Thursday, February 3, 2011

VCU, ODU face tricky tests on another CAA Thursday

Old Dominion, James Madison and UNC Wilmington will all try to maintain their status as Colonial Athletic Association leaders as the second half of conference play begins Thursday night. Also of note tonight - Delaware's Elena Delle Donne will try to become the second-fastest player in NCAA Division I history to reach 1,000 career points when the Blue Hens visit Northeastern. Delle Donne has 984 points in 37 games; Sandra Hodge of New Orleans (1981-84) got to 1,000 in 37 games.

Thursday's games

Virginia Commonwealth (12-7, 7-2 CAA) at UNC Wilmington (16-4, 8-1 CAA), 7 p.m.
The game of the night in the CAA. On Jan. 6 in Richmond, the Rams handed the Seahawks their only conference loss, a 70-58 setback that featured perhaps the signature game in the remarkable season of VCU star Courtney Hurt. Hurt scored 25 of her school record-tying 35 points in the second half to rally the Rams from a 5-point deficit. Hurt's performance obscured the fact that, for much of the game, the Seahawks were getting pretty much what they wanted against the Rams. If it were a boxing match, you could argue that UNCW was winning on points before Hurt landed the knockout. But while we have the Seahawks' Kool-Aid in our mouths, here's why we haven't swallowed it yet - all 8 of UNCW's CAA victories have come against teams with losing conference records. The one time they met one of the big boys (ODU, JMU, VCU), they lost to these Rams. This doesn't mean they can't beat these teams. But before we go all-in on the Seahawks, we're going to wait until they do.  VCU 67, UNCW 62

Georgia State (7-13, 2-7 CAA) at James Madison (15-6, 8-1 CAA), 7 p.m.
The Dukes are the highest-scoring team in the conference (CAA games only). The Panthers are the lowest scoring team in the conference. The Dukes average nearly 20 points per game more than the Panthers, who have been held to 48 points or less in three of their last four games. The team with the most points wins. Can't see how that won't be JMU. JMU 70, Georgia State 49

Old Dominion (14-6, 8-1 CAA) at George Mason (10-10, 4-5 CAA), 7 p.m.
Used to be the Lady Monarchs could view this trip to Fairfax as a mere speed bump on the road to Harrisonburg and Sunday's Super Bowl Showdown with JMU. Tonight, that attitude would get them beat. Not only have the Patriots won two straight - both on the road - and three of their last four, but they also gave the Lady Monarchs fits before bowing 70-66 in Norfolk on Jan. 6. Given how well both teams have been playing defensively of late, we don't expect a score that high tonight. The Lady Monarchs will no doubt focus more attention on Brittany Poindexter and Taleia Moton, who combined for 37 points against them in that first meeting. And the Patriots will likely do a better job of defending its interior - Tia Lewis went for 24 points and 10 rebounds and ODU scored 44 points in the paint. The wildcard is 3-point shooting. Neither team has shot from long range consistently well this season, but if an Ashleigh Braxton or a Jackie Cook can ring the deep-ball bell a few times, those shots should have a huge impact. The surging Patriots figure to be brimming with confidence, but we suspect a fully engaged ODU team will have just enough to prevail in a game that won't be pretty - or easy. ODU 58, Georgia Mason 53

William and Mary (2-17, 1-8 CAA) at Hofstra (12-8, 4-5 CAA), 7 p.m.
First of all, kudos to the Tribe for (finally) modernizing their official site. Nice. As for the team, because of injuries and a lack of depth, the Tribe simply haven't been able to go the distance. In their 9 CAA games, the Tribe have been tied or had the lead at halftime 4 times; they're 1-3 in those games. In 2 other games, both losses, they trailed by just 2 at halftime. And in the season opener against VCU, the Tribe trailed by just 2 with less than 9 minutes remaining, only to lose by 12. As a result, we're confident W&M can be competitive against the run-and-gun Pride. But can they finally finish? Hofstra 77, W&M 67

Wake Forest (11-12, 2-5 ACC) at Virginia (12-11, 1-6 ACC), 7 p.m.
The Demon Deacons are coming off their best performance of the season, an 82-64 victory over Boston College in which they shot a season-high 52 percent while holding the high-scoring Eagles to their season-worst shooting numbers. The Cavaliers are coming off one of the year's most deflating losses, an 84-74 setback at Clemson in which Virginia trailed by 19 in the first half and never fully recovered. We have no questions about the Cavaliers' effort from night-to-night, and they definitely have a lot of kids that can play. But while they have a plenty of good players, they have no one you can count on for a consistently high level of production. The result is a whole that is less than the sum of its parts. At home, the Cavaliers certainly have enough to take care of Wake (they're 60-3 lifetime against this team). But given the up-and-down nature of the individual performances, we're honestly not sure what to expect. Virginia 65, Wake Forest 58

Virginia Tech (9-12, 0-7 ACC) at Boston College (15-7, 2-5 ACC), 7 p.m.
The Hokies have lost 8 straight, but the Eagles haven't been much better of late. After starting the season 11-0, BC has gone just 4-7 since and enter this one on a 3-game losing streak. If this game were in Blacksburg, we'd be tempted to call for the upset. But the last time Tech went on the road, it lost to UVa. by 35. That's a tough image to get out of our heads. We do expect the Hokies to have better success scoring. Tech hasn't scored more than 58 points in any game during their losing streak, but these Eagles give up points by the bushel. Problem is, they usually score 'em by the bushel, too. Boston College 82, Virginia Tech 72 

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