Thursday, January 26, 2012

ODU, William and Mary search for better 2nd-half play

For Old Dominion, it's the first five minutes of the second half.

For William and Mary, it's the last 10.

These have been problem areas for the two teams, things each will attempt to address Thursday night at 7 p.m. when the Lady Monarchs visits William and Mary.

The Tribe (8-10, 1-6 CAA) has been one of the best teams in the CAA - for 30 minutes or so. Then strange things happen. Sunday against JMU, William and Mary led 38-28 with 10:30 remaining before being outscored 22-2 the rest of the way. In the previous game, they were down one at the 10:38 mark to George Mason. They went on to lose by 12. And while clutch play by Hofstra and a controversial traveling call on Taysha Pye in the final minute cost the Tribe in their 100-97 loss to Hofstra, the fact remains that with 9:55 remaining, William and Mary had a 9-point lead.

You might expect numbers like this from a team with a short bench, but William and Mary is one of the deeper teams in the CAA. Inexperience? Every starter is a junior or senior. Not sure what the problem is. But if the Tribe can ever play the last 10 minutes the way they play the first 30....

ODU's issues start earlier. For whatever the reason, the Lady Monarchs have tended to find themselves in worse shape after the first five minutes of the second half than they were in at halftime. Sunday against UNC Wilmington, ODU trailed by five at intermission. With 15 minutes remaining in the second half, they were down 12. Two games ago against Hofstra, the Lady Monarchs took a five-point lead into the halftime break. By the 14:48 mark, they faced a five-point deficit. The game before that, ODU had a nine-point lead at halftime at VCU. Five minutes into the second half, the game was tied.

This isn't just a recent phenomenon, either. Against Richmond on Nov. 20, ODU went from six down at the break to 16 down over the next 5:42. A couple weeks later, 10-point deficit became a 16-point deficit five minutes into the Lady Monarchs' game at George Mason. The margins haven't always been this dramatic. Still, ODU has outscored its opponent over the first five minutes of a second half only four times in 19 games.

Not sure which team will slay its own in-game demons tonight. But we do know this - if ODU produces a good second-half start and William and Mary delivers a strong second-half finish, we're all in for one heck of a game.

NOTE: ODU has won 52 straight games against William and Mary dating back to 1975, the second-longest active streak in Division I. The longest is Stanford's 53-game streak against Washington State, which the Cardinal extended last Thursday with a 75-41 victory. The Lady Monarchs have won all 47 times the teams have played as CAA members, and William and Mary is the only CAA team that has yet to defeat ODU.

Other games Thursday

Virginia Tech (6-14, 2-5 ACC) at No. 7 Maryland (18-2, 5-2), 7 p.m.
  - The Hokies' fourth straight game against a ranked opponent.

Georgia State (6-12, 0-7 CAA) at James Madison (14-4, 5-2), 5 p.m.
  - First half of a doubleheader with the Dukes' men's team, which will take on William and Mary at 8 p.m. JMU has won all 10 meetings with Georgia State.

Drexel (9-8, 5-2 CAA) at VCU (11-7, 4-3), 7 p.m.
  - The Rams desperately need to right themselves after back-to-back losses at UNCW and George Mason.

Towson (12-6, 3-4 CAA) at George Mason (9-9, 3-4), 7 p.m.
  - Reigning CAA Player of the Week Taleia Moton has scored at least 28 points in each of her last three games.

Hofstra (14-4, 6-1 CAA) at No. 15 Delaware (16-1, 7-0), 7 p.m.
  - If the Pride plays its usual high-possessions style and Blue Hens star Elena Delle Donne gets in a groove she may get about 45 in this one.

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