)
RPI: 114
We didn't think this would be an issue when the Hokies had a 2-3 ACC record with wins over North Carolina and Miami. But with just four regular-season conference games left, Tech is going to have pick it up a bit to avoid finishing 2-12 in league play for the third straight year. Winning at Florida State or in the season finale at Virginia will be tall orders. But the Hokies will have excellent chances to take care of business in home games against Boston College and Clemson.

9. William and Mary (11-13, 4-9 CAA, 9th)
RPI: 186
Dawn Evans or no Dawn Evans, last week's win over James Madison had to feel huge in the Tribe locker room. Taysha Pye is averaging 29 points in her last two games. The Tribes' last two losses both came by the score of 63-60 and both were sealed when a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer failed to fall.

10. George Mason (8-16, 1-12 CAA, 12th)
RPI: 235
Patriots have lost eight straight and 13 out of 14. Yet they've still doubled their victory total from a year ago. Also, a pair of four-point road losses followed by a game effort Sunday against Old Dominion suggests that these guys are still battling. Can't wait to see what this team looks like when it adds some quality size next year.

11. Radford (5-17, 4-7 Big South, 6th-tie)
RPI: 261
Da'Naria Erwin-Spencer is the reigning Big South Freshman of the Week, but she'd probably trade that honor for some team success as the Lancers are mired in a season-long six-game losing streak. An upcoming pair of home games present prime opportunities to get off the schneid.

12. Longwood (7-18)
RPI: 262
Lancers ended their home schedule with a very respectable 6-4 record. Prior to Tuesday's mismatch against Virginia the Lancers had won three of four. They'll now wind up regular-season play with two very winnable road games at Savannah State and North Carolina Central.

13. Norfolk State (3-18, 0-12 MEAC, 11th)
RPI: 344
Thank goodness for Centenary (1-23), the only one of the 345 Division I teams with a lower RPI than NSU. A favorable upcoming schedule (Winston-Salem State and South Carolina State, both at home) gives the Spartans a chance to move up a few places.

Wednesday dribble: Richmond in late matinee

Head to this one and you'll have plenty of time to watch the Winter Olympics later.

Wednesday's game:

Richmond (18-6, 5-4 A-10) at St. Bonaventure (16-8, 6-5 A-10), 4:45 p.m.
Clash between league's top two scorers in Spiders Brittani Shells and the Bonnies Dana Mitchell. (Love that Bonnies coach Jim Crawley graduated from Division III Kueka, whose home gym is called the Weed Athletic Center in Kueka Park, NY.) Mitchell, by the way, will have her jersey retired at halftime of the men's game (no offense to Dana, but what's the rush?). The senior's 1,878 points rank her second in career points at the school. Richmond 70, St. Bonaventure 67