Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday dribble: UVa., JMU post big wins

Monica Wright and Dawn Evans once again show why such a fuss is made over them while Liberty can't hold on against their new Big South nemesis.

Monday's games

Virginia 82, Maryland 68: The Terrapins led 38-32 with just over 18 minutes left in the second half, and from that point it was as though Monica Wright said, "Enough of this nonsense." The result was the following sequence:
18:06 - Wright curls off screen into the paint - leaving Lori Bjork in her dust - and swishes 8-footer;
17:04 - Wright steals outlet pass, drives for a layup over Tianna Hawkins and completes 3-point play;
16:38 - Wright attacks hoop from top of the key, blows past Terp for a lefty layup
16:13 - Wright curls off screen into paint, hangs in air until Lori Bjork comes down, nails 12-footer and completes 3-point play
15:53: Wright hauls in long rebound, sprints downcourt past Kim Rodgers, nails free-throw line J.
If you're scoring, that's 12 straight points, three Terrapins burned and one game taken over. "It was the Monica Wright show," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said after the Cavaliers superstar's 34-point assault. "Obviously she was unstoppable." It's just too bad this wasn't the night Wright broke Virginia's all-time scoring record. For when she actually did set that mark last month in a 61-60 loss to Maryland, it was a night Wright, the Cavaliers and their fans would otherwise rather forget. Monday's performance was a much more fitting showcase, both to the greatness of Wright and to how far Virginia (17-6, 6-3 ACC) has come as a team since that Jan. 11 wake-up call.

James Madison 73, Drexel 56: Heck of a two-game set by the formerly struggling Dukes (18-4, 8-3 CAA), who whipped VCU Thursday before crushing the defending CAA champion Dragons (14-8, 8-3 CAA) Monday night while evoking memories of their Top-25 form of their non-conference season. Dawn Evans' ankle is apparently fine, and her jumpshot is even better (31 points, 7 of 10 3-pointers). And big ups to the Dukes defense, which bottled up VCU last week and quieted normally high-scoring Gabriela Marginean (16 points, 4 of 16 shooting) on Monday. Then again, here are the Dragons shooting percentages in their last three games - 32.7, 33.3, 32.8. Could it be that conference teams have finally figured out the nuances of Drexel's precision offense?

Gardner-Webb 59, Liberty 56: The Bulldogs chased the Lady Flames down, snapped Liberty's 10-game winning streak and wrestled control of the Big South race by doing the unthinkable - solving the Liberty defense. Using an occasionally effective fastbreak, the ability to break the Lady Flames down off the dribble and some timely 3-point shooting, Gardner-Webb (19-3, 8-1 Big South) became the first Liberty opponent in 106 games to make at least half their shots (52.3 percent). More importantly, they connected on 6 of their final 7, including the go-ahead 3-pointer by Dominique Hudson with 19 seconds left. Avery Warley led the Lady Flames (17-5, 7-2 Big South) with 15 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late, but the Bulldogs did another number on Big South scoring leader Devon Brown. Brown had 13 points but hit on just 5 of 18 shots. In Gardner-Webb's 70-65 victory over Liberty on Jan. 2, Brown scored only 9 points on 2 of 11 shooting. Brown still pulled down 13 rebounds Monday so it wasn't as though her head wasn't in the game. In fact, Liberty's overall performance probably would have been plenty good enough against any other conference team. But Gardner-Webb isn't any other team. Until/unless Liberty can prove otherwise, the Bulldogs are the best team in the Big South.

Delaware 67, George Mason 63: It was defeat with honor for the Patriots, who led the Blue Hens at the half and by as many as seven after the break before getting chased down. Old Dominion - which plays Delaware on Thursday - and other CAA teams should examine closely how Mason plays the Blue Hens because the Patriots (8-14, 1-10 CAA) have led Delaware at the half in both meetings. This suggests that while Mason lacks the depth to produce for the full 40 minutes, they know how to give these guys problems.

Hampton 67, Winston-Salem State 26: That's six victories in a row for the Lady Pirates (12-10), 19 straight losses for the can't-wait-to-get-back-to-Division II Lady Rams.

Delaware State 57, Norfolk State 44: We talked about how Norfolk State (3-16, 0-10 MEAC)looks at a team like Delaware State (4-19, 2-8 MEAC) and says, here's our chance for a win. Well, the Lady Hornets look at Norfolk State and say, no, here's OUR chance for a win. Oh, well, we're moving all of our NSU MEAC victory chips back to Feb. 22 when the Spartans host South Carolina State.

Wednesday's games Note: Richmond's game at George Washington originally scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed until Thursday at 7 p.m. Gardner-Webb (19-3, 8-1 Big South) at Radford (5-14, 4-4 Big South), 7 p.m. Game was postponed from Saturday because of the storm. Under normal circumstances the Bulldogs might be set up for a letdown after Monday's come-from-behind victory at defending league champion Liberty. But it probably won't take much to get them excited about taking on the Radford team that spanked them 68-53 in early January in probably the most stunning upset engineered by a Virginia team this season (Virginia Tech over UNC was pretty startling, too). The Bulldogs bring a seven-game winning streak into battle; were it not for the loss to Radford they'd be looking at a 13-game winning streak. Radford has had plenty of time to prepare for the rematch as weather-related issued have kept the Highlanders out of action since Feb. 1. Gardner-Webb 68, Radford 58

Troy (11-11) at Longwood (5-17), 7 p.m. The Lancers have been out of action so long we almost forgot about them. The Trojans have lost three straight and six of their last seven, but back on Nov. 24 they hammered these Lancers 74-57 at their Trojan Arena. Longwood will be playing its first game since an 85-40 loss to Maryland on Jan. 31. Longwood 62, Troy 60

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