Sunday, January 15, 2012

CAA teams prepare to battle while mighty Duke visits Virginia Tech

Towson (11-4, 2-2 CAA) at James Madison (11-4, 2-2), 2 p.m.
Towson's 62-57 victory over the Dukes in Baltimore on Dec. 4 may have had a fluky feel at the time, but the game exposed some real issues with the JMU offense. The Dukes shot just 32 percent in that game, and JMU's 43-point output in Wednesday's 17-point loss to Drexel was its lowest in nearly three years. Jasmine Gill and Tarik Hislop are competent-but-streaky shooters. If one or both are them are in a groove, great. If not, the Dukes need to find other ways to get the ball in the basket besides these guys firing away from the perimeter. By contrast, Kirby Burkholder is a reluctant shooter. She needs to take the advice John Elway recently passed along to Tim Tebow - just pull the trigger.

Hofstra (12-3, 4-0 CAA) at Old Dominion (5-11, 2-2), 3 p.m.
Fasten your seatbelts, Lady Monarchs fans, as the Pride plays at a faster pace than virtually anyone in Division I and will try to get this game into the 80s, at least. ODU's reserves must contribute valuable minutes - as they have recently - as this game will definitely test the Lady Monarchs' depth. Game features two of the league's premier forwards in Hofstra's Shante Evans (17.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 7 straight double-doubles) and ODU's Tia Lewis (18.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg). ODU's Jackie Cook is coming off a career-high 20-point game in Wednesday's 76-72 overtime loss at VCU, the second straight game she set a career-high in points. Hofstra is 0-9 lifetime in Norfolk and 2-18 overall against ODU. Today is Alumni Day for the Lady Monarchs; click here for a list of who's coming.

VCU (10-5, 3-1 CAA) at William and Mary (6-7, 1-3), 2 p.m.
Potentially the most entertaining game of the day. The Tribe need to shrug off consecutive heartbreaking losses to Hofstra (100-97) and Towson (77-75 on a last-second layup). The good news is the Tribe has proven their diverse offensive weaponry will deliver against just about anyone. They just need to make a couple more plays late. The Rams, on the other hand, came up with several key defensive stops late in their overtime victory over ODU Wednesday. It's an encouraging development from a Rams team that has struggled in this area through much of the season. 

George Mason (7-8, 1-3 CAA) at UNC Wilmington (8-7, 1-3), 2 p.m.
The Seahawks have dropped two straight while the Patriots have lost five in a row and blew a 16-point halftime lead in Wednesday's 58-54 loss to Northeastern. George Mason hasn't won on the road since Nov.. 21 (Stony Brook) but have usually been competitive through 35 minutes. They need to figure out how to close the deal - and quickly.

No. 6 Duke (13-2, 4-0 ACC) at Virginia Tech (6-11, 2-2), 2 p.m.
Key for the Hokies will be to stay in it mentally and allow one bad sequence to snowball into a major Blue Devils run. That's kind of what happened the last time these teams met, when the Blue Devils used a 22-0 first-half run as a springboard to a 90-40 victory last February in Durham.. Duke forced 32 turnovers in that one, and they'll surely force their share of mistakes again today. But the Hokies have to keep their heads up and not let bad become much, much worse. Duke has won 15 straight in this series since the Hokies' last victory on Nov. 15, 1998.

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