Thursday, December 29, 2011

Richmond and JMU tangle in Pennsylvania to highlight Thursday's action

Thursday's games:

Richmond (10-2) vs. James Madison (7-2) in Lehigh Christmas Classic, 5 p.m.
We're subtitling this tournament the Rachel Conelly Invitational in honor of the senior center and tallest of all Dukes who starred in high school some 50 miles away at Marian Catholic. Speaking of the Dukes, doesn't it seem like they haven't played in a month and a half? The fact that they've played just twice since Dec. 8 no doubt has something to do with that feeling. But their last outing was in some respects their most impressive - at least for the first 25 minutes - as the Dukes pretty thoroughly outplayed Virginia in Charlottesville before succumbing to foul trouble and the Cavaliers' resilience down the stretch. The Spiders, meanwhile, have won four straight and are coming off last week's impressive win over a quality Hartford team. Richmond has a variety of weapons and can shoot the ball like crazy, but something tells us the Dukes are going to defend the Spiders as well as they've been defended all season. Really difficult to make a call on this one.... Slight edge to the Spiders, I guess, but after the way the Dukes handled themselves against Virginia, JMU certainly has the goods to come away winners. Richmond 72, JMU 70

By the way, I was talking to my 19-year-old daughter about Richmond's Becca Wann, the soccer All-American and Division I's best basketball walk-on:

Me: She's the Bo Jackson of women's college sports.
Her: Who's Bo Jackson?
Me: Huh? Never mind.... Say, can you hand me that cane over there? I'm feeling old all of a sudden....

Hampton (9-2) at Tulane (10-2) in Doubletree Classic, 9 p.m.
Extremely impressive performance by the Lady Pirates Wednesday, when they overwhelmed a pretty good Central Michigan team 77-51 to move into today's final. It was especially nice to see the contributions of forward Ariel Phelps, who notched her second double-double (11 points, 13 rebounds) to complement the usual solid production of Choicetta McMillian (17 points) and Jericka Jenkins (16 points, 7 assists). Today's final pits two defense-first teams, and a case can be made that playing this game at Tulane is the toughest assignment on Hampton's non-league schedule. Tournament play tends to bring out the best in the Lady Pirates, though. Hampton 60, Tulane 55

VCU (8-3) at. Miami (10-2) in Miami Tournament, 7 p.m.
If only this game was being played somewhere besides Coral Gables, Fla. Over the past two seasons, the Hurricanes are just 11-7 in road/neutral contests. In their last road contest, they lost by 25 at Georgetown. Heck, even Longwood did better than that. At home, though, Miami is 7-0 this season, was 20-0 last season and have won 31 straight. If the Rams pull this off, it'll shock the world. No matter what the result, we figure Courtney Hurt and Andrea Barbour will get theirs. Game serves as kind of an ultimate test for Rams freshman point guard Christina Carter as Miami features arguably the nation's best backcourt tandem in Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams. Miami 88, VCU 78

UMass (5-8) at Virginia (11-2), Marriott Cavalier Classic, 7 p.m.
No disrespect to these Minutewomen, but when Joanne Boyle is making up her to-do list for the 2012-13 season, how 'bout beefing up the field for the next Cavalier Classic? Virginia 84, UMass 47

UMBC (6-6) at Virginia Tech (3-9) in Hilton Garden Inn Hokie Classic, 7 p.m.
The Hokies have never gone 0-2 in their own tournament. Then again, they had never lost the first game, either, until last night's 66-55 loss to Cincinnati. Tech coach Dennis Wolff questioned the team's effort level over the first 25 minutes against the Bearcats, so let's hope the Hokies are ready from the jump tonight. Virginia Tech 56, UMBC 52

Norfolk State (5-5) at Monmouth (3-8) in Hawk Holiday Classic, 2 p.m.
Since the other two teams in this field are Villanova (9-2) and St. Bonaventure (11-1), clearly Monmouth invited Norfolk State to give them their best shot of winning their opener. This knowledge should fire the Spartans up. Norfolk State 65, Monmouth 64

George Mason (7-3) at Ohio (6-7), 7 p.m.
The Patriots prevailed by 16 points when these teams met a year ago in Fairfax. The Patriots have played just once - a Dec. 22 victory over George Washington - since Dec. 8 so they've had a chance to work on things, most notably how to attack the kinds of zone defenses they will almost certainly see in the future. Both UMBC and Maryland had success slowing Taleia Moton and the Patriots offense by going zone, and while we're not sure what GW played, the fact that the Patriots shot just 30.6 percent from the field suggests they probably went zone, too. George Washington 55, Ohio 49

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