Monday, February 15, 2010

Tuesday dribble: UVa., Hampton come up big

Monday's games

Virginia 82, North Carolina 78 (2OT): Thoroughly enjoyable contest with heroes galore for the Cavaliers, and they needed every one of them to hold off a frenzied assault by a Tar Heels team that played with all the desperation of a group that knows it's squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble (Even though ESPN's Charlie Creme disagrees). The end of regulation was especially exciting. With about 30 seconds left, Virginia down one and Monica Wright streaking downcourt, we were yelling, "No timeout, Debbie!" Pretty sure UVa.'s coach didn't hear us, but she let play continue and Wright tossed in a fastbreak layup. That was fun. Then, with UVa. up three and time running out, we were screaming, "Foul!" Sadly, no one got a hack on Italee Lucas, and she buried the game-tying three. Heck of a shot. But it all worked out for UVa. in the end, in part because UNC's Waltiea Rolle missed a wide-open five-footer with the Tar Heels down two in the final seconds. Rolle makes that bunny and the teams might still be playing. Instead, the Cavaliers escaped with their first victory in 14 games against UNC while the Tar Heels must stomach a fifth straight loss and the reality that the WNIT is a distinct possibility. Wright finished with 33 points, but Telia McCall gets her picture on the Wheaties box this time for her Rodman-esque 20-rebound effort. For a while there it seemed as though every time UVa. missed a shot, McCall was hauling in the miss and giving the Cavs another chance. "Unbelievable," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said of McCall's efforts. "For a kid to get 20, that's just heart and going after it." All the Cavaliers played that way, Come to think of it, so did the Tar Heels. That's why this one was so much fun.

Hampton 90, North Carolina A&T 80: Never mind the standings. The best team in the MEAC comes from Hampton, Va. The Lady Pirates (14-10, 9-3 MEAC) seized that title Monday night by dominating conference unbeaten A&T and bagging their eighth straight victory with their finest overall effort of the season. Statistics don't always tell the full story, but these Lady Pirate numbers come pretty close - 52.7 percent shooting, 10-of-17 from 3-point range, 20 assists against 11 turnovers, 30 points and 11 assists from Bernadette Fortune and 6-of-10 3-point shooting from Choicetta McMillian. Hampton's not going to play this well every night; no team can. But two months ago, this was the worst-shooting team in Division I. These players deserve a tremendous amount of credit for rounding into the team to beat in the MEAC. And if David Six isn't named the conference's coach of the year, there ought to be an investigation.

Liberty 52, Winthrop 18: No kidding. That loss to Gardner-Webb must have really ticked the Lady Flames off. But Liberty couldn't pull off a result like this without help. Granted, the Lady Flames (18-5, 8-2 Big South) have some of the best defensive stats in the nation. But the '85 Bears shouldn't be able to hold a Division I team to 18 points. So nice job out of Liberty and an embarrassing, burn-the-tape effort from the Eagles, on their own floor no less.

High Point 88, Radford 74: Huge offensive showing out of Radford, particularly from Kymesha Alston (24 points) and Da'Naria Erwin-Spencer (24). Unfortunately, the Highlanders gave up points even faster than they put 'em on the board - you know you're in trouble when you shoot 53 percent in the first half and go into the break down three. Even North Carolina and West Virginia didn't torch the Highlanders this badly. So there's really no mystery about Radford's sixth straight loss; giving up a season high in points almost always gets you beat.

Howard 71, Norfolk State 41: Poor Spartans. Poor offensively challenged Spartans. But we've seen worse; I mean, we just got finishing reading Winthrop's box score. Now get a good week of practice, because with home games against Winston-Salem State and South Carolina State up next, things could look a whole lot better this time next week.

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