Sunday, January 30, 2011

ODU, JMU, UNCW remain deadlocked atop CAA

Call it "Separation Sunday" in the CAA, as a clear line of distinction among the contenders and the also-rans has been established as we reach the midway point in the conference race. Old Dominion, James Madison and UNC Wilmington all remained tied for the lead with 8-1 marks, and VCU stayed in hot pursuit with a 7-2 mark. The next-best conference record is 4-5, a mark shared by Drexel, Delaware, Hofstra and surging George Mason. The top four finishers earn byes in the CAA Tournament. One of those teams would have to make up three games on VCU over the final nine to get into that mix.

The wildcard out of that group is Delaware, which welcomed back Elena Delle Donne for the first time since Dec. 19 in Sunday's 81-68 loss at Hofstra. Delle Donne went for 28 points against the Pride and figures to make Delaware a considerably more dangerous team over the second half of conference play.

Sunday's games

Old Dominion 64, Georgia State 41:
Prior to tipoff, Old Dominion honored former All-American and Olympian Medina Dixon by making her the program's seventh player to have her jersey retired. The current players then paid their respects by serving up a good ol' fashioned CAA beatdown and holding the Panthers' heads underwater with a superior defensive show. Watching the Lady Monarchs run offense can sometimes be a challenging experience. But man, can they guard people. And this isn't something they picked up a few games ago. We saw this commitment to defense in their season opener against Georgia Tech, and it was on full display again Sunday. It's funny, because we only saw it over the last four minutes when these teams met a couple of weeks ago, as ODU rallied from 5 points down to pull out a 66-62 victory. Afterward, ODU coach Wendy Larry remarked that if her team had played the entire game the way it played those final four minutes, it probably would have been a different story. Sunday was that different story. Chan Harris is the Panthers' talented go-to post player. On Sunday, she attempted just 6 shots as the Lady Monarchs continually blew up the Panthers' halfcourt offense before Harris could get her touches. When the teams met on Jan. 13 in Atlanta (a 66-62 ODU victory), ODU got burned by freshman Kendra Long (21 points 5-of-8 3-pointers). This time, Long got off just one shot in the first half (she missed) and finished with 8 points and 5 turnovers. ODU was ahead just 13-12 before limiting the Panthers to just one field goal and four points over the final 8:36 of the half. Georgia State finished the first half with almost as many turnovers (15) as points (16). Jasmine Parker led the way with a career high-tying 7 steals along with 13 points for the Lady Monarchs (14-6, 8-1 CAA), who won for the 8th time in 9 games to keep pace with UNC Wilmington and James Madison atop the CAA standings. In addition to honoring Dixon, ODU also feted several of its past stars during halftime. Among those in attendance: Adrienne Goodson, Jessica Canady, Jazzmin Walters, Stacy Himes, Tiffany Green and Shonda DeBerry.

James Madison 56, Towson 45: Talk about a dynamic duo. Dawn Evans (28 points) and Lauren Jimenez (16) scored all but 12 of the Dukes' points and all 24 for JMU over the final 7:24. And the Dukes needed their stars to go off late as the Tigers pulled to within 2 points at 44-42 with 3:19 remaining. Jimenez responded by scoring six straight points in a 58-second span to help the Dukes break free. The Dukes shot 53 percent for the game and 64.7 percent in the second half, but 22 turnovers prevented them from putting up a bigger scoring number. Evans' 28 points are notable because she accumulated them without benefit of a 3-pointer (0-for-4). Not sure if that's the most points she's scored without making a 3, but we wouldn't be surprised if it was. The win was JMU's sixth straight since their humbling 71-55 loss at ODU.

UNC Wilmington 82, William and Mary 59: Could this be the CAA's best team? The Seahawks haven't just won 7 straight. They've won virtually all of them going away. Set aside a four-point win at Hofstra and their winning margins during the streak are 14, 16, 18, 17, 23 and Sunday, 23 points again. But if you listen to UNCW coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, she's not giddy about any of it. Instead, she talks matter-of-factly about how she's pleased with some aspects but that the Seahawks still have a lot of work to do. Essentially, she sounds like a coach who believes the CAA - and perhaps beyond - can be UNCW's for the taking. More importantly, she seems to have her players believing it, too. Furthermore, their remaining schedule is less daunting, at least on paper, than the other contenders. In short, this team is serious, folks. Just ask William and Mary.

VCU 69, Drexel 65: It was quite a show by the "Big Three", and we're not talking about Lebron, Bosh and D-Wade. Check out these numbers: Courtney Hurt - 23 points, 20 rebounds. Andrea Barbour - 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting. Sonia Johnson - 17 points. That's 61 of 69 points for a VCU team that shot 56.6 percent from the field. As they almost always do, the Dragons kept things close. But it's tough enough to beat the Rams when one or two of their stars are feeling it. When all three are going off, look out.

George Mason 61, Northeastern 55: Remember when the Patriots couldn't win on the road? You should, because that was a fair assessment as recently as Wednesday. Well, on Sunday Mason bagged its second road win in four days - this from a team that took a 1-7 road record into Thursday's contest at Delaware and went just 1-12 on the road last season.  Taleia Moton's jumper with 59 seconds left broke a 55-55 tie, and Brittany Eley sealed it by going 4-of-4 from the free throw line in the final 24 seconds. Moton finished with 17 points, Amber Easter added 13 and Angelee LaTouche grabbed 15 rebounds for the Patriots (10-10, 4-5 CAA), who matched their overall win total for all of 2009-10 (when they finished 10-20) with 9 regular-season games plus the CAA Tournament remaining.

Clemson 84, Virginia 74: Disappointing result for the Cavaliers (12-11, 1-6 ACC), who were unable to contain the Tigers anywhere on the floor. Clemson shot 51.9 percent from the field, 55.6 percent from 3 and made 30 trips to the free-throw line. Ataira Franklin went 4-of-4 from 3-point range and finished with 19 points. But this Virginia team isn't equipped to get into a shootout with any ACC team.

North Carolina 76, Virginia Tech 51: The Hokies (9-12, 0-7 ACC) were competitive throughout most of the first half, but a 9-1 North Carolina run to open the second half sent yet another game spiraling out of Tech's control. The Hokies' 25-percent second-half shooting didn't help, either. Since their stirring victory over Vanderbilt in the title game of the Hilton Garden Classic, the Hokies are 0-8 and are still in search of their first 2011 win.

Maryland 84, Longwood 38: Same song, different verse - the Lancers lost by 45 points when these teams met in Farmville last season. The Terrapins' superior size and rebounding ability carried the day, as Maryland won the battle of the boards 50-26, made 43 trips to the free-throw line and outscored Longwood in the paint 40-8. But enough numbers-crunching; the less said about this one the better. Here's hoping Longwood (4-15) got a few bucks out of the deal. But from a fan's standpoint, games like this tell us nothing about either team.

No comments:

Post a Comment