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.

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