Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Halfway mark: VCU, ODU, Virginia, Liberty and surpise Hampton looking pretty

We're halfway done, the ride's been fun so far and we're pressing ahead for March. Here are some thoughts that stuck with us when we took a look back. If we're missing something, be sure to let us know.

Oh, what a night

*Dawn Evans scores 30 to lead James Madison over Virginia in Charlottesville

Virginia's Monica Wright's 20 points made her the Cavaliers' all-time leading scorer (Dawn Staley is now 2). Her 39 against BC was pretty memorable, too.

A block vs. ODU made W&M's Tiffany Benson the CAA's all-time leading shot blocker with 238.

*Lindsay Biggs comes up big again with 19 for Virginia Tech, a winner over No. 10 North Carolina

*Whitney Long bags 30 as Norfolk State whips Savannah State

*Old Dominion's Jasmine Parker wins the guttiest performance award for a career-high 24 point effort to go with four assists and three steals against Maryland after losing her brother the day before.

*Pick a game for Devon Brown, Liberty's high scorer for all but two games. The freshman Flame scored 52 in her first two college games.

*Richmond's Brittani Shells scoring 23 with five boards in a victory over LaSalle.

*Longwood's Crystal Smith stat line of 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists as the Lancers stunned High Point

*Sophomore Taysha Pye's line of 26 points, 11 rebounds and three assists as Tribe beat host Seattle University in its own tournament.

*Brittany Poindexter shooting a school record 83 percent from the field (10-of-12) for 27 points to get the Patriots past High Point.

*Virginia coach Debbie Ryan picking up her 700th win in the Cavaliers season opener over UMBC

*VCU's Kita Waller setting a school record with 35 points to defeat UNC Wilmington. The senior guard added five boards, five steals, four assists and did not turn it over.

*VCU's D'Andra Moss's draining a buzzer-beating 3 to defeat Delaware.

* Hampton's Quanneisha Perry, an 11.6 ppg scorer, racking up a career-high 31 points and 14 rebounds against defending MEAC champion North Carolina A&T

* Longwood freshman Chelsea Coward nailing five straight 3-pointers in the opening 6:41 against Campbell - including one off glass from the corner - then scoring just two more points the rest of the game.

*Da'Nar Erwinspencer's 11 assists and 10 points in Radford's 61-50 defeat of UNC Asheville.

*ODU's seven-point victory over Hofstra was anything but pretty, but it marked the 900 victory for the program. Only Tennessee and Louisiana Tech have won more among NCAA Division I teams.

We didn't predict this:

*Tech romping over North Carolina for the Hokies first victory over a Top 10 team since 1998

*ODU holding James Madison to a season-low 58 points and breaking a five-year losing streak in Harrisonburg

*Radford, 1-10 at the time, upending a 12-2 Gardner-Webb team

*George Mason winning its first seven at home

*ODU's Vicki Collier, banged up with knee injuries for three years, earning a starting spot.

*Virginia Commonwealth starting CAA play at 6-0

* Towson 67, No. 25 Maryland 55

Glad they're back:

*James Madison's Dawn Evans, back after a kidney ailment

*ODU's Jessica Canady, whose offseason knee surgery slowed her senior season

*William and Mary's Tiffany Benson, in Debbie Taylor's doghouse early, averaging 23 minutes along with 7.1 ppg and 7.2 rpg

*Lauren Jimenez, pained from knee and ankle injuries the last two years, re-emerging for James Madison.

*Norfolk State, the worst team in Division I last year with only one victory, has won three games.

How disappointing:

*Virginia freshman China Crosby's ACL tear

* Another of the Cavaliers' heralded freshmen, center Erinn Thompson, had been sidelined with a leg injury since November. Her status for the rest of the season remains uncertain.

*VCU senior La'Tavia Rorie ending her career after tearing her ACL

* Richmond's Sam Bilney remaining on the mend. Bilney is out for the season after tearing the ACL in her left knee late last season. In high school, Bilney twice tore the ACL in her right knee.

* Norfolk State redshirt senior Tiffany McNair finally shutting it down after recurring shoulder problems. McNair had already missed two full seasons with shoulder ailments.

* Virginia Tech junior center Elizabeth Basham re-injured her right shoulder during preseason practice and is doubtful for the rest of the season.

*Richmond's Crystal Goring, who has yet to play in an ACC game due to a bum shoulder.

George Mason's Brittany Poindexter has yet to return since an injury a week ago vs. Georgia State.

Where are they now?

*ODU sophomore guard Pryncess Tate-Dublin, who did not take the floor in five straight games, logged 56 seconds in a 30-point blowout of George Mason. Tate-Dublin has played in 10 of ODU's 19 games, logging 13 points overall.

*Radford's Brooke McElroy, who, a year ago, played in all 30 games after transferring from Monmouth, listed as inactive.

* JMU reserve guard Brittany Crowell and junior-college transfer Nichelle Glover, a 6-1 forward who is averaging 5.5 points and 4.1 rebounds and has started seven games. Neither has played since early January for personal reasons.

* Radford junior forward Ciara Hayes, who averaged 10.2 minutes per game through the Highlanders' first four games but is now listed as inactive.

Head scratchers:

*Longwood coach Kirsten Caruso sidelined by school administration for one week for undisclosed personnel issues.

*Virginia falling 61-60 at home to Maryland

*ODU scoring a season-low 32 against Syracuse in Cancun

*Dayton 83, Richmond 31

*Maryland 80, Longwood 45: Why did the Terps go to Longwood in the middle of ACC season?

Radford (1-10 at the time) cruising over a 12-3 Gardner-Webb team.

*Women's basketball attendance or lack thereof. We're not looking to sell these places out, but it'd be nice to have more than 473 when two crosstown rivals VCU and Richmond meet.

Here's how it looks to us

We're high on Virginia, Old Dominion, Liberty and VCU. Virginia started the season as our No. 1 team, had it taken away when James Madison beat them in Charlottesville and now looks to be playing as good a ball as anyone in the ACC (minus Duke). They lost freshman point guard China Crosby to a knee injury, but have gained a starting five with the addition of Lexie Gerson that's starting to click. Even better, Debbie Ryan, a regular tweeter, seems like she's having a blast hanging with this young squad.

Admittedly the Lady Monarchs limped into conference and even after starting off CAA season with a one-point victory at Delaware, the triple OT loss to Northeastern appeared a sign of things to come. Instead ODU hasn't lost since. Jessica Canady, who was never healthy during nonconference, is on top of her game and Tia Lewis is an real complement. Jasmine Parker, so rattled by point guard duties early that she lost her own scoring prowess, is a threat again and potent behind the arc. Many of their wins aren't pretty, but these Lady Monarchs aren't the LMs who won all those CAA titles. They one constant: Wendy Larry. She knows a thing or two about what works and doesn't in the CAA.

As for VCU, it seemed as if they would be in rebuilding mode. It figured to take time to get used to life without Quanitra Hollingsworth. Then La'Tavia Rorie went down and so went the season. Or so we thought. We didn't count on Courtney Hurt or Kita Waller or obviously D'Andra Moss shouldering the load so well. It was only three years ago that VCU lost Q to an Achilles injury halfway through the season. We thought they were done then, too. Instead they advanced to the CAA title game.

Liberty looks to be Liberty as always. This team rarely misses a beat, no matter who comes and who goes. Feenstra and the Frazees are in the past and Devon Brown has started the path to a new era. The freshman could very well be the Big South Conference Player of the Year, but Liberty's trademark is defense. On average, the Flames hold opponents to 33 percent and 26 percent from the arc. A Big South title seems inevitable but that one loss in the last nine games came to Gardner-Webb. Eight games later, we'd bet they'd beat the Runnin' Bulldogs.

We've by no means given up on James Madison, but at Christmastime we wondered if they had peaked too soon. Now we really wonder. Wonderful as she is, Dawn Evans is taking too many low-percentage shots and the Dukes post game, as in Lauren Jimenez and Sarah Williams, is hard to predict night to night. Freshman Tarik Hislop has cooled off just a bit from the sizzling numbers she put up at the beginning of the season. Evans is great, no doubt. But will she have any legs for the CAA tournament?

Virginia Tech only won two conference games a year ago and has already matched that. The North Carolina win lifted a program that has needed a boost for years. Beating Miami on the road was another nice result. But like so many teams in the state, the Hokies struggle to score. They had all kinds of chances to upend Virginia in Cassell, but couldn't take advantage of the Cavaliers' scoring lapses. Lindsay Biggs' shooting percentage is 28 percent.

Quite honestly we expected a bit more from George Mason. Nice recruiting class. Great nonconference start. Can't score in the CAA. And if you can't score, you surely can't win. GMU averages 56 ppg.

We also hoped for more with William and Mary. Debbie Taylor has herself a stable of athletes, all of whom can shoot. Katherine DeHenzel, Tiffany Benson, Taysha Pye and all the freshmen who made an early-season impact seemed as if they could give league teams fits. But this group turns it over all the time and can't seem to find that formula that makes winning routine. Losing in Florida to High Point in December was foreshadowing to a season that has produced mixed results. Bottom line is W&M finds itself fighting not to play in the first round of the conference tournament.

We've taken a long time to mention Richmond. We can't figure the Spiders. They layed an egg against Dayton, where they were embarrassed by a 53-point loss. A-10 leading scorer Brittani Shells scored 2. They were our top team in the state three weeks ago. Dayton doesn't appear to be just a blip given the Spiders fell by 19 at home against Duquesne on Saturday, allowing a 24-0 run.

Hampton impresses us. Coach David Six has stepped from high school coaching into the college ranks with the greatest of ease. The Pirates are 10-10 and could just as easily be 14-6 (heartbreakers against Temple, Howard, East Carolina and Coppin State prevented that). They've won four in a row and their shooting percentage is up from 30 percent to 35 percent.

We wish Norfolk State would get a MEAC win, but we congratulate coach Debra Clark for raising the team from the ashes. NSU had one win a year ago. The Spartans weren't competitive. They're 3-13 and have lost a couple of heartbreakers (Hampton OT, South Carolina State by one, Wofford and UAB by two). They could use a post game, but it's hard to have that without some height. We hear the height is coming in the pending recruiting class.

Radford could use some offense to overcome a couple of humps: 1-10 in the conference, 0-7 away. Kudos to Kymesha Alston for leading the way, but the Highlanders need more than 52 points a game.

Being an independent is tough, just ask Longwood. And then to have your head coach removed for a week only to be reinstated? Having freshman Chelsea Coward and soph Brittanni Billups lead your team in scoring is promising, but as we said before, it's tough to be in independent in this landscape.

1 comment:

  1. someone or somebody please go to tate-dublins' practice she's clearly the best but coach has something against her, it's personal.