Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Richmond and Mason roll, ODU comes oh-so-close

We went 3-0 on our picks, but if ODU could have made just a couple more plays, we'd have been happy to go 2-1.

Richmond 71, Hampton 43: Didn't really seem like a fair fight, as a deep, red-hot Richmond team had its way with a Hampton squad scrambling to patch over the loss of its starting backcourt due to injury. When healthy, these Pirates are extremely dangerous (ask James Madison). But now? While there's no replacing Bernadette Fortune and Jericka Jenkins, we fully expect the Lady Pirates (1-3) to develop the pieces to still be a strong MEAC competitor. But without their "Mighty Mite" guards, we're not sure how much more they can do.

We still enjoyed the game, though, because while we've written quite a bit about the Spiders (4-1), this was the first time we'd actually seen them play. We wondered how Brittani Shells was able to get so many good looks. Now we know - she goes from zero to 60 in about a half second, and good luck to anyone trying to stay in front of her. We kind of expected that, after so many knee injuries, poor Samantha Bilney would be laboring around out there. In fact, Bilney got up and down the floor just like everyone else (OK, not quite like Shells). And Crystal Goring? We'd pegged her as primarily a shot-blocker and rebounder. Where'd she get all those low-post moves? The Spiders ran 13 players out there, and each one brought something besides a warm body to the floor. Overall, an extremely impressive group that seems to be playing January-level ball in November.

N.C. State 62, Old Dominion 60: Imagine playing an ACC team on the road and going to the free throw line just 12 times to your opponent's 29 (come to think of it, you might have expected that). You get outrebounded by 15. Turn it over 20 times. And get just 15 minutes out of your preseason all-conference center before she fouls out. You figure you'll get blown out, right? It says a lot about the determination and grit of these Lady Monarchs (2-1) that they survived all of these challenges and had a pretty good look for freshman Shakeva Richards at the buzzer (back iron, unfortunately) to send this puppy into overtime. A 23-point, 6-rebound, 6-steals effort from Jasmine Parker helped them stay in it, along with 7 3-pointers and some disruptive defense that forced 24 N.C. State giveaways. Moral victories are still stored on the wrong side of the won-loss ledger, so we're sure there are a handful of sequences the Lady Monarchs will replay over and over in the minds and think, what if? But when you remember how little resistance ODU often put up on the road last season, the fact that they stood up to N.C. State in Raleigh when so much was going against them says a lot about how far this team has come.

George Mason 54, UMBC 38: We're sure Jeri Porter enjoyed perusing this box score because it shows her Patriots (2-2) dominating in the things coaches preach about all the time. They won the rebounding battle 37-24.Gobbled up 20 offensive boards. Forced 24 turnovers. Made 12 steals. Only had 12 fouls. And they needed to do the hustle things because on this night, Taleia Moton, who has gotten off to a terrific start, couldn't throw it in the ocean (2 of 17). Her teammates had her back, though. Amber Easter scored 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting. Evelyn Lewis made all three of her shots (and also grabbed eight rebounds). And Rahneeka Saunders notched a career-high 12 points thanks in part to 3-of-3 shooting from the 3-point line (a breakout game, perhaps?) as Mason scripted a successful home opener.

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