Monday, February 22, 2010

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.

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