Wednesday, November 30, 2011

W&M blasts Longwood; ODU falls in OT heartbreaker to GWU

Wednesday's games

By the numbers:

GWU 58,Old Dominion 52 OT

1:36 in OT: When GWU took the lead for good in OT thanks to a Tara Booker 3

2: Points by Colonials leading scorer Sara Mostafa

5: Fouls by Colonials leading scorer Sara Mostafa in 18 minutes

10: Lady Monarch lead in the second half

17: Points and rebounds by GWU's Tara Booker

28: Rebounds by Tia Lewis (14) and Jo Guilford (14)

31: Combined points of Tia Lewis (19) and Jo Guilford (12)

31 percent:What neither team managed to shoot

37: Missed 3-point attempts in the game

William and Mary 76, Longwood 53

.083: Lancers from 3 (1-of-12)

.446: Tribe shooting percentage

4: Games won by the Tribe, one more than they totaled during the entire 2010-11 season

10: Rebounds by Janine Aldridge

11: Point totals for Kat DeHenzel and Jaclyn McKenna

15: Points by Lancer Mina Jovanovic

17: Tribe's rebounding advantage

49: Turnovers by both teams

Virginia Tech, William and Mary and ODU in action tonight

Quick thoughts on Wednesday's games:

Longwood (1-5) at William and Mary (3-2), 5 p.m.
Got a good look at the Tribe the other night. They didn't shoot the ball particularly well - credit Norfolk State for some of that - but it's clear they have a lot of ways to score and are capable of lighting up a scoreboard when everything's clicking. Norfolk State turned them over quite a bit, though, and if the Lancers can do the same, they may be able to stay in it. Otherwise, a Longwood team averaging just 49.7 points a game will be hard-pressed to keep pace. Don't want to make too big a deal of this, but...oh, what the heck. With a win tonight, the Tribe will have more wins this November than they managed last November, December, January, February and March combined (3-26). We drank the Kool-Aid on this Tribe team after the way they manhandled Virginia Tech, and we almost gagged on it Monday night when NSU almost took them down. But we saw the potential, so tonight, we're taking another swallow. William and Mary 78, Longwood 53

Old Dominion (1-6) at George Washington (2-3), 7 p.m.
This visit to the nation's capital is a relative walk across campus for a Lady Monarchs team that has already traveled to Atlanta, Stanford and the Virgin Islands. Of course, we doubt it feels that way to the players. Interesting fact about ODU freshman Ashley Betz-White: In the three games in which she's made her first shot, she's averaging 20 points on 15-of-29 shooting (51.7 percent). In the four games in which she's missed her first shot, she's averaging 4.3 points on 6-of-34 shooting. It's a small sample size, and the quality of the opponents certainly factors into the stark contrast. But just to be on the safe side, here's hoping ODU runs something to get Betz-White a good look early, just in case there's something to this. But while a strong offensive game from Betz-White will certainly help, ODU's biggest issues have been at the other end of the floor as the Lady Monarchs rank 331st out of 336 Division I teams in scoring defense (79.9 points allowed per game). The Colonials are coming off Saturday's 83-59 rout of Radford, a game in which they outscored the Highlanders 23-0 in the opening 10 minutes. GW isn't normally that potent, but the result proves the Colonials can run up a big number if ODU doesn't do something about it. As of Wednesday morning, there was no change in the status of ODU's Michelle Brandao, who is inactive while awaiting clearance from the NCAA. Finally, welcome home Chelisa Painter (George Washington sophomore and former star at Indian River High in Chesapeake. George Washington 75, Old Dominion 68

Virginia Tech (2-4) at Iowa (4-2), Big Ten/ACC Challenge, 8 p.m.
The few, the proud...the Hokies? Tuesday's announcement that reserve forward Taylor Ayers has decided to transfer leaves Tech with just eight scholarship players. We were concerned it might be down to seven upon learning that Latorri Hines-Allen was taken to a hospital after suffering an injury in Saturday's consolation game of the St. Mary's Tournament. But Hines-Allen was cleared to resume practicing this week and is listed as a probable starter in Tech's game notes. Tech enters on a three-game losing streak but gave an encouraging account of itself in Saturday's 65-64 loss to Minnesota. The Hawkeyes have gotten nice production from highly touted freshman Samantha Logic, who went for 16 points and 9 rebounds Saturday against powerful Texas A&M. Iowa crushed the Hokies 72-43 when these teams met a year ago on a neutral floor. It'll be closer this time, but on the Hawkeyes' home floor, you have to figure Iowa will prevail again. Iowa 71, Virginia Tech 56

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Virginia Tech's Taylor Ayers to transfer

Virginia Tech junior center Taylor Ayers will transfer at the end of the semester and is no longer on the team, the school announced Tuesday.

The move leaves the Hokies with just eight scholarship players and three walk-ons.

The 6-2 Ayers, an Augusta, Ga. native, averaged 13.8 minutes, 2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds through six games, down from her totals of  4.1 points and 4.0 rebounds last season in roughly the same amount of playing time (14.0 minutes).

Ayers will be the second Tech player to transfer since the team's head coaching change in March. Guard Kyani White, who played for the Hokies as a freshman last season, is now at East Carolina.

What former Lady Monarch Vicki Collier is doing in a Virginia Union uniform

Did you catch the name in the Norfolk State/Virginia Union box score on Saturday night? Remember about a year ago when we told you that former Old Dominion guard Vicki Collier was an assistant coach to her mother, Barvenia Wooten-Cherry, at Virginia Union?

Vicki's not coaching anymore. She's playing -- wearing No. 13 for her mother's alma mater.

"We talked about it and I decided I might as well take advantage and play because I did not get the opportunity to play for my full four years," said Collier, Virginia Union's leading scorer, averaging 15.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg through four games. "So I said, 'Why not?' It's working out for me."

Vicki had eligibility left when she left ODU and could possibly get another year if she chooses to appeal the NCAA.

ODU fans are familiar with Vicki's trying career as a Lady Monarch. The combination of a redshirt season, a dislocated kneecap, and an MCL sprain followed by an ACL tear derailed a career she expected to begin in 2006. That's the year the Top 10 adidas All-American, a state high jump champion and MVP of the volleyball team, graduated from Riverdale Baptist High School in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Vicki didn't get into her first game as a Lady Monarch until December 2008, and by February she was sidelined again with meniscus trouble.

Her knees are sore these days after games, and a brace rides up her right leg. And playing in the CIAA doesn't afford the same luxuries as the CAA. There is no Paradise Jam on the schedule and the Panthers' home, Barco-Stevens Hall, is no match for the Constant Center. James Madison is no longer her team's rival; instead it's Virginia State.

"But it's really not that big of a difference to me," Vicki said. "Basketball is basketball. It doesn't matter what league you're playing in.

"We don't do the big trips, but we stay overnight in hotels. It might not be as far away as California. At the end of the day, you're still playing basketball."

And as far as a rival ...

"A rival is a rival," she said.

Last year's stint as an assistant has helped her improve her game, Vicki said.

"Going from playing to coaching back to playing, you remember what you told them to do," she said. "You remember what you used to say."

Vicki was part of the glory years at ODU, when the Lady Monarchs didn't lose in the CAA Tournament. Virginia Union is still finding its way under Wooten-Cherry, now in her second year and determined to build a program. (As a player, Wooten-Cherry led the Panthers to the Division II national championship in 1983.) Eight of the 12 Panthers are freshmen, but Vicki -- who had 22 points and 16 boards in a loss to North Carolina A&T -- sees a title as a possibility this season.

"Honestly, a championship is a championship. Getting that ring is what's important. That is our goal."

As for playing for Mom, that's old hat. Wooten-Cherry regularly coached Vicki in AAU ball. That means Vicki has the inside track on the best impression of Mom among her teammates.

"Sometimes I'm doing it and don't even know I'm doing it," Vicki said with a laugh. "She says, 'Be mindful' all the time. 'Be mindful. Be mindful.' "

Vicki is mindful of the joy of playing, and is hoping to pursue an international career, even if it's just for one year. "I'm going to play basketball until the doctor says, 'Sit down, Vicki. And don't play anymore,' " she said.

 But coaching? You probably won't see her doing that again. She graduated as an accounting major from ODU and is currently seeking a second degree in finance at Virginia Union.

"I' never saw myself as a coach," she said. "When I think about coaching, it takes patience. And I just don't have that."

William and Mary survives Norfolk State in 2OT

Evidently, this really isn't the same ol' William and Mary team.

Not the same ol' Norfolk State, either.

In both cases, that's a really good thing.

Based on recent history, we kind of figured the Spartans had a better chance of hitting the Mega Millions jackpot - with multiplier - than putting a late-game squeeze on the Tribe. And if somehow they managed to do it, the Tribe would simply tap out.

But when the spunky Spartans jumped ahead by two points Monday night, the Tribe battled back. They fell behind by four in overtime. Battled back again. Finally, after after ceding Norfolk State a five-point advantage in double overtime, the Tribe surged through to a 79-76 triumph at Echols Arena.

The Tribe (3-2) has owned this series in recent years - they'd won the past nine meetings by an average of 22.4 points - and were coming off a 19-point beatdown of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, so we expected the players might be somewhat chagrined that this one wound up so close. But after struggling so mightily in close games throughout a disastrous 2010-11 season, the Tribe wore this great escape like a badge of honor.

"I'm just so proud of my team for fighting and not giving up," said Tribe forward Emily Correal, who took a beating in the paint - dished out a pretty good one, too - on her way to a hard-earned 21 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. "We just have a totally new demeanor this year. We'll do anything to win."

Spoken like a player off a team that went 0-4 in overtime games last year.

While not really into moral victories, the rapidly improving Spartans (4-2) came away feeling pretty good about themselves, too.

"Overall this is probably the best game we've played considering the competition," NSU coach Debra Clark said. "If we can take this energy and effort into conference play, I think we'll see some great results."

They almost had a great result Monday night. The Spartans had a two-point lead (57-55) and the ball with 55 seconds left in regulation after a Rachel Gordon layup and a Janine Aldridge 3-point miss. But Aldridge stole Gordon's inbounds pass, and after a Tribe timeout, Taysha Pye calmly buried a baseline jumper with 25 seconds remaining.

In overtime, the Spartans got points on their first four possessions and led 67-63 with under two minutes left. This time it was Jaclyn McKenna's turn to rescue the Tribe, a she drained a pair of free throws and had a rebound putback with 13 seconds left to get William and Mary even. The Spartans were unable to get a shot off in the remaining time, and had turnovers on their previous two possessions.

Still, the Spartans had one more surge in them. Gordon directed the second overtime tip to Rae Corbo, who drove to the rim and laid it in. Recca Trice took it to the hole for the and-one on NSU's next possession. And Marion Brooks muscled in a layup to complete a 7-2 NSU run and put the Spartans up 74-69 with 3:39 to play.

NSU wouldn't score again until just three seconds remained, though, and the Tribe finally went into close-out mode. A Pye layup. Two Aldridge free throws. And with 1:27 left, Correal wheeled through the lane and completed an old-fashioned three-point play to put William and Mary ahead to stay at 76-74.

While Correal had the dazzling double-double, McKenna, a 6-3 forward who can get it done inside and also extend the defense to 3-point range, deserves equal billing for her 17-point, 8-rebound, 0-turnover effort. Pye, the All-CAA senior who on this night appeared to be letting the game come to her, added 12 points.

A quick note about Pye: No disrespect to women's basketball, but it's not too often I see a player do something so athletic I can't help but go, "Whoa, baby!'' Well, in Monday's second half, Pye landed after missing a layup, then sprung back up so high and so quickly to grab her own rebound my jaw hit the floor. Upon picking it back up, I could only say one thing:

Whoa, baby!

Long contributed 21 points, nailed all five of the Spartans' 3-pointers and some tenacious on-the-ball defense for NSU. Corbo added 18, Gordon had 12 and 13 rebounds and Batavia Owens finished with 10 points for NSU. Gordon, a 6-0 sophomore, has future All-MEAC performer written all over her.

It wasn't a perfect performance from either team. The Tribe can certainly shoot the ball better, and while NSU's defense certainly made things difficult, that doesn't entirely explain William and Mary's 25 turnovers. The Spartans were even more mistake-prone with 28 turnovers, and were particularly vulnerable when the Tribe heated things up with defensive pressure down the stretch.

Still, NSU showed that, even against a bigger, more experienced foe, it can play a close game. William and Mary proved that on nights when they can't produce their "A" game, they can win a close game.

And that, folks, is called progress.

Monday, November 28, 2011

William and Mary visits NSU to highlight Monday's games

Quick hits on Monday's games:

William and Mary (2-2) at Norfolk State (4-1), 6 p.m.
The Tribe had virtually its entire roster available for the first time last week in Blacksburg and it showed in a 19-point pasting of Virginia Tech. William and Mary's size makes this a bad matchup for Norfolk State, and while the Spartans are off to a fine start, if the Tribe plays anywhere near the level if found against Tech we fear that NSU will need its "A" game just to keep this competitive. William and Mary 75, Norfolk State 62

East Tennessee State (0-5) at Richmond (4-1), 7 p.m.
The Lady Bucs handled the Spiders at home when these teams met last year, but this is hardly the same ETSU team. These Lady Bucs are averaging 26.2 turnovers a game, and we figure a pesky team like Richmond will shake them down for at least that many tonight. The Spiders probably weren't quite ready to excel on the road against a team as good as Florida Gulf Coast on Friday, but we look for them to get back to their winning ways tonight. Richmond 82, ETSU 67

Hampton (3-1) at Chicago State (0-6), 8 p.m.
Chicago State won 24 games and reached the third round of the WNIT last year, but this year's results have them candidates for one of the 10 worst teams in Division I (closest margin of defeat is 24 points). Not only do we expect Hampton to roll, we'd be surprised if Chicago State manages more than 39 points. Hampton 64, Chicago State 38

Virginia Tech's Hines-Allen OK, and other hoops notes

- Virginia Tech's Latorri Hines-Allen is fine and is expected to practice this week, Hokies spokesperson April Goode said. Hines-Allen was hurt going after a loose ball in Saturday's loss to Minnesota in the St. Mary's Concord Hilton Tournament and was taken to a local hospital by paramedics.

- After Cal's 59-50 victory over Virginia Sunday, Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb made the following remarks:

"For me, personally, I wouldn't be where I am and have this job that I love without Joanne Boyle. I felt that the best way to honor that was coach this game like I know how, prep like I know how. Treat it like it is a game against a top-25 team and for us to take steps towards becoming the team we want to be. I was really proud of our team and how they came out today and was thankful to get a win over a very good Virginia team."

- For the latest on a red-hot George Mason team, check out this blog. Good stuff. But be prepared for a lot of green and gold. I mean, A LOT of green and gold.

- Duke freshman Elizabeth Williams, formerly of Virginia Beach's Princess Anne High, earned the first of what figures to be multiple ACC Rookie of the Week honors Monday. Williams went for 16 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks in the Blue Devils' near-miss against Notre Dame. Miami's Shenise Johnson is the ACC Player of the Week.

- If you haven't heard by now, undefeated Delaware made its debut in the AP Top 25 at No. 24, while former No. 22 Virginia dropped out after going 1-2 in the Waikiki Beach Rainbow Wahine Showdown in Hawaii.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hurt gets double-double; Moton scores 30 for George Mason

Sunday's games

By the numbers:

George Mason 88, UNC Asheville 59

.565: Shooting percentage by the Patriots

4: Games in a row won by George Mason (4-1)

5: Blocks by Evelyn Lewis

22: Points by Christine Weithman off the bench (5-of-9 from 3)

24: Points by Taleia Moton in the second half

30: Points by Taleia Moton, matching her career high

VCU 69, Winthrop 52

1: How many double-doubles Hurt has had this season

15-in-18: Points and minutes played by Robyn Parks

17: Points by Andrea Barbour (and 6 boards)

28 and 16: Double-double by Courtney Hurt (11-of-21 shooting)

No. 9 Miami 92, Longwood 43

10: Longwood points in the paint

12: Points by Longwood's Mina Jovanovic (team best)

22: Points by Miami's Shenise Johnson (9-of-11 shooting, 8 assists, 7 steals)

28: Lancer turnovers

50: Miami points in the pain

51: Largest lead

88-48: LadySwish

Cal 59, No. 22 Virginia 50

.311: Cavaliers shooting percentage

.500: Bears shooting percentage

5: Consecutive double-figure scoring games by Ariana Moorer (13 here)

5 again: Points by Virginia bench

11: How many more turnovers Cal had than Virginia

15: Team-high points by Chelsea Shine (with 9 rebounds)

19: Bears' rebounding margin

23: Points by Cal bench

2005-11: Years Virginia coach Joanne Boyle coached at Cal

We Back PAT; how 'bout you?

If you tuned into Tennessee/Baylor today, you couldn't help but notice the "We Back PAT " t-shirts at Thompson-Boling Arena. All proceeds from the sale of these shirts benefit Alzheimer's Tennessee as well as the UT Medical Center. They're $10 (long sleeves are $14.99) and in short time, $150,000 has been raised for Alzheimer's research. LadySwish ordered hers. Got yours?

Virginia takes on Cal to highlight Sunday's action

Quick hits on Sunday's games:

VCU (2-2) at Winthrop (2-3), 1 p.m.
The Rams prevailed 59-49 when these teams met last season, but throw that result out because under new coach Marlene Stollings, this Winthrop squad appears to be a much more potent foe. The Lady Eagles are currently averaging 72.8 points per game. Last year, Winthrop produced just 51.5 ppg and had game where it was limited to 38, 27 and - honest - 16 points. For VCU, it'll be interesting to see who emerges as an offensive threat beyond Courtney Hurt and Andrea Barbour. We have our eye on freshman Aprill McRae, who got off to a rough start but finally got some shots to fall in the second half of Tuesday's 68-58 loss to Charlotte. VCU 75, Winthrop 65

Longwood (1-4) at No. 9 Miami (4-1), 2 p.m.
The Lancers are 0-3 in road games so far, and Coral Gables, Fla., where the Canes have won 26 straight games,  is one of the last places we'd recommend going to reverse that streak. But here's hoping that Longwood can at least find some offensive rhythm. The Lancers produced just 33 points in Tuesday's loss at Campbell and have seen their offensive output steadily decline in each of their three games since their 68-61 victory over Cornell on Nov. 13. Miami 88, Longwood 48

UNC Asheville (2-2) at George Mason (3-1), 2 p.m.
The Patriots have quietly taken care of business on the road and now find themselves set up at home for five of their next six games. Defense has been this team's calling card, as the Patriots have yet to allow more than 58 points in any game so far. Another 40-minute dose of that should do the trick today against a Bulldogs team that has led at halftime of all four of their games but has just a .500 record to show for it. George Mason 58, UNC Asheville 52

California  (3-2) vs. No. 22 Virginia (5-1) in Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Showdown, Hawaii, 8 p.m.
Everyone's eager to know the true feelings of the Cal players going up against former coach Joanne Boyle and vice versa, but frankly we'll probably never really get anyone's true feelings regarding this unique situation. Besides, the real keys today will be how effectively Cal can attack Virginia's zone, and who best manages the natural fatigue of playing for the third time in three days. Our hearts, of course, lean toward Virginia. But after see how well Cal handled itself in Saturday's 61-60 loss to a Texas team that mauled UVa.the day before, our heads say....Cal 65, Virginia 59

Hampton scores early, often to beat IPFW

Hampton 79, IPFW 62: We were wondering when defense-first Hampton would have a breakout game offensively. We're not wondering now, not after Choicetta McMillian lit IPFW up for a career-high 29 points to lead the surprisingly potent Lady Pirates. Hampton's point total was 11 more than they'd managed in any of their previous three games, and it came just a few days after they produced just 46 points in a loss at Florida.

Hampton's shooting percentage - 37.5 percent - still isn't where they'd like it. But the fact that they went to the free throw line 41 times - on the road - suggests an aggressive, attacking approach that should serve them well as the season goes on.

Jericka Jenkins added 13 points and Keiara Avant led a strong effort by the Hampton bench by chipping in 12 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Lady Pirates reserves combined to score 27 points.

Of course, no recap of Hampton would be complete without some defensive stats - the Lady Pirates had 12 steals, forced 20 turnovers and held IPFW to 37 percent shooting and a 3-of-16 effort from 3-point range.

The Lady Pirates (3-1) will complete this Midwest portion of their season-opening stretch of five straight road games Monday at Chicago State.

ODU, Radford suffer tough losses

Seton Hall 60, Old Dominion 49: Nothing terribly surprising about how the Lady Monarchs had their best effort in the tournament opener against Alabama, then saw their level of play taper off as the event piled game on top of game. Fortunately, we saw enough over the three days to believe that, once the schedule becomes a bit more reasonable, there are definite reasons for optimism. Tia Lewis completed her terrific tournament with 11 points and 16 rebounds, and Game One hero Becca Allison added 11 points against Seton Hall. The Lady Monarchs wound up finishing fourth in the four-team tournament. The order of finish: 1. Alabama; 2. Seton Hall; 3. Louisiana Tech; 4. ODU. Tournament MVP: Ericka Russell, Alabama. All-Tournament team: Russell; Lewis; Jasmine Crew, Seton Hall; Kiara Young, Louisiana Tech; Jasmine Robinson, Alabama.

Finally, congratulations to former Lady Monarchs great Anne Donovan, the Seton Hall coach who beat her old school for the first time in seven tries.

George Washington 83, Radford 59: Can you want to win too much? That may have been the case Saturday for these Highlanders. We have to believe the Highlanders wanted this one badly for coach Tajama Abraham, a woman who helped put GW women's basketball on the map during her playing days. Instead, the team endured perhaps the worst opening 10 minutes in the history of Radford basketball, an 0-14, 8-turnover stretch that left them behind 23-0 until Da'Naria Erwin Spencer finally broke the drought with a layup at the 10:14 mark. Radford's obviously a better team than this final score; this was just one of those days.

Liberty engineers feel-good triumph over Lipscomb

It was just a basketball game. But we really hoped a Liberty team hit hard by tragedy this week would at least have a good time on the basketball court. Jennifer Brown, the mother of Lady Flames star Devon Brown, died on Tuesday, and Devon Brown didn't make the trip to the Vanderbilt Tournament.

So it was pretty cool to see the Lady Flames have a fun and highly successful couple of hours in the tournament's consolation game Saturday. Freshman point guard Reagan Miller had 18 points, Danika Dale and Avery Warley had matching 11-10 double-doubles and LaKendra Washington had a season-high 14 points in the rout.

Now, Lipscomb (0-7) isn't the toughest foe out there. I mean, Liberty's defense is sound, but when you see where Lipscomb shot just 13.8 percent, well....

But that's their problem. For a lot of reasons, we wanted to see the Lady Flames have an everybody-contributes, feel-good victory today. On that score, things turned out better than we could have imagined.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Virginia returns to form, handles Hawaii

Six games into the season, this much is clear about Virginia under new coach Joanne Boyle - the Cavaliers have an aggressive zone defense that can suffocate most teams. Now, Texas isn't like most teams, and on Friday, the Longhorns carved these Cavs up. But one day later, Virginia served up what's becoming a quintessential performance for this 2011-12 squad. The final score looks a lot like the 67-41 result the Cavaliers (5-1) posted against High Point, or the 55-38 beatdown they laid on Providence. A lot of the stats are similar, too, including, unfortunately, the 36.2 percent field goal shooting percentage the Cavaliers mustered against Hawaii. So yes, the offense still has a ways to go. But that defense - on most nights - has been something else - Hawaii was held to 24.0-percent shooting.

Ataira Franklin led the Cavaliers with 14 points, Lexie Gerson added 13 and Ariana Moorer had 10 points and 9 rebounds. Virginia also scored 25 points off 23 Hawaii turnovers. Kamilah Jackson led all scorers with 21 points. But Shawna-Lei Kuehu, who committed to Cal when Boyle was the head coach before reversing course and signing with Hawaii, was 0-for-5 from the field with 9 turnovers. Kuehu did have 13 rebounds.

The final game of the Rainbow Wahine Classic pits the Cavaliers against Boyle's former team, California, and her former assistant coach, current Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. Like the Cavaliers, the Golden Bears are 1-1 in this tournament with a victory over Hawaii and a loss to Texas. Cal's setback to the Longhorns was much closer, though - a 61-60 setback in Saturday's second round.

Norfolk State rolls over Virginia Union

Ebony Brown
Got to see this one in person, and we came away impressed by a Spartans team that displayed improved ability and maturity from the group we witnessed last season. Whitney Long led the way with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting, Marion Brooks added 13 and made all five of her field-goal attempts and freshman Ebony Brown was a revelation. The 5-foot-9 rookie from Atlanta chipped in 10 points and 4 rebounds in an action-packed 15 minutes.

"Ebony just gave us a wonderful spark," Spartans coach Debra Clark said.

Clark wasn't as excited about the way the Spartans opened both halves. NSU was sluggish at the outset and actually trailed 18-14 at the 10-minute mark of the first half before Brooks and Batavia Owens sparked a 10-0 run to restore order. The Spartans would outscored Union 27-3 over those final 10 minutes.

The Spartans promptly opened the second half in the same haphazard fashion they began the first and watched the Panthers cut the 20-point deficit to 7 at the 15:30 mark. A jumper by Tyisha Bridges, a 3-ball by Long and a layup from Rachel Gordon gave NSU separation again, and the Spartans were never seriously threatened again.

"We made it harder than it should have been," Clark said.

No, it wasn't a masterpiece. And yes, comfortable scheduling helps explain NSU's 4-1 record. Still, we came away with the sense that this is definitely a better team than it was a year ago. And they'll need to be on Monday when they host William and Mary, a matchup nightmare for the Spartans.

But that's a story for another day, On Saturday night, the Spartans gave their fans reason to celebrate. Based on what happened Saturday afternoon, the NSU faithful were no doubt appreciated the pick-me-up.

Valentina Wheeler scored 18 points and Ashle Freeman added 17 to lead Virginia Union. The Panthers also got 8 points and 14 rebounds from Vicki Collier, the former Old Dominion performer who is resuming her college career after an injury-plagued stint with the Lady Monarchs. Look for much more on Collier's return to action - playing for her own mother, no less - in an upcoming post.

Virginia Tech falls on buzzer-beater to Minnesota

We're doing this first because it just ended and man, what a heartbreaker for the Hokies - Rachel Banham nailed a jumper at the buzzer to lift the Gophers. Monet Tellier had given the Hokies a 64-63 lead by making the first free throw with 9 seconds left. But Tellier missed the second, setting the stage for Banham's heroics. For  the game Tech made just 12 of 21 free throws. Tellier was otherwise brilliant - again - as she led Tech in points (18, on 7-of-12 shooting), rebounds (7) and assists (5). And while the Hokies (2-4) lost both games in this St. Mary's tournament, they may have left Moraga, Calif. with something they weren't sure they had when they arrived - another potential weapon in freshman Larryqua Hall. The 5-foot-10 Hall chipped in 7 points and 4 rebounds in her first significant action of the season, as she did not play in the Hokies' first four games and saw just five minutes in Tech's loss to St. Mary's in Friday's tournament opener.

ODU's Lewis earns all-tournament honors

Old Dominion didn't win the Paradise Jam, but one Lady Monarch is still coming home with some hardware. Senior Tia Lewis earned all-tournament honors after averaging 20.7 points and 10.7 rebounds over the three games. Her output included a career-high 27 point effort against Alabama in ODU's tournament opener.

ODU, VTech, Virginia and others in action today

Quick hits on Saturday's games:

Old Dominion vs. Seton Hall in Paradise Jam, Virgin Islands, 1 p.m.
Not sure of the tiebreaker procedures, but since all four teams in this event have 1-1, the Lady Monarchs may be playing for the tournament title. The three-games-in-three-days format makes this final day a survival of the fittest - brace yourself for an ugly game - and may work against a team like ODU that is short on depth. Furthermore, while all four of these teams have proven to be somewhat equal, Seton Hall is probably the most advanced at this stage on the development curve. Let's see if the Lady Monarchs can prove us wrong. Seton Hall 70, ODU 65

Radford at George Washington, 2 p.m.
Highlanders coach and George Washington Hall of Famer Tajama Ngongba brings her undefeated team to her old stomping grounds. We doubt Ngongba has made much of this this week, but you have to believe it would mean a lot to her to have her team perform well here. Radford 62, George Washington 56

Hampton at IPFW, 2 p.m.
Danger spot of the presently offensively challenged Lady Pirates, who gave up a season-high 77 points to these guys last year in Hampton needed a putback at the buzzer in overtime to survive 78-77. As was the case in Tuesday's 62-46 loss in Florida, Hampton's vaunted defense by itself may not be enough today. IPFW 61, Hampton 59

Virginia Union at Norfolk State, 6 p.m.
This game was originally scheduled to be played at 4 p.m. but was pushed back a couple of hours; apparently there's some other big sporting event involving Norfolk State going on earlier in the day. Haven't heard much about it, though.... Friendly scheduling has played a part in NSU's 3-1 start, and this game fits right in with that philosophy. To their credit, though, the Spartans have for the most part capitalized on their opportunities for success. Norfolk State 75, Virginia Union 55

Liberty vs. Lipscomb in Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament
Say this for the Lady Flames - no matter what else is going on out on the floor, these guys know how to grab a rebound. In Friday's 75-46 loss to Oklahoma, Liberty still won the rebounding battle 47-34. It was the 32nd consecutive game in which the Lady Flames won the battle of the boards. As usual, though, today's game figures to come down to turnovers. If the Lady Flames can avoid too many of them, we like their chances. If they struggle to take care of the ball, they're vulnerable against just about anyone. Liberty star Devon Brown is expected to miss her second straight game following the death of her mother, Jennifer Brown, on Tuesday. Liberty 45, Lipscomb 42

Hawaii vs. Virginia in Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Showdown, Hawaii, 7 p.m.
Yet another stop on the Joanne Boyle Reunion Tour - Hawaii's Shawna-Lei Kuehu committed to Boyle and California before ultimately landing with the Rainbow Warriors. Nice opportunity for a bounce-back after Friday's 79-53 debacle against Texas. Virginia 60, Hawaii 48

Virginia Tech vs. Minnesota in SMC Concord Hilton Tournament, 8 p.m.
St. Mary's defeated Virginia Tech and Quinnipiac defeated Minnesota? Kinda doesn't sound right, does it? But that's what we got in Friday's first round. The Hokies can certainly play a lot better than they did against St. Mary's, and we expect they will. Would still like to see more production out of the post. Minnesota 62, Virginia Tech 54

Friday, November 25, 2011

Despite 42 by Tia Lewis and Shakeva Richards, ODU falls to La Tech

Friday's games:

Louisiana Tech 84, ODU 71
D-FENCE! Offensively the Lady Monarchs (1-5) played good enough to win with 24 from Tia Lewis, 18 from Shakeva Richards and 14 from freshman Myeisha Hall. But the DE let them down, as Louisiana Tech shot 57 percent from the field to win in the Paradise Jam. ODU trailed by as much as 15 in the second half, but the Lady Monarchs went on a quick 7-2 and cut the gap to 66-61, but a 3 by La Tech ended the run. ODU is giving up 83.2 ppg and that's what needs to change for this team to start getting in the W column consistently. That said, six players had fewer than four points, including Mairi Buchan, Jackie Cook and Ashley Betz-White. Betz-White, who had 20 in Thursday's win over Alabama, did not have a field goal nor did Becca Allison, who had the gamewinner over the Crimson Tide.

Oklahoma 76, Liberty 45
 The Flames (2-3) hurt themselves with too many turnovers as Oklahoma forced 19 of 37 turnovers in the first half and finished with 38 points off those mistakes. But really this result is of little consequence. Flames junior Devon Brown lost her mother, Jennifer, on Tuesday. Our prayers and thoughts extend to Devon.

Florida Gulf Coast 81, Richmond 67
This result says more about how good these Eagles are, particularly at home, that it does about any deficiencies with the young Spiders. As much as Michael Shafer would love 5-0, 4-1 isn't bad for this young Spiders team that trailed by 12 at the half. Abby Oliver scored 17, but the Spiders couldn't contend with 10 3s from FGCU. The Spiders' tendency to pick up fouls by the bushel also bit them in the butt. But again, the Eagles are a really good team.

No. 24 Texas 79, No. 22 Virginia 53: Someone finally solved Virginia's zone defense, and the result was a Texas-sized butt-whipping at the Cavaliers' expense. Longhorns sophomore Chassidy Fussell led the way with 30 points as Texas treated Virginia (4-1) like, well, the way Gail Goestenkors' Duke teams used to treat opponents when she and Virginia coach Joanne Boyle were on the same side. In our preview of this game, we suggested that Texas has often gotten by on reputation in recent years, and we stand by that. But we never said the Longhorns don't have talent. And on this night, that talent more than lived up to its hype.

St. Mary's 60, Virginia Tech 47: For the second straight game, Tech sophomore Monet Tellier went off, pouring in a game-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting in the St. Mary's tournament opener. But it was also the second straight game Tellier accounted for roughly half the Hokies' points (she had 31 of Tech's 59 in Monday's 19-point home loss to William and Mary). In Friday's game no other Tech player had more than six points. And Tellier wasn't perfect, either, as she accounted for 10 of the Hokies' 26 turnovers (which led to 23 St.Mary's points). But is there any wonder why she may be trying to do too much? Clearly, there's still a lot of work to be done with these Hokies. But given that we're only five games into Tech's new regime, this shouldn't be terribly surprising. The Hokies (2-3) will look to rebound against Minnesota in today's consolation game at 8 p.m.

Guess they were too busy shopping

We congratulate Hofstra for its 70-60 victory over Drake on Friday, but only 72 fans turned out. Credit the folks in Cancun for being honest about the turnstiles.

Virginia-Texas, ODU-LaTech highlight Friday's games

Friday's games:

No. 24 Texas (2-1) vs. No. 22 Virginia (4-0) in Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Showdown, Hawaii, 8 p.m.

For weeks we'd been assuming the main storyline for this game would involve Texas' Gail Goestenkors and former assistant and current Cavaliers leader Joanne Boyle meeting as head coaches for the first time. But that was before the Cavaliers slayed mighty Tennessee and showed that Virginia's retooling process may be well ahead of schedule. In fairness to the players, getting a full understanding of Boyle's system surely remains a work in progress, so the Tennessee result shouldn't necessarily be taken as a true gauge of where this team stands right now, especially on offense. But in four games, the Cavs have held their opponents to a combined 32.3 percent shooting percentage. If Virginia continues to defend like that, they should be able to hold their own against anyone. We think there's a tendency to overrate Texas early in the season, and in our opinion the pollsters are at it again pegging this squad at No. 24 in the country based on what the Longhorns have done so far. So we're cautiously optimistic about the Cavaliers defending their way to another "upset."  Virginia 62, Texas 55

Old Dominion (1-4) vs. Louisiana Tech (1-3) in Paradise Jam, Virgin Islands, 3:15 p.m.

The Lady Monarchs and Lady Techsters came out on different ends of very similar games in Thursday's tournament openers. Becca Allison's jumper with 1.2 seconds left boosted ODU past Alabama 77-76; Angie Felton's jumper with five seconds left and LaTech down two missed the mark and Seton Hall prevailed 72-69. The Lady Monarchs essentially went with seven players against Alabama, so we worry a bit about their legs on what should be a tough back-to-back. Then again, five of the seven played 29 minutes or less. Plus, they're young, right? We loved the matchup against Alabama; not so crazy about how the Lady Monarchs size up against LaTech. Their turnover count is still sky-high. And it looks like this is a team that, at least for now, is going to have to outscore people to win. But in recognition of what they did against Alabama, we'll roll the dice on ODU again. Hope Tia Lewis and Co. got plenty of rest last night. By the way, we're not sure which we'd rather see, this game, or a one-on-one matchup between Old Dominion coach Karen Barefoot and Louisiana Tech coach Teresa Weatherspoon. ODU 79, Louisiana Tech 75

Liberty (2-2) vs. No. 12 Oklahoma (2-0) in Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament, 5 p.m.

The Lady Flames are coming off an 82-29 thumping of Virginia-Wise. Talk about stepping up in class. Obviously we're not crazy about Liberty's chances in this matchup. But we do want to recommend perusing Liberty's complete game notes, which as usual are loaded with interesting nuggets. Among our favorites:
   - Liberty's Tolu Omotola and Oklahoma's Jasmine Hartman were teammates on a Bellaire High School (Houston) team that went 36-2 in 2007-08 season.
   - The Lady Flames are 4-33 lifetime against Top-25 teams, with the last three victories all coming during the 2004-05 season.
   - Liberty star Devon Brown needs 20 points to become the 14th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points. Oklahoma 75, Liberty 56

Richmond (4-0) at Florida Gulf Coast (2-1), 7 p.m.
Given the volume of underclassmen in whom the Spiders are relying on for valuable minutes, coach Michael Shafer must be giddy (privately, of course) about the way this team has been able to play through its growing pains and still produce wins. Of course it helps when Richmond's few veterans, most notably Abby Oliver and reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Week Rachael Bilney, are leading the way so effectively. The key against these Eagles is defending the 3-ball - no Division I team made more 3-pointers than FGCU last season, and so far this year, 62.7 percent of the Eagles' field-goal attempts have come from beyond the arc. Making matters even more difficult for the Spiders is the fact that the Eagles virtually never lose in Alico Arena (60-4 at home as a Division I team). Florida Gulf Coast 59, Richmond 56

Virginia Tech (2-2) at St. Mary’s (2-2) in SMC Concord Hilton Tournament (St. Mary’s), 10 p.m.

The Hokies are coming off a humbling 78-59 home loss to William and Mary, a result that reduced Monet Tellier's career-high 31-point effort to a mere footnote. Tellier looks to be on her way to become a true ACC star, and fellow guards Aerial Wilson and Alyssa Fenyn have been extremely solid despite having to play extended minutes (because of an overtime game, Fenyn is actually averaging more than 40 minutes a game). It's in the post where the Hokies could see significant improvement. Tech does have depth and some capable performers in this area. They just need some better performances. Virginia Tech 65, St. Mary's 54

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Allison rescues ODU in Paradise Jam opener

Old Dominion 77, Alabama 76

Shakeva Richards to Becca Allison?

Not exactly the combination we were expecting for a game-winning sequence. But there were reasons why these two players made their debuts in the starting lineup Thursday. And with the game on the line, Richards dribbled the length of the court and found Allison, who squeezed off a jumper at the edge of the lane with 1.2 seconds left to give ODU the last laugh in an entertaining, back-and-forth Paradise Jam opener in the Virgin Islands.

The victory was the first at ODU for new head coach Karen Barefoot.

Tia Lewis, who called out her upperclassmen teammates after Sunday's loss to Richmond, walked the walk of a team leader Thursday with a career-high 27 points. Freshman Ashley Betz-White added 20 points, including 16 in just 9 first-half minutes during which she was 3-for-3 from the field, 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 8-for-8 from the line.

ODU's positive contributions didn't stop there. Jackie Cook had 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Jo Guilford chipped in 6 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. Richards had 8 points and 3 of ODU's 5 blocks. And Allison had 5 points, 4 assists and, of course, ice water in her veins when everything was at stake.

The Lady Monarchs (1-4) attacked Alabama's pressure with ease during a first half in which they shot a ridiculous 68 percent from the field and led by 14 points with less than four minutes to go until intermission. But things went haywire when Betz-White went to the bench with her second foul, and the Crimson Tide (3-2) stormed back to trail by just 46-44 at the break.

The two teams traded the advantage throughout the second half. A Lewis layup gave ODU a 74-70 lead with 2:31 left, but Alabama chipped away until pulling even at 75 with 36 seconds left. Lewis couldn't connect at the other end, and her foul on the rebound with 11 seconds to go put Alabama's Erin Hogue at the line. But Hogue made just 1 of 2, setting the stage for Richards' length-of-the-court foray and Allison's game-winning dagger.

It's easy to knock these Lady Monarchs for who they don't have and what they can't do. But on Thanksgiving Day, the players showed there's still a lot they can do. And our favorite characteristic is this group's willingness and determination to play through mistakes (28 turnovers) and adversity while never giving up the fight. Even in their losses, this trait was evident. And Thursday, if paid off in a win.

Happy Thanksgiving from LadySwish

LadySwish wishes the coaches, players, staffs and fans of all  of our our state's teams a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving.

ODU-Alabama: We smell a victory

Old Dominion (0-4) vs. Alabama (3-1), 1 p.m. 

Maybe it's wishful thinking, because let's face it, Old Dominion hasn't exactly roared out of the gate in 2011-12. But they're still undefeated outside of the 50 states, and somehow, someway, we think it'll stay that way for at least another 24 hours. In other words, we think the Lady Monarchs will beat Alabama in today's opener of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

Now stay with us on this. First of all, we're thinking a healthy Jackie Cook could make a big difference. We kept hearing about what a strong preseason Cook was having, but the junior played just four minutes in ODU's season opener before going down with an ankle injury. She missed the next two games, and after having just one practice, appeared tentative in her return Sunday against Richmond. Now Cook has had a few days to regain her rhythm and her wind. We look for her to regain her preseason form today.

Assuming she does, the Lady Monarchs could potentially have a fairly potent starting five. Skeptical? Well, throw out the games against Georgia Tech and Stanford - games in which this ODU team was in well over its head - and focus solely on the more manageable matchups with Virginia Tech and Richmond. In those two games, Ashley Betz-White is averaging 20 points and Tia Lewis 17. If Cook fulfills her potential of becoming a double-figures scorer, that's a pretty nice scoring threesome. In addition, Mairi Buchan can be dangerous as well, and we haven't given up on the idea that Jo Guilford has much more to offer offensively than she's shown so far. Like we said, potentially a fairly potent starting five.

Of course, it won't matter if the Lady Monarchs can't stop anyone, and it's on defense where this team has really fallen short. Again, throw out the Georgia Tech and Stanford games. Virginia Tech and Richmond combined to average 77.5 points, shot a shade under 47 percent from the field and made 50 percent of their 3-pointers. The Lady Monarchs really did take anything away from either team - for the most part, the players Tech and Richmond needed to get theirs got theirs.

What we like about today's matchup for ODU is that Alabama appears to play the kind of uptempo, pressure style Karen Barefoot is trying to install with the Lady Monarchs. So we figure ODU's players have been working on running and defending this kind of attack in practices for weeks. Not saying they'll defend like vintage Rutgers today. But we do expect them to have their best defensive showing of the season today.

It should help that Alabama is still trying to figure things out, too. Over the summer, the Crimson Tide saw their best player (Kaneisha Horn) go down with a season-ending ACL injury. And the team has re-stocked itself with junior-college players who, while talented, are still adjusting to Division I play.

Now, we're not prepared to bet the mortgage on this pick, and we'll admit the case we lay out here requires one to take a lot of this stuff on faith. But we were impressed with how the Lady Monarchs kept battling to the bitter end of Sunday's loss to Richmond and left the court with their heads high. Despite their record, the players still seem to believe they're on the verge of something good. That ought to count for something - maybe even a victory today. ODU 70, Alabama 65

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Memories of Old Dominion and the Paradise Jam

The water is blue, and so clear you can see the pedicure color on your toes. The trouble with the Virgin Islands is it will spoil your beach trip to Virginia Beach forever. Azure water beats the muddy brown kind every time.

Old Dominion is headed to St. Thomas for a trio of games against Alabama, Louisiana Tech and Seton Hall. I went to the islands for the Paradise Jam four years ago. Took the family but didn't rent a car. Two good tips.

My sons, Harry and Ben, had only been to Ocean City for a one-day vacation prior to that trip. They thought that was great despite the rainy, cold weather. I wanted to give them a slice a life somewhere different, a taste of a different culture. I couldn't have picked a better spot.

We arrived on Thanksgiving night and were greeted with a rum drink at the airport. We were hungry. Several years later I also traveled on Thanksgiving with ODU, that time to Hartford for the Lady Monarchs vs. UConn. I remember waiting until evening to eat dinner, only to find out the hotel served its holiday buffet at noon. We ate in a bar with a toddler who doesn't remember a thing. This time there was a Thanksgiving dinner at dinnertime, but the price --like all the prices there for food -- was exorbitant. One plate was $40, and one plate was a small paper plate, one trip through the buffet line. The good news was the mediocre food didn't make you yearn to go back for more.

We stayed on the beach where the sand was white. A few extra towels would have been great. Do you remember the scene in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (great Thanksgiving movie) where Steve Martin dries himself with a washrag? I did that a few times there as the meager allotment of daily towels hardly worked when you combine the beach and daily showers.

We walked a lot there. We were an anomaly -- a family of four trekking on the sidewalks drew stares. We could see the basketball gym -- the 4,000-seat University of Virgin Islands Arena -- from our hotel room. But the airport was splat in the middle, so we couldn't walk the direct route or we'd have been crossing an air strip. A huge horseshoe of perhaps a mile or so made it an easy jaunt, distance-wise at least. But nobody walks there. We were stopped by anxious cabbies longing to drive us to our destination. Security is a huge concern there, but we hoofed it despite the approaching dusk.

The basketball gym was festive with a live band jamming. Bob Marley, anyone? The place was filled with good-natured UConn fans as Geno's gang was there, and there was this kid everybody wanted to get a glimpse of, playing in her third-ever collegiate game when she came off the bench against ODU. Her name was Maya Moore.So much finesse for a freshman, I remember thinking.The smoothest player I had ever seen -- something that is still true today.

They tossed packages of Fig Newtons in the stand during timeouts. Snack Wells, too. During halftime at one of the games, Harry, who was 10 at the time, was picked for a free-throw contest. He converted three in a minute -- better than some Lady Monarchs at the time. The winner made four. Harry thought he was playing for something like a Chick-Fil-A coupon. Imagine his surprise when the winner toted off a Playstation 3.

The players were great -- all of them. They relaxed in the stands between games, chatted easily with fans and signed autographs. Ben, 7 at the time, couldn't get enough of the Stanford team, especially Jillian Harmon. He sat on her lap.My boys can show you all the signatures from their game programs including the "#23 Maya Moore." They got Lady Monarchs and Huskies and The Cardinal and the Boilermakers.

A trip around the island provided fascinating. Big and beautiful sat alongside slums. Schools weren't well maintained.  Downtown is a shopper's paradise -- and weakness. Barkers -- charming men who try to lure women inside jewelry stores -- are hard to fend off. I resisted until I took the plunge, convincing myself I really was only going in to look. Diamonds are cheaper there they say, but are they? I mean they had to be, right? The salesman insisted I try on a few pair of earrings. "Which do you like best?" he asked as I hedged. I liked the drop ones visible beneath my hair. But I bought the sparkling hoops. I saved a few hundred dollars. I can't remember how much the ones I left were, but I know they were more than I had ever spent on earrings. But they're a bargain, right?

We did take a cab -- an open-air safari  --on several occasions, rides that would make a New York taxi driver cringe. Sharp turns. Narrow roads. Excessive speed. We went to a zoo of sorts where the iguanas roamed free.We were asked not to feed them. Ben got to pet a shark. Stepping outside we were a short walk from Coki Beach where the water was truly aqua.

We took a ride to the tallest point in the island -- Paradise Point that overlooks St. Thomas. The best part of that was this crazy bird show that was one of the highlights of the trip. This white bird rode a unicycle and performed better tricks on a skateboard than Harry can manage today on his version, the long board. We have a picture of Harry and Ben holding the birds, and a bird atop each of their heads.

Our flight out was at 5:30 in the morning. I didn't want to pay for another cab despite the driver urging me."Only $20." Yeah, but we could see the airport; that's how close it was to our hotel. So once again the strange family that preferred to walk each dragged one wheeled suitcase apiece a half mile in the dark to the airport.

Jen Nuzzo had a great time in St. Thomas, putting up 14 against Stanford. I remember Wendy said it was her gym by the time the tournament was over. We had a great time, too, -- and even the kids admitted, the islands beat Ocean City any day.

Good luck, Lady Monarchs. It's all about basketball when you're a team. But make sure you talk a walk along the beach, too. I promise you, Virginia Beach will never look as good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hampton, Longwood and VCU endure shooting woes in losses

Tuesday's games

Florida 63, Hampton 46: Even Hampton can't defend well enough to overcome 27.6 percent shooting on the road against a team like Florida. Also, the Gators grabbed 29 offensive rebounds and went to the free throw line 35 times. Add all that up and it's surprising Hampton only lost by 17.

Campbell 48, Longwood 33: The Lancers shot just 22 percent, but that's not that much worse than the 30 percent they shot against High Point, or the 32 percent they shot against George Mason. In other words, with the exception of a Nov. 13 game against Cornell these guys haven't shot it well all season. The shots doesn't even fall consistently when the Lancers are standing still - they shot 45 percent from the free throw line against Campbell and have been at 57 percent or worse in three of their five games.

Liberty 83, Virginia-Wise 29: A good live workout for Lady Flames reserves, all of whom saw more action than any Liberty starter.

Charlotte 68, VCU 58: Particularly disappointed in the Rams being outrebounded by 16 (Charlotte had a 48-32 advantage and grabbed 21 offensive boards). Not sure why a team featuring last year's Division I rebounding leader (Courtney Hurt) 6-6 senior Chelsea Snyder and 6-3 freshman reserve Aprill McRae wasn't more competitive in this area. But we did like how McRae went for 8 points in the second half. Too often Hurt (24 points) and Andrea Barbour (17) are on the floor with teammates that do not threaten opponents on offense. McRae's second half suggests she may be developing into someone that can take advantage of the extra attention that is surely being paid to VCU's Big Two.

Silent majority rankings #2

Our second ranking of the top women's basketball teams in the non-BCS conferences. Click here to see our preseason rankings.

1. Delaware (2-0)
Elena Delle Donne snagged the headlines for her 40-point, 13-rebound tour de force in last week's 80-71 victory over then-No. 11 Penn State, but it takes an entire team to engineer a victory of this significance. So our biggest takeaway from that result is that the Blue Hens really do have enough quality pieces around their star to do special things this season. No time to celebrate, though - Delaware's next three games are at Villanova (Tuesday), at St. Bonaventure (Sunday) and at Princeton (Dec. 1) - each one a contest in which the Blue Hens will have to be at or near peak efficiency to survive. By the way, Delle Donne is averaging 36.5 points in the two games and is on pace to finish the Blue Hens' 28-game regular season with 1,022. We're just sayin'....

2. Green Bay (3-0)
As talented and well-coached as this group is, we figured that, with the loss of the Co-Horizon League Players of the Year, there had to be some dropoff. Well, through three games the Phoenix are averaging 83.3 points on 53.4 shooting (50 percent from 3-point range), have scored 93 points off 75 forced turnovers and are winning by an average of 23.3 points. Some dropoff, huh? Our favorite Green Bay stat - six of the nine players to see action this season are shooting 100 percent from the free throw line, and overall the team is 54-of-59 from the line (91.5 percent).

3. Gonzaga (2-1)
Not only will we not penalize the Zags for their 76-61 loss at Stanford, we're giving them bonus points for leading at halftime at a place where the Cardinal never loses (64 straight wins at Maples Pavilion). As expected, Oregon State transfer Haiden Palmer (13.7 ppg) and Kansas State transfer Taelor Karr (7.0 ppg, team-high 15 assists) have been welcome additions to a Gonzaga team that is as explosive as ever (84.3 ppg).

4. Princeton (4-0)
The Tigers won't get much national attention for it, but to us, getting wins against Villanova and at Marist by a combined 32 points over a three day span might be the most impressive two-game sweep in Division I so far. Statistically at least, Tigers star Niveen Rasheed (19.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg) has shown no ill effects of the knee injury that cost her most of the 2010-11 season. But Niveen's individual brilliance is only part of a well-coordinated attack that elevates these Tigers into a Top-25 caliber unit.

5. St. Bonaventure (4-0)
Got to watch the Bonnies in action the other day, and let's just say they're not the flashiest team we've seen. But in coming through unscathed after an opening four-game stretch that featured road games at St. John's and West Virginia, St. Bonaventure has yet to allow more than 58 points and is averaging just a shade over 10 turnovers a game. So hey, who needs flash?

6. Oral Roberts (4-0)
A couple of weeks ago, the Golden Eagles' three-point exhibition survival of Division II Central Oklahoma had us a bit concerned. But four games into the real season, they are who we thought they were - an explosive unit at both ends of the court led by one of the nation's elite scorers in Kevi Lupar. A 17-point win at Wisconsin proved that their act travels well. And in Saturday's 92-71 win over Louisiana Tech, the Golden Eagles unleashed Bernadett Balla (12 points), a 6-2 freshman from Hungary who appears poised to add even more firepower.

7. San Diego State (3-1)
This ranking is a nod to one of the most surprisingly emphatic victories of the season, the Aztecs' 82-74 pasting of then-No. 18 DePaul in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Hawaii. The next day, SDSU dropped a 59-58 decision to Portland. But the Aztecs still emerged as the tournament champions - three teams finished with 2-1 records and SDSU won the tiebreaker. In addition, Arizona transfer Courtney Clements, a 6-0 guard who scorched the Blue Devils for 25 points and is averaging 21.2 ppg on 52.3-percent shooting was tournament MVP and Mountain West Player of the Week.

8. Toledo (1-1)
The Rockets' 10-point victory over Dayton before 3,467 fans at Savage Arena extended the Rockets' home winning streak to 19. An 84-68 loss at Green Bay followed, but we're not going to be too critical of Toledo for that. As you can tell by these rankings, we think this Phoenix bunch is just that good.

9. Hofstra (2-1)

The Pride didn't just beat St. John's; they ran the Red Storm out of the building in a 93-82 home decision that featured 29 points from sharpshooter Kate Loper and a 27-point, 14-rebound effort from U.S. Pan American Games team member Shante Evans. As evidenced by a 90.3 points per game average, this veteran-rich Pride squad seems to be mastering their high-octane style. The lone loss was a 101-88 setback at Gonzaga that we bet was entertaining as heck to watch.

10. Tulane (4-0)
The best team in Louisiana? Sure looks that way so far as all four of the Green Wave's victories have come against in-state schools, with the obvious highlight being Sunday's 65-62 stunner over then-20th-ranked LSU. Eager to see how well they fare against programs from the other 49 states; Friday's game against Purdue in the Cancun Challenge figures to be quite illuminating.

11. Hampton (2-0)
On offense, these Lady Pirates occasionally look as though they just met each other 15 minutes ago. But man, can these guys defend. In their season opener, the Lady Pirates held Pitt to just 37 points, at Pitt. Granted, the Panthers are rebuilding with all freshmen and sophomores. But those guys have averaged 73.3 points in going 3-0 since that Hampton game. Besides, the Lady Pirates have been suffocating opponents defensively ever since third-year head coach David Six got there so we don't think the Pitt game was an outlier. If the Lady Pirates can execute more smoothly on offense, look out. But their defense alone will keep them in games against virtually anyone.

12. Florida Gulf Coast (2-1)
We were caught off guard by the Eagles' season-opening loss at Seton Hall. No disrespect to the Pirates, but FGCU has developed its program well beyond the point of being satisfied with merely being competitive with a Big East school, and frankly, we feel that's a game the Eagles should win. But just when we were wondering what's up with those guys, Sarah Hansen drained a free throw with less than a second remaining to lift the Eagles past Michigan State 59-58. Now that was a home game, and the Eagles virtually never lose in Alico Arena. Given what happened at Seton Hall, we're eager to see how they handle their next road trip. For now, though, we're giving them the benefit of the doubt.

13. UNLV (4-0)
The Lady Rebels' hot start - the team's best in 10 years - includes a 10-point victory at Iowa. Defense has been the key, as UNLV has held three of its four opponents to 30 percent shooting or less and two foes to 39 points or less. This defense will be put to its stiffest test on Sunday when the Lady Rebels face either Georgia or Georgetown in the final/consolation game of their own Lady Rebel Roundup.

14. Central Arkansas 3-0
Not sure which is more impressive - getting victories over Indiana and Alabama, or the mere idea of getting those schools to come to Central Arkansas, where the home team has gone 27-6 the past two years. The Sugar Bears (love that name) managed to do both, and with five returning starters from a 21-win team, something tells us these victories weren't flukes. We still want to see the team maintain this level in a road game. But early indications are this often-overlooked team is poised for its biggest season yet. By the way, love the school website headline on the home victory over Alabama - "Crowd rises, Tide falls." Nice.

15. James Madison (4-0)
Dukes coach Kenny Brooks will tell you his team still has a lot to work through. But the Dukes have managed to win through their growing pains, and holding an explosive team like Middle Tennessee State to 46 points in Sunday's 14-point home victory suggests the defense may be getting there faster than anyone realizes. Sophomore Kirby Burkholder has been a revelation as a scorer, and Boston College transfer Jasmine Gill had a breakout game against MTSU with a game-high 18 points. Can't wait to see what this team looks like when they get everything figured out.

On the verge: Vermont, Charlotte, Richmond, SMU, Memphis, UC Davis, Robert Morris.

Whatever happened to...

Marist (1-2): No shame in losses to Villanova and at Princeton. We've seen nothing to indicate these Red Foxes won't soon start working their way back up these rankings.

Duquesne (2-1) - The offense (81.3 ppg) is terrific. But the Dukes allowed 52-percent shooting in a four-point win at St. Francis, then got lit up at a 57.8-percent clip in Sunday's 86-80 loss at North Dakota.

Dayton (1-2): Sluggish, slow starts have doomed the Flyers in consecutive road losses at Toledo and Cincinnati. Surprising; we expected this mostly veteran group to really hit the ground running.

Temple 2-2: Owls coming off a disappointing Midwest road string featuring losses at Ohio State and Northern Illinois.

Hampton visits Florida to highlight Tuesday's action

Quick hits about Tuesday's games:

Longwood (1-3) at Campbell (3-0), 3 p.m.
The Lancers have struggled in their last two games, 20-plus point losses to George Mason and at High Point, and we're never crazy about picking them on the road. We hope they prove us wrong, but.... Campbell 72, Longwood 58

Hampton (2-0) at Florida (2-1), 7 p.m.
The Lady Pirates smoked the Gators last year in Hampton, but our sense is that the Gators will be hell-bent on revenge in the Gainesville rematch. Furthermore, we wouldn't be surprised if the Lady Pirates encounter a ton of foul trouble tonight. Not saying the officials will be calling it a certain way, but, well, let's just see what happens. We typically get burned whenever we pick against Hampton, but our gut says the Gators find a way tonight. Florida 55, Hampton 53

Virginia-Wise (2-4) at Liberty (1-2), 7 p.m.
Not sure the rest of us learn much from matchups such as these, but Lady Flames coach Carey Green usually sprinkles in a game or two like this during his non-conference schedule, and his record for putting teams together that peak in conference play speaks for itself. Liberty 82, Virginia-Wise 42

Charlotte (4-0) at VCU (2-1), 7 p.m.
We've been somewhat disappointed in the rollout of the 2011-12 Rams, and even Sunday's 78-70 at UMKC wasn't fully satisfying because it took a 40-point effort from Courtney Hurt to solidify it. We're glad she went off, of course, but the idea was for the Rams to play a more balanced game so that Hurt wouldn't have to always bail them out. Charlotte looks to be the best team the Rams have faced so far, so if they have another gear in them, tonight would be a fine time to shift into it. VCU 74, Charlotte 69

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pat Summitt: The fight of her life

Allow me to share a thoughtful blog post from Richmond-Times Dispatch reporter Vic Dorr, who was in Charlottesville on Sunday when Virginia upset Tennessee. Vic is one of the best friends I've made in this lifetime and one of the most gifted writers I've had the pleasure of reading. Here he shares his thoughts on Pat Summitt.

Tribe routs Tech; NSU, GMU and Radford win

NSU's Trice, 14 assists
Monday's games by the numbers:

William and Mary 78, Virginia Tech 59

.333: Hokies from the free-throw line (4-of-12)

.929: W&M from the free-throw line (13-of-14)

4:30: Time elapsed before the Hokies' first points

10: Tribe's rebounding advantage (Aldridge 10, Emily Correal 10*

20: Points from Tribe's Janine Aldridge (6-of-11 from 3)

23: Minutes played by Taysha Pye (15 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds)

31: Points by Tech's Monet Tellier, a career high

Great job on the boards, Tribe!

Radford 79, UNC Greensboro 67

1.00: Da'Naria Erwin Spencer from the free-throw line (9-of-9)

9: Assists from Da'Naria Erwin Spencer

16: Radford's halftime lead (39-23)

27: Points from Da'Naria Erwin Spencer

1983-84: Last time the Highlanders started 4-0

Norfolk State 94, South Carolina Upstate 81

12: Rebounds by Rachel Gordon

14: Assists by Recca Trice, a Division I record (breaking the old mark set by Trice (12) )

18: Free-throw differential (NSU 31 attempts, SC Upstate 13 attempts)

25: Points by Rachel Gordon

53: Points by NSU in the second half

1999: Last time NSU scored at least 94 points (Jan.9 vs. South Carolina State)

George Mason 54, Stony Brook 50

10: Number of points Patriots trailed by at the break (29-19)

16: Points by Taleia Moton in the second half

18: Points in the game by Taleia Moton

37: Minutes Stony Brook led in this game

AP Poll: No love for Delaware

Delaware 80, No 11 Penn State 71
The latest AP poll was revealed on Monday, and guess who wasn't in it?

That would be Delaware, fresh off a nine-point victory over last week's No. 11 Penn State. The Lions, by the way, dropped to No. 17.

I used to be an AP poll voter and I know how this works. It's Sunday night. The poll is due. Unless you're the super organized type who keeps a list of results and studies each of the teams during the week, you're scrambling. Maybe you're driving back from a road game. Maybe you have desk duty. Maybe you're doing something that has nothing to do with women's basketball, as fewer and fewer newspapers are dedicating resources to that sport.

So you need teams. The first 10 are easy. The first 15 take a little more thought. You get to 20. The last five? Um, Texas, UCLA.....Sounds good.

What's your process? Do you even have one? I used to wonder if I needed to justify the picks I made the week before. For example, if I ranked Georgetown in the top 10 last week, can the Hoyas suddenly disappear because they lost two games? I mean, they're going to be good, right? Ah, says that little voice inside my head, the co-producer of this blog. It's a weekly poll. Don't make it like figure skating where the thinking is the better results come later in the program. Evaluate each team on its merits, its results. Forget tomorrow. What have you done for me lately?

Do that and Texas doesn't belong.UCLA doesn't either.  No. 23 DePaul?  They have a loss to San Diego State, which just fell to Portland.

But Delaware? Remember the 2-0 Blue Hens behind Elena Delle Donne, who is making a case to be the top player in the country. You're not throwing a mid-major a bone here.This team doesn't have a blemish, and unlike Texas didn't get wins over SE Louisiana and Alcorn State last week.

I know many of my colleagues are stretched.I don't mean to call them out. Let's call it a gentle reminder. It's a weekly poll, folks.And the Blue Hens are one of the top 25 teams nationally this week.

Virginia Tech hosts W&M to highlight Monday's action

Quick hits on Monday's games:

William and Mary (1-2) at Virginia Tech (2-1), 7 p.m.
Teams staged a wild encounter in Williamsburg last season, as the Tribe led by 11 with five minutes to go only to end up losing in double-overtime by 16. Guards have led the way for the Hokies, as Monet Tellier (14.7 ppg), Aerial Wilson (13.7) and Alyssa Fenyn (12.3) are all averaging in double figures. Rebounding has been a significant problem for the Tribe, which is surprising since the team has the personnel to be well above-average on the glass. Yet William and Mary has been outrebounded in all three of its games - by 11 or more in their last two games - and surrendered a combined 30 offensive boards in losses to Navy and Richmond. Leading scorer Taysha Pye (suspension) has yet to take the court this season, and forward Kaitlyn Mathieu has missed the last two games after suffering a concussion. Virginia Tech 72, William and Mary 55

Radford's dominance through its first three games is due in part to a less-than-daunting schedule featuring all home games and only one against a Division I team. But if the idea was to ease the team into the season while building confidence along the way, it couldn't have worked out better. This game offers another opportunity for the Highlanders to feel good about themselves. Radford 67, UNC Greensboro 48

Norfolk State (2-1) at USC Upstate (0-4), 7 p.m.
The Spartans may have found the antidote to their recent shooting woes - a game against a Spartans team that is surrendering a shade under 85 points a game in their four losses. Norfolk State 79, USC Upstate 69

George Mason (2-1) at Stony Brook (0-2), 7 p.m.
The Patriots are coming off one of their most impressive offensive outings in the tenure of coach Jeri Porter, an 80-58 road thrashing of Longwood that featured 55.8 percent field-goal shooting and 30 points from Taleia Moton. And while the Pats won't score like that every night, strong defense has remained a constant with this group.George Mason 60, Stony Brook 46

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Virginia shocks No.3 Tennesee; JMU, Richmond win with ease

Shine shined with 18 points and 9 rebounds.
Who needs hot dogs? Actually we're eating crow tonight, as we openly admit we didn't remotely forecast Virginia upsetting No. 3 Tennessee at the JPJ Arena. We figured the Cavaliers would put on a good show and fade down the stretch. Instead, they had enough left for OT and pulled off the program's third-ever victory over the Lady Vols in 16 tries. Five Cavaliers were in double figures led by senior Chelsea Shine with 18 points and nine boards in the 69-64 OT win. What this tells us is that Virginia does have a team that belongs in the national rankings. While we thought Joanne Boyle would take some time adjusting to her new role as she recruited her own kids, it seems she's doing terrific with these kids, as Virginia is a quiet 4-0. "I just saw us mature," Boyle said."I'll be honest in that last five minutes, our seniors took over. I know China's (Crosby) not a senior. She came down and hit some big free throws for us. There was a maturity about us in that last five minutes that they punched and we punched back. They played a chess match; we played a chess match. It's a great opportunity for the kids to be in a game like that and see their growth and get stretched and be able to finish like that."

Speaking of crow, how wrong were we about James Madison? Yep, flogging with the wet noodle coming as we openly admit we didn't think these Dukes (4-0) would get past Middle Tennessee, which was exactly the case, 60-46. Six 3s helped including a 4-of-4 effort from Kirby Burkholder from behind the arc. Jasmine Gill had 18 and Lauren Whitehurst 11, as JMU won its 14th straight in Harrisonburg. "If we can improve on this, I think bigger things are going to happen," said coach Kenny Brooks. "Then we might be hanging another banner in here."

Speaking of 4-0, how about those Richmond Spiders? The Spiders scored 15 points in the initial two minutes at the Constant Center and never looked back, defeating the Lady Monarchs 78-63. Chalk up 1,000 career points for Abby Oliver, who scored a season-high 22. The ODU players talked about being fatigued after a grueling trip to the West Coast,  where they lost to Stanford by 50. But the reality facing the Lady Monarchs (0-4) right now is trying to find a win somewhere on the schedule in the month of November. The Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands is next with Alabama, Seton Hall and Louisiana Tech on the bill. While none of those teams is a powerhouse, each of them looks better than the Lady Monarchs at this point in the season. We like the fearlessness of Ashley Betz-White but still believe asking a true freshman to come in and lead at point is a tall order. Only 979 watched this game on a campus that is giddy over its football team awaiting a playoff date with Norfolk State on Saturday.

We didn't get every prediction wrong on Sunday, though we don't take any joy in Longwood falling to High Point 73-51. Crystal Smith  had 16 for the Lancers, who misfired on all eight of their 3-point attempts. Brittanni Billups had 10 points and 10 boards; Longwood is 1-3.

Debbie Ryan: "With pancreatic cancer, everybody dies."

I hate pancreatic cancer. It's personal to me; my father died of it 11 days before my first son was born. In most cases it is a death sentence, but 10 years later, Debbie Ryan lives. I've spoken to Ryan about the disease, and she knows how fortunate she is to have survived a disease where the survival rate is almost minimal.Only 4 percent diagnosed with the disease live longer than five years.

“With pancreatic cancer, everybody dies,” says Ryan in this wonderful blog post on the UVA Medical site. “So now you have no one to carry the flag – and the fewer the people you have helping it, the fewer dollars you have going towards it. Only 2 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s funds go to pancreatic cancer, yet it’s the fourth leading killer and rising.”

It is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Pancreatic cancer has no pink ribbon to make a statement, but luckily it has Ryan to champion the cause.

What can be done? Show your support for the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act, which will be reintroduced in Washington by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep.Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ). Once enacted and fully funded, the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act will ensure that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) takes the necessary steps to address the astounding mortality of pancreatic cancer by developing a long-term comprehensive strategic plan targeting the disease so patient outcomes will improve in the years to come.

Virginia hosts Tennessee; Richmond visits ODU

What, no free hot dogs? The Cavaliers have had remarkably success with aggressive zone defense, but this is a whole 'nother class of opponent. If the Cavaliers can defend these guys into a game in the 50s, Virginia's new-found ability to stop people will be one of the stories of the young season nationally. What's more likely, though, is that the Cavaliers put on a spirited, feisty effort that's not quite enough against one of the sport's elite teams. Tennessee 69, Virginia 55

Middle Tennessee State at James Madison, 2 p.m.
Dukes coach Kenny Brooks has called these Blue Raiders the best team on JMU's schedule, and with apologies to Delaware, he may have a point. MTSU won an entertaining 81-75 decision when these teams met in Murfreesboro, and if it's that kind of game again, we haven't seen the level of offensive productivity from JMU that suggests they're ready to keep pace. The Dukes certainly seem capable of such an effort, but until we actually see it.... MTSU 77, JMU 69

Longwood at High Point, 2 p.m.
The Jennifer Hoover-led Panthers couldn't solve Virginia's defense but has put up 82 points in victories over VCU and Davidson. Longwood's struggles on the road have been well-documented, and it's hard to see this being the place where they get that straightened out. High Point 85, Longwood 65

Richmond at Old Dominion, 5 p.m.
Given their roster turnover and the fact they're relying so heavily on underclassmen, the Spiders have to be pleased with their results so far. Rachael Bilney has been a revelation - not that we didn't think she could play, but that she's been so effective in her first games after a year-long ACL rehab - and freshman Liz Brown often looks as though she's been in the lineup three years instead of three games. Spiders star Abby Oliver needs just five points to reach 1,000 for her career. As for Old Dominion, the Lady Monarchs are difficult to evaluate at this stage because, thanks to some unfortunate scheduling, they've been away on road trips at Georgia Tech and Stanford that have had them in way over their heads. Coaches like to call this situations "learning experiences," and we certainly hope ODU did in fact get a lot out of playing these teams. But we can't overlook the possibility that games such as this did little to advance ODU's cause and in some cases may have even caused the development to regress. In other words, today's game will tell us a lot. One potential bright spot - Jackie Cook is listed as a potential starter on ODU's game notes. Cook played just four minutes in the Lady Monarchs' season opener before suffering an injury. She hasn't played since.
Richmond 72, Old Dominion 62