Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thursday dribble: Oh, that wacky CAA!

Just when we thought CAA play couldn't get any more bizarre, Wednesday night's regular-season finales featured:

- A Jeckll-and-Hyde performance out of JMU;
- VCU nearly punting a 16-point lead over the final five minutes;
- Defending champion Drexel closing with its fourth straight loss;
- Collective brain-lock by the first-place Lady Monarchs

Brace yourself for one crazy tournament.

Final CAA seedings
1. Old Dominion
2. James Madison
3. VCU
4. Drexel
5. Delaware
6. Hofstra
7. Towson
8. Northeastern
9. Georgia State
10. UNC Wilmington
11. William and Mary
12. George Mason

First-round matchups (Thursday, March 11)
#8 Northeastern vs. #9 Georgia State, noon
#5 Delaware vs. #12 George Mason, 2:30 p.m.
#7 Towson vs. #10 UNC Wilmington, 5 p.m.
#6 Hofstra vs. #11 William and Mary, 7:30 p.m.

Quarterfinals (Friday, March 12)
#8 Northeastern/#9 Georgia State winner vs. #1 Old Dominion, noon
#5 Delaware/#12 George Mason winner vs. #4 Drexel, 2:30 p.m.
#7 Towson/#10 UNC Wilmington winner vs. #2 James Madison, 5 p.m.
#6 Hofstra/#11 William and Mary winner vs. #3 Drexel, 7:30 p.m.

The semifinals are set for noon and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the championship game scheduled for Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday's games

Towson 64, Old Dominion 56 (OT): Everyone at the Constant Center will probably focus on the final play of regulation, so let's cut right to it - game tied at 50, 11.5 seconds left and ODU coming out of a timeout with Senior Night honoree Jessica Canady at the line for her second free throw. Although a 77-percent free throw shooter, Canady misses, but Tia Lewis hauls in the offensive rebound. Lewis feeds Kquanise Bryd, Byrd backs it out and gives it to Shadasia Green some 35 feet from the basket, and Green dribbles out the remaining time. What gives? On her postgame radio show, coach Wendy Larry accepted the blame for ODU's remarkable lack of awareness of time and score, saying that she briefly thought ODU was ahead and instructed Byrd to pull the ball out. By the time she realized her mistake, Green was bouncing the ball near halfcourt and wondering why no one was coming to foul her. Embarrassing? Sure. But that's not what got ODU beat. For starters, the Lady Monarchs missed five of their nine free throws over the final 3:26 -deadly numbers in a close game. They got beaten up on the boards (21 Towson offensive rebounds) for the second straight game. But their biggest problem occurred early in the second half when Jasmine Parker took a blow in the face (believed to be just under her left eye) and left the game for good. Parker has been absolute money in late-game situations all season; without her ODU was broke. Green gamely tried to adopt Parker's role as creator and distributor, but tossed an errant pass on one drive that led to a fastbreak layup and a brief Towson lead in the final minute, then twice was called for charging in overtime. Early indications are that Parker will be OK for the CAA Tournament. But that was about the only good news on a night when ODU lost for a previously unthinkable third time at home, fell to Towson for the first time ever and lost a Senior Night game for the first time since joining the CAA. And all in full view of several of the team's all-time greats. The loss didn't hurt ODU's seeding. But given the volume of mental and physical mistakes, the Lady Monarchs' pride took a serious beating.

VCU 69, Northeastern 66: D'Andra Moss and Kita Waller took turns carrying VCU to a 16-point lead before the Rams shut it down and watched the Huskies go on a 15-0 run over the final six minutes and have the ball down one with 11 seconds left. But Northeastern couldn't make a play, and the Rams secured a much-needed first-round bye in the conference tournament.

James Madison 76, George Mason 38: Believe it or not, the Patriots actually led this one 23-22 at halftime. Kenny Brooks ought to bottle that halftime speech.

William and Mary 71, Drexel 65: Look, seldom-used senior Robyn Barton is getting the start in her final home game. Boy, that Debbie Taylor sure is a nice coach. Whoa, sweet 3-pointer by Barton! And another one! Hey, that's three in a row! Boy, that Debbie Taylor sure is a dumb coach. Why didn't she start Barton a long time ago? Seriously, folks, there's no mystery as to what happened here. The often allergic-to-offense Tribe shot 48 percent from the field and an impressive (especially for them) 71 percent from the line. Make shots, win games. Meanwhile, Drexel lost its fourth straight, and we're starting to wonder if the strain of carrying the Dragons is finally telling on Gabriela Marginean. A 23 ppg scorer, Marginean had "only" 16 in Sunday's home loss to UNC Wilmington, and managed just 10 on 3-of-10 shooting in Wednesday's setback to the Tribe.

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