Thursday, February 17, 2011

ODU visits VCU in key CAA matchup

Thursday's games

Old Dominion (17-7, 11-2 CAA) at Virginia Commonwealth (14-9, 9-4 CAA), 7 p.m.
Huge game for both sides, as the Lady Monarchs want to maintain contact with CAA-leading JMU while VCU must keep Delaware at arm's length in the battle for fourth place and a first-round bye in the league tournament. VCU won the first meeting 63-60 by dominating the glass - led by Division I rebounding leader Courtney Hurt - at both ends for the first 30 minutes. But the Lady Monarchs almost erased a 14-point second-half deficit over the final 10 minutes with a pressure defense that had the Rams repeatedly coughing up the rock. So the tasks are pretty clear for both teams - ODU must hold its own on the boards while VCU mustn't rattle when ODU turns up the defensive heat. The return of VCU senior guard Ebony Patterson, who has made a speedy recovery after tearing her Achilles last September, should help. Patterson logged 5 minutes in her 2010-11 debut Sunday against Hofstra and adds a veteran presence to a Rams team that has just one other senior (Jessica Taylor). VCU typically plays well at home, and the Rams probably need this game a bit more than ODU. But we think the Lady Monarchs found some answers over the last 10 minutes of that first game and will find a way to pull this one out. ODU 65, VCU 63

Towson (8-16, 2-11 CAA) at James Madison (19-6, 12-1 CAA), 7 p.m.
This may not be the gimme the teams' records suggest, as the fiesty Tigers were within two of the Dukes with 3 minutes to play when these teams met in Maryland on Jan. 30. Towson scored 21 points off 22 JMU turnovers in that game, so that's an area the Dukes will definitely try to clean up. Having said all this, the Dukes have been quietly playing some suffocating defense during their 10-game winning streak, and the Tigers are 0-6 in conference road games. Even if it's not pretty, hard to see the Dukes coming up short here. JMU 72, Towson 56

William and Mary (2-21, 1-12 CAA) at Drexel (14-10, 6-7 CAA), 7 p.m.
The Tribe lost to Delaware in overtime Sunday, and we like their chances to be in contention down the stretch in this one, too. When these teams met in Williamsburg on Jan. 16, the Dragons needed a Kamile Nacickaite buzzer-beater to pull out a 59-58 decision. Also, Drexel plays close games with everyone - 9 of the Dragons' last 11 games have been decided by 7 points or less, with 5 coming by 3 points or less or in overtime. We're too chicken to flat-out call the upset, particularly on the road. But if the Tribe does pull this off, we'll be thrilled to say we were wrong. Drexel 62, William and Mary 58

Delaware (15-9, 8-5 CAA) at George Mason (11-13, 5-8 CAA), 7 p.m.
The Patriots picked up a rare CAA road win at Delaware 51-48 when these teams met on Jan. 16. Elena Delle Donne returned to the lineup in Delaware's following game and the Blue Hens have gone 4-1 since with victories in their last four. Delle Donne's scoring prowess has been well-documented, but it is her rebounding abilities that could have the most impact on this game. The Patriots outrebounded Delaware 43-33 in that first meeting; Delle Donne is averaging 13.0 boards (and 3.6 blocks) over her last three games. The Patriots have dropped 3 of their last 4 games, but last year this was about the point in the season where they found a second wind. Here's hoping a similar effect kicks in for them tonight. Delaware 64, George Mason 54

N.C. State (10-15, 1-9 ACC) at Virginia Tech (11-14, 1-9 ACC), 7 p.m.
The Hokies' WBCA Pink Zone Game comes against the perfect opponent - legendary former N.C. State coach Kay Yow helped initiate the program to raise breast cancer awareness. All fans wearing pink to the game will be admitted for free. The first 1,000 fans will receive pink VT hats, and there will also be a free post-game yoga clinic for all fans, courtesy of In Balance Yoga. As for the actual game, with that haven't-won-a-game-in-the-ACC monkey finally off their backs, the Hokies are set up well to take care of business at home against the reeling Wolfpack. Virginia Tech 58, N.C. State 55

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