Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Remember to appreciate ODU's Lewis on Senior Night

Remember the first time you saw her, Lady Monarch fans? All arms, all legs Tia Lewis, who runs the floor with the grace of a gazelle, first stepped on the Constant Center floor in 2008. She had to sit out a year -- the Conference USA Freshman of the Year transferred to ODU from Central Florida -- but watching her in the Blue-White scrimmage left the fans salivating for more.

They got it. Lewis has amassed 1, 622 career points, surpassing assistant Adrienne Goodson for 11th on the all-time scoring list (Lewis is 37 points shy of passing Mery Andrade at No. 10). Her 1,103 career rebounds rank her sixth on the all-time rebounding list.

Wednesday marks the last night Lewis will play in her home gym. The 6-3 center/forward will be the lone senior honored on Senior Night (ODU hosts Towson at 7 p.m.).  Lewis, whose first step is the envy of many her size, leads this young Lady Monarch team, averaging 16.6 ppg and 9.1 rpg.

Her father, stepmother and brother will be in attendance on Wednesday.

"Nothing has really hit me yet," said Lewis, real name Quintierra (nobody calls her that), who hails from Poulan, Ga. "I'm the same person as far as the emotion part. It hasn't really affected me yet."

Her memories of ODU will center around the players and coaches.

"Road trips have been the most fun," she said. "Coach Goodson brings a lot of games. We play UNO, charades, spades -- bonding games for the team. Coach always brings them."

Lewis has played for two coaches at ODU in Wendy Larry and Karen Barefoot. She has been in touch with Larry sporadically. "I don't talk to her on the phone, but we send texts from time to time," she said.

So much experience has allowed Lewis, who Larry often compared to ODU All-America forward Tracy Claxton, to mature as a player and person.

"I was just a stick playing basketball coming into college," she said. "Now I've got an inside-outside game, and I play a little defense. That's a big difference. I'm much bigger than when I came in."

Lewis has already graduated with plans to earn her master's in the future. Her degree is in recreation tourism and business management. She would like to play in the WNBA and believes she is a pro prospect in this country.

"I've got some great feedback from some real in-the-know people," she said.

As far as the best part of ODU basketball, Lewis, whose nails are often as colorful as her personality, doesn't hesitate to answer.

"The fans."

Hope there are plenty cheering her on for Senior Night.

Richmond's Abby Oliver earns All-Atlantic 10 honors

Richmond's Abby Oliver, the team's lone senior who has contributed leadership as well as production for the youthful Spiders, was named first-team All-Atlantic 10 Wednesday. Sophomore Genevieve Okoro was a third-team pick, and freshman Liz Brown made the all-rookie team.

Spiders sophomore Becca Wann, a first-team All-American in soccer last fall, was selected as the league's most improved player.

Oliver led the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 17.1 ppg and 3-point field goal percentage and is first in all of Division I in free throw percentage (94.6). It is the second time in her career Oliver has received one of the conference end-of-year awards; two years ago she was the league' sixth player of the year.

Okoro was Richmond's top rebounder (7.4 rpg) and also chipped in 10.7 points per game. Brown started 24 of the Spiders' 29 games during her debut season and contributed 6.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 26 blocks. And Wann's 8.7 ppg was more than double her scoring average during a freshman season in which she averaged just 13 minutes per game. This season, Wann averaged 24 minutes per contest and earned a starting spot midway through the season.

Oliver was joined on the first team by Dayton's Justine Raterman, St. Bonaventure's Jessica Jenkins and Megan Van Tatenhove and Temple's Shay Peddy. Peddy was named the A-10's Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

Click here for a complete list of the All-A-10 teams.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Former ODU assistant wins Coach of the Year honors

LadySwish sends its congrats to former Old Dominion assistant Cindy Fisher, named West Conference Coach of the Year.

University of San Diego coach Fisher, whose team was picked to finish seventh in the WCC, is in a tie for second place with Brigham Young. San Diego is 21-7 heading into the WCC Tournament.

Fisher also received the honor in 2006-07, when the Toreros won 20-plus games for the first time ever. She was Co-Coach of the Year that season.

Fisher was an assistant to Wendy Larry at ODU for three years, including 1997 when the Lady Monarchs advanced to the national title game. She is in her seventh season at San Diego.

The Colliers: Mother-daughter earn All-CIAA honors

Virginia Union's mother-daughter tandem of Barvenia Wooten-Cherry and Vicki Collier cleaned up in CIAA individual honors.

Wooten-Cherry, a former Panthers star now in her second year as the team's head coach, was named the conference's coach of the year. Wooten-Cherry transformed a Virginia Union team that went 3-23 in her first season into this year's CIAA's Northern Division champions (12-13, 9-7 CIAA). It was the Panthers' first division title since 2003.

Collier, who spent a few injury-plagued seasons at Old Dominion and one year as her mother's assistant coach at Union, punctuated her return to competition with first-team All-CIAA honors after finishing third in the league in scoring (15.8 ppg), sixth in rebounding (8.4 rpg) and fifth in field-goal percentage (46.6).

Also of note for Old Dominion fans: the CIAA's men's rookie of the year is Wykevin Bazemore, a 6-4 forward for Winston-Salem State and the younger brother of ODU star Kent.

The CIAA Tournament begins Tuesday in Charlotte. Virginia Union will begin play on Wednesday at 1 p.m. against either Chowan or Fayetteville State in the quarterfinal round.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Division III Mary Washington, still perfect, NCAA Tournament bound

The University of Mary Washington Eagles made a vow last year after a loss to Wesley College in the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals.

No regrets.

There have been none since. The Eagles are 27-0, ranked seventh nationally in the USA Today Division III poll. They are hosts to the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, which begins Friday. Mary Washington meets Keuka (NY) at 7 pm, at the William M Anderson Center on the campus in Fredericksburg, Va. Messiah College and Kean play in the first game at 4:30 pm. The winner of Saturday's subregional final meets on Monday at 7 p.m. for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Deena Applebury
"Our chemistry is amazing," said Mary Washington coach Deena Applebury, the architect behind the eight greatest seasons in program history. "All of our kids have each other's backs. It doesn't matter if the No. 1 scorer is out there or the No. 13 scorer. They all cheer for each other."

In Applebury's second year as coach, she led the Eagles to a 23-7 finish, 11 more wins than the previous year. By 2006-07, Mary Washington was in the Final Four. Applebury was named the WBCA National Coach of the Year after the 31-3 season. Her career mark is 215-46.

This season's Eagles are as balanced a team as Applebury has had. Leading scorers Jenna McRae, a 5-11 senior out of Annandale High School, and 5-9 senior Katie Wimmer , a 5-9 senior from James Madison High, average 12.8 and 12.7 ppg, respectively. The Eagles have a plus 9.8 rebound advantage, yet no player averages more than 5.4 rpg. Mary Washington is holding opponents to .295 percent shooting and has had 130 fewer turnovers than its opponents.

Motivation has never wavered since the conference tournament loss a year ago. Wesley hit a game-winning shot with 13 seconds left and Mary Washington's shot at the buzzer did not fall in the 54-53 loss.

"We lost by one point to a team we had beaten twice," Applebury said. "Our kids really bonded and decided the next time they lost it wasn't going to be because they weren't prepared; it wasn't going to be because we overlooked anybody."

Mary Washington did not receive an at-large bid last season, and notes Applebury, "We didn't want to get used to not being in the tournament."

Their closest games of this season came in the CAC Tournament. Mary Washington needed to rally from six back to defeat Marymount 64-62 in the semifinals before beating York College 52-48 in Saturday's championship.

While Mary Washington doesn't get the national glory that an unbeaten Division I team would, Applebury said she is grateful for the community and faculty support at the college. She has received offers to coach elsewhere but says this.

"I've been content here through the years. I've checked into some things, but I've come to the conclusion that this is where I want to stay."

Jennifer Lane leaves VCU team

Senior Jennifer Lane, who was a fixture for VCU at point guard from the day she arrived on campus until early this season, has left the program, the school announced Monday.

"In talking with Jen, we felt that, at this point in the semester, it is in her best interest to focus on class work and to limit the distractions and commitment that are required of a student-athlete," Rams coach Beth Cunningham said in a statement. "We will, of course, continue to support Jen in this process. It is our ultimate goal for her to receive a degree, which she is on track to complete. We appreciate the contributions she has made during her three and a half years at VCU and we wish her the best of luck."

A Wichita, Kan., native, Lane started the first 94 games of her college career, a streak that lasted until Senior Day in 2011. The 5-8 guard began the season having started 98 of her team's 99 games, and was on the floor at tipoff for the first six this season.

Lane. who saw time in only 18 of VCU's 28 games this season, did not participate in Sunday's Senior Day ceremonies. She finishes her career with 410 assists, sixth all time for the Rams.

Future stars of ODU, Delaware, Richmond out in Norfolk on Monday

Alecia Bell showing her Blue Hen spirit.

If you're headed to Monday's Princess Anne-Woodside Eastern Region championship game at Norfolk's Scope at 6 pm, keep your eyes on the future of Richmond and CAA basketball.

Galaisha Goodhope, whose 31 points led Princess Anne over Lake Taylor on Saturday, is headed to Old Dominion. Woodside wins behind Alecia Bell (Delaware bound) and Adrienne Motley (a junior the CAA, who anyone in the state would love to have).

Princess Anne center Bria Powell is Richmond-bound.

Noted Bell, who will play alongside Elena Delle Donne,  a senior next fall: "She's one of the top players in the country and I'm really excited to be going there."

Virginia plays BC; Tech meets Wake (again) in ACC Tournament

The ACC Tournament kicks off Thursday with No. 6 Virginia (21-9) playing No. 11 Boston College (7-22) in the nightcap at 8 pm. No. 10 Virginia Tech (7-22) meets No. 6 Wake Forest (17-12) at 6 pm. All games are at the Greensboro Coliseum.

The Cavaliers, who beat Florida State 66-57 on Sunday to sweep the series, tied with North Carolina at No. 5 in the conference but lost out to the Tar Heels on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Virginia defeated Boston College 69-58 during their regular-season game on Jan. 21.

Wake Forest (17-12_  clobbered the Hokies on Sunday 68-39 behind a 22-4 run to start the game.

The winner of the Virginia/BC game runs into No. 3 Maryland (25-4) on Friday at 8 pm in the quarterfinals. The Tech/Wake Forest winner plays No. 2 Miami (25-4) at 6 pm.

Duke (24-4)  earned the top seed. Semifinals are at 11 am and 1:30 pm on Saturday, and Sunday's championship game begins at 2 pm.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Patriots spoil VCU's Senior Day; JMU thumps ODU; W&M, Richmond fall; Longwood wins finale

Senior Day for Courtney Hurt
Sunday's results (separate ACC post coming....):

George Mason 69, VCU 59
Results like this convince us of the fun waiting at the CAA Tournament. The Patriots played spoiler on Senior Day for the Rams. Honored were Courtney Hurt, Andrea Barbour and Chelsea Snyder. Jennifer Lane was not in attendance (we've inquired and are awaiting an answer). For the Rams, we've written this so many times it's on save-get. Hurt and Barbour got theirs combining for 37 points and 19 rebounds. VCU was never able to overcome an early double-digit lead by George Mason, who had its usual suspects in fine form also (Taleia Moton 20 points, Amber Easter 15). The win gives the Patriots a sweep in the series and their first win in Richmond since 2004. "I'm really excited and proud of this team," said Patriots coach Jeri Porter. "Just to be able to come in to a really, really difficult venue and get a win lets me know that the kids are locked in and ready to move forward."

James Madison 63, Old Dominion 44
Harrisonburg has never been welcoming to the Lady Monarchs (9-20, 6-11), but in the opening minutes, it looked like ODU was primed to pull out that win it should have gotten when the teams met in Norfolk. ODU, which did not start senior Tia Lewis and junior Jackie Cook, raced out to a 15-5 advantage before JMU took over for the duration. The Dukes (22-6, 13-4), who already had clinched the No. 2 seed in the CAA Tournament, held an opponent to under 30 percent shooting for the sixth time. The Lady Monarchs were without a field goal for 14 minutes in the second half, allowing the Dukes to go up by as many as 24. It's looking like the season has worn on a young ODU team that needs to turn it around in a hurry to avoid its first-ever first-rournd loss in the conference tournament (Lady Monarchs have never had to play in the first round before.) We pay tribute also to JMU's trio of seniors: Lauren Whitehurst (10 points, 10 boards), Rachel Connely and Kiara Francisco. Tarik Hislop led all scorers with 20 points.

Georgia State 74, William and Mary 62
This is one of those results that you look at and say, "How?" Taysha Pye's 22 and Emily Correal's double-double (18 points, 14 rebounds) weren't enough, as the rest of the Tribe (10-18, 3-14) hit an offensive wall against a team that had only won one previous CAA game. The Panthers led by 17 late in the second half, shooting 46 percent from the field. The Tribe has lost eight of nine -- too long of a streak for a team with that much height and talent.

Charlotte 77, Richmond 62
Size got the better of the Spiders (22-7, 9-5), but this game doesn't count as far as the Atlantic 10 Tournament seedings. Richmond, which had already wrapped up the No. 4 seed, meets the winner of No. 5 St. Joseph/No. 12 Fordham on Saturday. The 49ers shot 55 percent in the first half, an offensive pace the Spiders were unable to match despite 17 points from Becca Wann.

Longwood 69, NJIT 66
The Lancers (7-22) conclude the 2011-12 season by winning their final two. Brittani Billups scored 25 with nine rebounds and Chelsea Coward scored 18. The days of endless road trips are over for the Lancers, who begin a whole new era next season as a member of the Big South Conference.

VCU's Hurt: Not just good -- the word is great

Courtney Hurt has heard the John Mellencamp reference many times.

"Hurt's so good."

It's Senior Day for VCU (the Rams host George Mason at 2 pm at the Siegel Center), and we're hear to tell you Hurt's not so good. She's great. Great, and frankly, overlooked.

We're guilty of it, too. A year ago when Hurt emerged as not just a good player on the Rams, but a force on the national level, there were other story lines to follow in the CAA. Dawn Evans and Elena Delle Donne didn't just have amazing seasons. They had compelling stories (kidney and Lyme disease, respectively) behind the numbers that dominated the limelight.

Hurt, well, she just kept putting up the numbers. Big numbers. And her story was how did we get here? As a sophomore, her numbers were nice (13.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg). As a junior, her numbers were All-American worthy: 23.2 ppg and 12.4 rpg.

The trend continues this season.

Hurt, averaging 22.2 ppt and 12.9 rpg, is the only player in Division I to rank in the top 10 of both of those categories. Her career marks leave us to conclude she may be the best player to ever wear a Rams uniform.


Hurt is VCU's all-time leading scorer (1,935 points) and rebounder (1,142). She holds the school record in free throws (474) and in games played (124). Hurt is three double-doubles away from matching the program's all-time mark of 55 (held by Quanitra Hollingsworth). She could become the first VCU player and sixth player in CAA history to score 2,000 points.

In addition, Hurt's 720 points last season shattered the single-season record for points. This season she netted a school-record 40 points in a 78-70 victory at Missouri-Kansas City.

Stunning statistics that leave no doubt that her No. 44 jersey will be the fourth retired alongside those of Kelly Hoover, Kristine Austgulen and Quanitra Hollingsworth. We asked Hurt about all the emotions that come with Senior Day.

It's a bittersweet moment for me. I love VCU and all it has to offer, but I'm ready for the next step in my life. I will miss the people here at VCU and especially my VCU basketball family. I'm excited about potentially playing here in the United States or somewhere else overseas. I want to play basketball for as long as I can! But as of right now, I'm focused on my team as a senior leader on the court and making a lot of noise in the CAA Tournament. This is my last shot, so it's now or never.

Despite the numbers, Hurt is still playing out a relatively quiet career given her accomplishments. She will not be CAA Player of the Year given what Delle Donne has achieved at Delaware. And she doesn't have the physical stature to command the attention of a Delle Donne or Brittney Griner. VCU lists Hurt as 6-1, but we'd bet she's closer to 5-11, which makes it even more impressive that she can dominate a game in the manner she does. Her hands are soft, her footwork impeccable and her timing for being in the right place at the right time to rebound the ball is extraordinary.

So you see Hurt's not just good. She's the Rams best and arguably the program's best ever. And we're not stretching it to say she's among the NCAA's best, too.

Hampton seizes MEAC lead; Liberty clinches top seed in Big South

Saturday's results:

Hampon 46, Florida A&M 43: Relying on the thing that's made them famous - defense - the Lady Pirates toughed out another one in a showdown of first-place teams and removed the most significant remaining obstacle to a successful defense of their MEAC regular-season supremacy. In a game pitting the MEAC's highest-scoring team (Florida A&M came in averaging more than 70 points per game) against Hampton's league's stingiest defense, the Lady Pirates succeeded in getting the game played on their terms. For the game the Lady Pirates shot just 28 percent, but they made it work by limiting the Lady Rattlers to a measly 23 percent. Clearly it still wasn't easy, though, and victory wasn't secure until Florida A&M's Tamika McKelton came up short on a last-second 3-pointer. Each team's stars struggled mightily. Florida A&M's Antonia Bennett, who came in averaging better than 18 points a game and is a leading candidate for conference player of the year honors, scored only 8 Saturday on 3-of-15 shooting. Hampton's Jericka Jenkins, the nation's leader in assists, had just one assist and 6 turnovers. Keiara Avant stepped into the spotlight for the Lady Pirates, finishing with 18 points and 17 rebounds.

The win gave Hampton (21-4, 13-1 MEAC) a one-game lead in the loss column over Florida A&M (19-7, 12-2) and Howard (22-7, 14-2) with two Lady Pirates games remaining. In addition to claiming the top seed in the MEAC Tournament, Hampton finishing with the top record in the MEAC would guarantee the Lady Pirates an automatic bid to the WNIT. Of course, the Lady Pirates want to win the MEAC Tournament and make a third trip to the NCAAs. Still, winning their last two games would assure the Lady Pirates that no matter what happens in the conference tournament, they're assured of being in someone's postseason tournament. And while Saturday's victory solidified Hampton's standing as the favorite to win its third straight MEAC Tournament crown, the gap between the Lady Pirates and their closest pursuers isn't nearly as great as it's been the past two seasons. Furthermore, the Lady Pirates may be without senior starter Melanie Warner (10.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) for the rest of the season. According to the Newport News Daily Press, Warner broke a finger during practice a week ago.

In other games Saturday:

Liberty 76, Gardner-Webb 44: The Lady Flames (19-8, 14-2 Big South) clinched the No. 1 seed in the Big South Tournament - and an automatic bid to the WNIT - with an expected thumping of hapless Gardner-Webb (3-23, 2-13). With the Runnin' Bulldogs missing their first 18 field goal attempts, Liberty surged to a 31-4 lead and cruised from there. Prior to the game, the Lady Flames honored seniors Avery Warley and Danika Dale. Warley marked the occasion by going for 18 points and 15 rebounds to become the first Big South player to top 1,200 boards (1,209). Dale did her part by chipping in 7 points and 9 rebounds. But while Saturday was designated as Senior Day, Lady Flames fans will have two more regular season chances to cheer on Warley and Dale, as Liberty will close out the campaign with home games Monday against UNC Asheville and Friday against Radford.

Radford 79, UNC Asheville 66: Nice bounce-back efforts from Da'Naria Erwin Spencer (24 points) and Ashley Buckhannon (21), who struggled offensively in Monday's loss at Winthrop. Game was closer than the final score indicates much of the way, as the lead changed hands 12 times in a first half that ended with the Highlanders ahead by just three. Radford (15-12, 9-7 Big South) broke things open with a 16-4 run midway through the second half.

Bethune-Cookman 83, Norfolk State 73: In a lot of ways this game was the complete opposite of the Hampton-Florida A&M scrum. The Spartans (10-15, 5-9 MEAC) fell despite a career-high 32 points from reigning MEAC Player of the Week Whitney Long, who hit 12 of 16 shots - 6 of 9 from 3-point range - and eclipsed her previous high of 27 set six days ago in a win over Maryland-Eastern Shore. A lot of folks were feeling it offensively for the Spartans, who shot 53.7 percent from the field. But the Wildcats (10-16, 7-7) didn't miss much, either (30 of 60 field goals) feasting on NSU's 25 turnovers, which led to 20 B-C points.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Virginia rallies past Wake Forest on Senior Night

Virginia 61, Wake Forest 55: Lots on the line for the Cavaliers (20-9, 8-7 ACC) in this one, and after a shaky first half, they responded in style to send seniors Chelsea Shine and Ariana Moorer away winners in their final game at John Paul Jones Arena. The first half featured the rare sight of this Virginia team appearing to be outworked by the Demon Deacons, who took a 33-25 lead into the break. But after a few "words of encouragement" from Cavaliers coach Joanne Boyle - "We challenged them at halftime" - the team conjured up the effort and intensity required to put Wake Forest away. Ataira Franklin led Virginia with 17 points while Moorer and Lexie Gerson each added 15. Meanwhile, Shine became the 28th Cavalier to crack the 1,000-point barrier.

In addition to cementing a 20-win season, Virginia's victory clinched the No. 6 seed in the ACC Tournament. It's a position the Cavs have come by honestly - they are 8-0 against the six teams below them in the standings; 0-7 against the five teams above them. "This win will hopefully propel us into some great postseason action," Shine said. "That is really what each game is all about from here on out."

In other ACC action Friday, No. 7 Duke clinched the tournament's No. 1 seed by holding off No. 5 Miami 74-64. It was the Blue Devils' 30th straight win at home against ACC foes.

No. 6 Maryland routed reeling North Carolina 84-64 in the final home game for Terrapins seniors Lynetta Kizer, Anjale Barrett and Kim Rodgers. It was the fourth loss in six games for the Tar Heels (19-9, 9-6). Three of those losses have been by at least 20 points. For the season, UNC has lost six games by 19 points or more.

ACC standings
Duke                     23-4   14-1
Miami                    24-4   13-2
Maryland               24-4   11-4
Georgia Tech         21-7   11-4
North Carolina      19-9     9-6
Virginia                  20-6    8-7
Wake Forest         16-12  6-9
Florida State          14-15  6-9
N.C State              15-14  5-10
Virginia Tech          7-21   3-12
Boston College       7-21   2-13
Clemson                 6-20   2-13

RANDOMNESS with Virginia's Chelsea Shine

RANDOMNESS continues with a delightful chat with Virginia senior Chelsea Shine, who will be one of two seniors (along with Ariana Moorer) honored prior to Friday's game against Wake Forest (6:30 p.m., ESPN3) as part of Senior Night. Shine averages 8.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg and shoots 42 percent from the field. It's hard to imagine another player loving her four years more than Shine, who speaks glowingly of Virginia and Charlottesville.

Big night tonight. Your thoughts?

I get so emotional. I've loved my time here so much. All the experiences that I've had have so hugely impacted who I've become. It's going to be trying tonight to find a balance between the emotion and playing basketball.

One of those experiences was traveling to Vietnam as part of the Coach for College program, a global initiative to promote higher education (Shine and seven other athletes from the ACC made the trip last summer.) Shine's written memories from Virginia's Inside the Huddle include: 

Our room did have air conditioning however,  we got to know the small wildlife very well! Geckos and bugs often became our roommates. The food was surprisingly good. We ate a lot of pork, white rice with every meal, and soup for breakfast! Some of the Vietnamese coaches were calling me "Miss Soy Sauce" by the end of the trip because I used it on everything! I got to experience so many cool things while I was there. I got to see sights I had only dreamed of. And I think I learned more from the kids we worked with than they probably learned from me. 

As you look back on that experience today, what stands out the most?

It's one thing to read about another culture or to talk about another culture, but to be part of it is so eye-opening, so humbling. ... I remember clearly the drive back and forth to the school where we went and seeing a way of life I had never dreamed of for my first 21 years.

What did the experience make you appreciate in this country?

Probably just the simple things in life. I have become more grateful for the things I have. Even education. I look back at the pictures I have on Facebook and the buildings the kids learned in are something not even our homeless would live in.

Your favorite spot in Charlottesville?

I love "The Corner." It's got all these little restaurants and any time of the year you're there, it's fine to be there.

I love this restaurant, "The Flaming Wok."I have great memories of all of us hanging out there -- with my roommates Ariana (Moorer), China (Crosby) and Jazmin Pitts. Plus next door to us are Kelsey Wolfe, Simone Egwu, Lexie Gerson and Ataira Franklin.

You're interested in a career in broadcast?

I've spent a lot of my time doing an internship with WINA, the station that is the Voice of the Cavaliers. (Listen to Shine interview Virginia's Nathan Digregorio about his NFL Draft prospects). In the fall I went to all the (Virginia) football games and did post game interviews with players. I've done some interviews with the baseball and swim team. And I've done some promos and PSAs for our team. Now when I get interviewed, I can see the picture of it on a computer and I can hear the soundbites coming out of my mouth.

What else do you enjoy?

Reading. I love Jodi Picoult, especially "My Sister's Keeper" and "The Pact." I also like Nicholas Sparks.

Movies you never got tired of?

"The Notebook" and "Bridesmaids"

You mentioned shopping, too.

I'm used to (the outlets) close to home (home is Wayne, Pa., never King of Prussia). I like to go to Express Urban Outfitters. I hear they're putting a Buckle in the Charlottesville mall, so maybe it's good I'm graduating.

Was your plan always to attend Virginia?

My top five coming down the stretch were Florida, Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Virginia. When I got here it was  just perfect. Everything was perfect: the area, the education, basketball.

Who do you enjoy watching athletically?

I like the Eagles, Sixers, Flyers and Phillies, but I'm not one of the diehards. I'm probably most familiar with the Phillies. ... I love Michael Jordan and watching him even though he doesn't play anymore. I had these DVDs of when he used to play -- greatest moments and greatest dunks. He's so inspirational.

Your favorite basketball memory?

The win we had earlier this season against Tennessee at John Paul Jones. (Shine led the way for the 69-64 OT win with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block.)

Have you talked to former coach Debbie Ryan this season?

I have a great relationship with her. She's the type of person, if you ever need anything, you don't hesitate to ask. She still supports us. She's not afraid to text us after games.

Three folks you'd like to have dinner with?

Korver in a Sixers jersey
Kyle Korver (currently plays for the Chicago Bulls but used to play for the 76ers), Jennifer Aniston and Princess Diana. An eclectic bunch.

What would you eat?

Sushi at Ten Sushi in Charlottesville.

Do you collect anything?

Notes and letters. I have a box in my room where I keep personal things. I love to go back and look at them. I have a card my grandfather gave me 10 years ago.

Who's coming to support you in the stands for Senior Night.

My mom told me she brought 20 tickets. I've got two sisters coming and a whole bunch of family.

Chelsea with bro Danny

JMU clinches CAA No. 2 seed; VCU prevails; ODU, Mason, W&M and VaTech fall

Thursday's results

James Madison 80, Hofstra 61
Star turns: Not sure if JMU's seniors took Sunday's surprising loss to Northeastern the hardest, but it's probably not a coincidence that two Dukes playing their final season, Lauren Whitehurst and Kiara Francsico, led Thursday's emphatic answer to that defeat. Whitehurst excelled in the first half and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. And Francisco went off after intermission and finished with a career high-tying 20 points.
Deja vu?  On January 19, the Dukes won at Hofstra 81-63. Something about this matchup clearly brings out the best in JMU.
What it means: The Dukes (21-6, 12-4) clinched the No. 2 seed in the CAA Tournament, delaying a potential matchup with high-flying Delaware until the final. Meanwhile, Hofstra (18-9, 10-6) fell into a three-way tie for third with UNC Wilmington and Drexel. At least one of those teams will wind up having to play a first-round game when the tournament commences in two weeks. Maybe two, if VCU has its way.

VCU 73, Georgia State 61:
Star turn: Courtney Hurt went for 31 points - the fourth time this season she's scored 30 or more - and had 22 in the second half as the Rams rallied from a 12-point deficit. Hurt, who began play averaging a Division I-leading 13.1 rebounds per game, hauled down "only" six rebounds against the Panthers. But given that she was so busy carrying the Ram offense, we're cutting Courtney some slack for those extra boards.
Unsung hero: Freshman forward Aprill McRae helped make up for a relatively quiet scoring night from Andrea Barbour (8 points) by contributing 12 points and 5 rebounds. In fairness to Barbour, she wasn't just running around out there as she facilitated offense for others and finished with 6 assists.
Tale of two halves: The Rams shot 37 percent in the first half; 57 percent in the second.
What it means: The Rams (16-11, 9-7) kept themselves in the mix for a tournament first-round bye, moving to within a game of the three third-place teams. Georgia State (7-20, 1-15) lost its sixth straight.

Northeastern 78, Old Dominion 66
Star turn: Reigning CAA Player of the Week Deanna Kerkof scored 24 points and hit 6 of the Huskies' 11 3-pointers. Kerkhof was coming off a 23-point performance in Sunday's 61-50 decision over JMU.
The turning point: Jewel Tunstull's layup with 6:28 left in the second half snapped a 57-57 tie and triggered a 10-0 Northeastern run.
Youth is served: On a tough night for some of ODU's starters, freshmen Myeisha Hall (a career-high 20 points) and Tiffany Minor (10 points, 5 rebounds) came up big to help the Lady Monarchs stay in it. ODU's bench outscored Northeastern's 42-5. Of course, the other side of that is Northeastern's starters outscored ODU's 73-24.
Move over, Adrienne: ODU's Tia Lewis (12 points, 10 rebounds) passed Lady Monarchs assistant Adrienne Goodson for 11th place on the program's all-time scoring list. Lewis now has 1,578 career points.
What it means: The loss was ODU's third straight, all at home, and left the Lady Monarchs (9-19, 6-10) in 9th place, one game ahead of Northeastern (7-20, 5-11). The Huskies have won three straight.

No. 9 Delaware 71, George Mason 53
Star turn: After struggling through a 4-for-19, 12-point effort in Sunday's one-point win at Drexel, Elena Delle Donne scored 22 of her 28 points in the first half and added 11 rebounds as the Blue Hens (25-1, 16-0) won their 15th straight game.
Keeping 'em at bay: The Blue Hens scored 15 of the first 19 points and maintained a double-digit lead from the 10:04 mark of the first half through the rest of the game.
She's No. 1: Patriots star Taleia Moton, who led Mason with 18 points, set the program record for most points in a season. Moton currently has 565 points; the previous high was 549 by Keri Chaconas during the 1995-96 season.
They're No. 1: The Division I leaders in free throw percentage, Delaware made 16 of 18 from the line against the Patriots.
What it means: Delle Donne's shooting slump lasted all of one game. As for the Patriots, they lost for the third time in four games. More importantly, their overall record (13-14, 7-9) slid below .500, and only teams that have won at least half their games can accept at-large bids to the WNIT.

Drexel 72, William and Mary 43
Star turn: Kamile Nacickaite scored 21 points to lead four Dragons in double figures
Bad matchup: The 29-point spread marked the Tribe's largest margin of defeat this season. When the teams met two weeks ago in Williamsburg, the Tribe lost by 19, their third-largest margin of defeat of the season.
Heat check: Why did William and Mary shoot 52.4 percent in the first half yet still go into the break down by 20? Because Drexel shot 61.3 percent over that same span.
It didn't help that...: William and Mary committed 24 turnovers, which led to 28 Drexel points.
What it means: Drexel (14-12, 10-6) moved into a three-way tie for third place with Hofstra and UNC Wilmington. If the season ended today, the Dragons would own the No. 4 seed. As for the Tribe (10-17, 3-13), we still maintain this team is better than its results. Ultimately, though, you are what your record says you are. So for all this team's apparent talent, the record says William and Mary is the 11th-place team in a 12-team league.

No. 17 Georgia Tech 76, Virginia Tech 66
Star turn: Sasha Goodlett had 18 points and 8 rebounds as the Yellow Jackets (21-7, 11-4) held off the undermanned but determined Hokies.
The few, the proud...: Tech essentially played with six players (a seventh, freshman Larryqua Hall, logged 5 minutes). Four of them scored in double figures led by Aerial Wilson with 21. Also, Alyssa Fenyn marked her 21st birthday with a 13-point, 5-assist performance. Overall, the Hokies (7-21, 3-12) shot a season-high 46.2 percent from the field.
She said it: "I give Virginia Tech a lot of credit. I think they played with a lot of heart, energy and desire. It's very easy this time of year to give up a little bit. But I really felt like they showed a lot of fight and determination, especially in the second half." - Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Help fill the seats with kids for ODU's first and second rounds

March Madness comes to Norfolk on March 17 and 19 when the Constant Center hosts the first and seconds rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Fans wishing to support the game by filling the seats with young boys and girls have a great opportunity to make a difference. A donation of $100 will allow 20 children from a local nonprofit children's organization to see the games. Tickets can be distributed to an organization of the donor's choice or ODU can select an organization.

For more information, call (757) 683-5000 or email

Take a kid(s) to the games!

A nice read from Washington Post on Brenda Frese, the mom

Yep, we know we're a state of Virginia blog, and Maryland is the next state over.

But we ran across this story that couldn't help but touch our hearts about Terrapins coach Brenda Frese, mother of twin boys. Her son, Tyler, has leukemia.

Writer Dave Sheinin does a beautiful job throughout in The Washington Post story, particularly in describing how Brenda's husband, Mark, revealed the news to his wife that Tyler had leukemia:

It was Sept. 28, 2010 – they can both recite the date by heart – and Brenda was riding a coach’s high, in the midst of what was shaping up as a great day of recruiting. And truth be told, as much as she missed her 2-year-olds, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to have gotten a full, uninterrupted night of sleep in that quiet hotel room the night before.

She was in her rental car, heading back to the hotel.

“I need you to pull over,” Mark was saying through her cellphone.

Pacing around the ER at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, he had thought hard about how to say what he was about to say, understanding the need to be both direct and upbeat. But all he could picture was her all alone by the side of a road, with no one to comfort her.

And all she could hear was: “Leukemia.”

“You hear that word,” she said recently, “and it’s only natural that your first thought is: How much longer does my son have to live?”

Richmond stifles Duquesne; clinches 4th seed in A-10

Richmond 59, Duquesne 45: First, a quick word about Spiders star Abby Oliver. Before the season began, it wasn't clear how Oliver, the team's only senior but hardly your classic, rah-rah personality, would fare in the road of leader. It's clear now. It figured that the talented, ultra-competitive Oliver would put together an All-Atlantic 10-caliber campaign individually. But she's also been the catalyst for a 22-6 season that has exceeded all expectations. There's enough credit for Richmond's success to go around to all of the Spiders (yeah, and to you coaches, too). But in a lot of ways, Richmond's season is a testament to what can happen when the best player is willing to step out of her comfort zone and embrace all the responsibilities of being a leader.

Now, back to the game. Richmond's victory, coupled with losses by St. Joseph's and Charlotte, allowed the Spiders (22-6, 9-4) to clinch the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. With one game remaining in the regular season, Richmond will finish no worse than 9-5 in the league race. Of the teams trailing the Spiders, only St. Joe's can finish with the same record. Richmond owns the tiebreaker over St Joe's because of its 78-59 victory over the Hawks on Feb. 4 in the teams' lone meeting.

On Wednesday, Richmond clamped down on a Duquesne offense that came in ranked second in the Atlantic 10 at 68.9 points per game, then finished off the Dukes' possessions by controlling the defensive boards. Richmond won the rebounding battle 40-27 and surrendered only 6 offensive rebounds. Then there was Richmond's free throw shooting, which at 18-for-18 was spectacular even by the Spiders' lofty standard. Oliver and Becca Wann (America's best basketball walk-on) each went 6 for 6 while Liz Brown, Rachael Bilney and Kristina King each went 2 for 2 as the Spiders bettered the 16-for-16 effort from the line they produced on Jan. 11 against George Washington. Richmond also went 10 for 10 from the stripe on Dec. 30 at Lehigh. The Spiders began the week ranked third in Division I in free throw shooting at 80.0 percent. Oliver, who leads Division I from the line, is now at 94.1 percent (96 of 102).

Oliver closed out her Robins Center career with a team-high 15 points, Wann had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Rachael Bilney chipped in 13 points for the Spiders (22-6, 9-4 Atlantic 10), Genevieve Okoro came off the bench to haul down 11 rebounds. Alex Gensler led all scorers with 17 points for Duquesne, which lost for the first time in five games.

Atlantic 10 standings
St. Bonaventure         26-2   13-0
Temple                     19-8    12-1
Dayton                     19-6    11-2
Richmond                 22-6     9-4
St. Joseph's              18-9     8-5
Duquesne                 19-9     7-6
Charlotte                  15-11   7-6
LaSalle                     13-15   7-6
George Washington  11-16   4-9
Saint Louis               10-18   4-9
Xavier                       7-19   4-9
UMass                      8-20   3-10
Fordham                  11-17  2-11
Rhode Island            1-27   0-13

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ODU's Ticha an L.A. Spark no more

Ticha Penicheiro is a California girl no more in the WNBA.

ODU's Ticha, who has spent her entire career playing for either the Sacramento Monarchs or Los Angeles Sparks, signed with the Chicago Sky on Wednesday. Her first game in a Sky uniform will be at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Chicago opens at Washington on May 19 (the Sky also visit the Mystics on Aug. 19).

“I’m very excited about the opportunity of playing in the city of Chicago, with an amazing group of talent,” Penicheiro said in a statement. “The mixture of young and veteran players is very appealing and I’m stoked about bringing some of my experience to a franchise that has all the tools to accomplish big things. I know it sounds cliché, but the sky is really the limit. I can’t wait to get the season under way.”

Ticha, 36, signed with Sacramento in 1998 as the second pick in the first round of the WNBA draft. She has played for Los Angeles for the last two seasons. Currently, Ticha is playing in Istanbul with Galatasaray, a team that also includes Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince. Fowles and Prince are also part of the Chicago Sky, which is coached by Pokey Chatman.

James Madison's Tamera Young re-signed with the Sky on Tuesday.

RANDOMNESS with VCU's Andrea Barbour

Thanks to Virginia Commonwealth's Andrea Barbour for participating in the latest edition of LadySwish RANDOMNESS. The redshirt senior, a 5-10 shooting guard, averages 16.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg. Prior to her career at VCU, Barbour made the ACC Rookie Team during a freshman year at Virginia Tech when she averaged 15 ppg. She ultimately transferred to Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, where the basketball program was dormant for two years. In her second year there, the program started again with Barbour leading the Division II Patriots to the national title game (while at PHCC, she even recorded a triple-double 32 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds). Barbour will graduate from VCU in May.

One word to describe you: Quiet

In your spare time, you enjoy? I like to chill. I'm really laid back. I like watching ESPN and "Law and Order SVU."

Your favorite spot on the VCU campus? I like the food place that has Raising Cane's and IHOP.

Favorite food? Chicken and seafood.

On your iPod? Rihanna, Drake, Jessie J., Beyonce

Pre-game song: I like to listen to slow music. I don't like all that hype. Sometimes it'll be Pandora; sometimes that Chris Brown station.

Favorite movie? "Salt" with Angelina Jolie

Secret indulgence: I like soap operas (especially the CBS ones no longer on the air, including "As the World Turns" and "Guiding Light.")

Was it always basketball? Always. I used to stay late at the park and play with the boys.

You took a circuitous route to get to VCU. What did you learn along the way? "I've matured a lot since my first year. Maturity is the big thing. I always knew I would come back to basketball."

Favorite basketball memory? Going to the state finals when I was in high school. (Barbour was Group AA Player of the Year at Charlottesville High. She was also a McDonald's All-American semifinalist her senior  year.)

Who do you enjoy watching? I like Kobe Bryant. I like Deanna Nolan and Angel McCoughtry, Seimone Augustus, Matee Ajavon and Cappie Pondexter.

If you could dine with three people, who would they be? Beyonce, Kobe and Michael Jordan.

Goal for the rest of the season: We've got four seniors. We just want to finish out strong.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Big South: Liberty closes in on No. 1 seed

Liberty 69, Presbyterian 64: Devon Brown went for 27 points and 11 rebounds as the Lady Flames (18-8, 13-2) shook off Saturday's loss to Winthrop and moved to within a game of clinching the No. 1 seed in the Big South Tournament. Reagan Miller added 13 points and Avery Warley chipped in 11 points and 8 rebounds for Liberty, which rallied from a six-point deficit early in the second half. The Lady Flames now have a three-game lead over second-place High Point and Winthrop and can secure the tournament's top seed on Saturday with a victory at home over last-place Gardner-Webb (3-22, 2-12).

Winthrop 67, Radford 56: You know the expression "basketball is a game of runs?" The same holds true for a 2011-12 Highlanders season in which the victories and losses have tended to come in bunches. Radford (14-12, 8-7 Big South) began the season by winning four straight, and went into the weekend on a seven-game winning streak. On the other hand, Monday's loss was their second straight, and their season has also featured two three-game losing streaks and one four-game losing streak. It's not hard to pinpoint the main issue in Monday's loss. Radford's three leading scorers, Da'Naria Erwin Spencer, Ashley Buckhannon and Victoria Hamilton typically combine to average about 38 points a game. Against Winthrop, they combined to produce 13 points on 5-of-35 shooting. Highlander reserves tried valiantly to take up the slack, particularly freshman Jordynn Gaymon, who scored a career-high 15 points. But few teams are equipped to overcome so many blanks being fired by their main weapons. The victory was the fourth straight for Winthrop (15-11, 9-5), which moved into a second-place tie with reeling High Point, which lost its fifth straight game Monday. The Panthers opened Big South play with nine straight victories.

Longwood 76, Gardner-Webb 65: In its first game against a Big South school since the announcement that the Lancers would be joining that conference in July, Longwood showed it should fit right in by rolling over the hapless Runnin' Bulldogs on Senior Night at Willett Hall. Chelsea Coward scored 21 points, Crystal Smith added 18, Erin Neal scored 15 and Brittanni Billups chipped in 14 for the Lancers (6-22). And so continues the season from Hell for Gardner-Webb (3-22), which won 23 games and the Big South Tournament title last season. Has any team every suffered a more pronounced dropoff in one season? Also on Monday, Longwood recognized seniors Billups, Morgan Smith and Mina Jovanovic along with walk-ons Kacie Oliver and Courtney Long in their final home game. The Lancers will finish the year with a 2-2 record against schools in their soon-to-be new conference. Earlier in the season Longwood fell to High Point and Campbell and beat Radford.

Hampton's "Terrific Trio" bids adieu

Melanie Warner, Jericka Jenkins and Choicetta McMillian

As is usually the case, Hampton's players made it look easy on the court against Delaware State. But it couldn't have been easy for Hampton fans to say goodbye to seniors Melanie Warner, Jericka Jenkins and Choicetta McMillian, who made their final appearance at the HU Convocation Center for Monday's 71-44 victory.

Along with coach David Six, the three players have been central figures in the Lady Pirates' emergence as a MEAC heavyweight that can hold its own anywhere in the country. With Warner, Jenkins and McMillian leading the way the past four years, the Lady Pirates have accumulated 81 victories - and counting - two MEAC Tournament titles, a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and a couple of trophy cases full of conference and national awards.

We were gearing up to write our own tribute to the Hampton stars. But it would be tough to top the effort turned in by Hampton sports information director Maurice Williams, who authored this extremely detailed piece chronicling the trio's numerous on- and off-court contributions. 
So hey, congratulations, guys. Now go one out and kick some more MEAC butt.

NOTES: Nicole Hamilton scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half as Hampton raced out to a 16-3 lead on Delaware State and never looked back...McMillian added 11 points and 10 assists while Jenkins, the Division I assists leader, doled out nine dimes...The victory was Hampton's fifth straight and gave the Lady Pirates (20-4, 12-1 MEAC) 20 wins for the third straight season...Next up for the Lady Pirates is a first-place showdown with Florida A&M (19-6, 12-1) Saturday in Tallahassee. FAMU maintained its share of the MEAC lead Monday by downing South Carolina State 76-69.

VCU's Beth Cunningham loving motherhood

She favors Dad. But father Dan Cunningham confesses Margaret Jane Cunningham has her mother's laid-back disposition.

Margaret Jane was born Aug. 24. If you've been to a VCU game this season, you probably saw Margaret and her dad sitting behind the Rams bench. Margaret is an active spectator, who barely stirs despite sitting adjacent to the blaring college band.

"She's great!" beams VCU coach Beth Cunningham, cradling her daughter outside the team locker room post game. Typical mom - Beth's first question for Dan is, "Has she eaten?"

"Just fed," Dan assures.

Being a head basketball coach can be consuming, exhausting and drain you of every last ounce. Add a newborn to the mix and the first question has to be, "How do you make it all work?" Beth has made it look easy (OK, almost easy), Dan says.

"It has really been a lot of fun watching my wife become a mother," he says. "I'm so tired, and she goes to bed after I do and I get up after she does. She has 15 kids plus one. I literally don't know how she does it."

Growing up in Bloomington, Ind., Beth says coming from a big family helped her adjust to motherhood. "There were five of us, and I had a lot of younger siblings," Beth said. "I was used to helping take care of my younger brothers. Obviously, there's a big difference with your own. But I had that comfort level with kids."

Margaret has cooperated well.

"She's made it as easy as she can make it," Beth says. "She's such a good baby. She's sleeping through the night. She's structured and really true to her schedule, and that's helped  -- knowing from day to day what to expect."

What road trip has been hard?

"They're all hard," Beth says. "Anytime she doesn't come, it's hard."

Not that Margaret misses many Rams games. Baby's first Christmas was in Miami (VCU played Morgan State and Miami) and Margaret went to George Mason. Beth's mom, who used to plan her visits around VCU home games, will often travel east for road games instead to relieve Dan.

The Rams love her and aren't reluctant to scoop her off Beth or Dan's laps -- unless.....

"Diaper change, crying -- then they give her back," Dan jokes.

Former Ram Quanitra Hollingsworth visited Beth in the hospital when Margaret was born, and Q's mother cooed over Margaret at Sunday's ODU/VCU game in Norfolk. The players also nicknamed Margaret "MJ" before she left the hospital. At this point, Beth isn't speculating on where MJ might go to college: Notre Dame (Dan and Beth's alma mater) or VCU.

Smiling, Beth says, "We'll leave that up to her."

LadySwish mailbag: CAA teams in the WNIT

             From the LadySwish mailbag:

           Q: What many teams from the CAA will make the WNIT?
  1. A: Here's how it looks to us at this point.

    Delaware will make the NCAA Tournament no matter what the Blue Hens do the rest of the season. If they win out we think they could be as high as a No. 2 seed, and barring a complete collapse it's hard to see where they would be anything lower than a No. 4 even if they don't win the CAA Tournament.

    JMU and Hofstra should receive serious consideration for at-large NCAA bids, although our sense is that neither team is on particularly strong footing in this regard right now. The good news is that if either of these teams could beat Delaware in the CAA Tournament, they would change their outlook dramatically.

    UNC Wilmington, VCU, and Towson all appear to be in excellent shape for WNIT bids. Teams must have at least a .500 record to accept a WNIT at-large bid, so Drexel (13-12) needs to be careful in its final regular-season games. Otherwise, the Dragons' overall resume appears to be comfortably inside the traditional WNIT cut-off.

    George Mason (13-13) is the only other CAA team that will be considered for either of these tournaments. The Patriots' RPI, which was in the 190s at last check, is a lot higher than is characteristic of WNIT teams in the past. But the first order of business is to make sure that record doesn't dip below .500.

    The CAA's other teams will have to play their way into the NCAAs by winning the CAA Tournament.

    So at this stage, we'd expect the CAA to have seven teams playing in the postseason, with Mason having a shot to make it eight.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

VCU rallies to beat ODU; Patriots win in OT; Oliver leads Richmond; Virginia cruises and yikes! JMU falls

The dog days of basketball are upon us with teams ready for the season to culminate in the conference tournament and beyond. The zany as ever CAA added another chapter with JMU falling to Northeastern for the first time in program history, and Delaware clinching the regular season despite a ragged effort against Drexel. The Blue Hens (24-0, 15-1) survived 40-39 after Elena Delle Donne (held to a season-low 12 points) sealed it with a leaner with 2 seconds left.

Speaking of EDD, the nation's leading scorer became Delaware's all-time leading scorer, surpassing 2,030 points. And she's just a junior ....

Sunday's results:

VCU 67, Old Dominion 56
If you've never been to the "pink" game at the Constant Center, you've missed. Nobody could watch the survivor walk and not be inspired by the breast cancer survivors -- with ODU's own Debbie White always the caboose -- circling the arena with the speakers blaring "I Will Survive." What great perspective that brings to an afternoon and to an athletic event.

You wondered if ODU (9-18, 6-9) might respond to an occasion like that, and coach Karen Barefoot said her team wanted it too much. Whatever the reason, ODU came out of the gates  in abysmal fashion, falling behind by 11 before Ashley Betz-White managed the Lady Monarchs' first field goal 7:05 into the first half. ODU's going to get blown out,  you figure. Nope. VCU (15-11, 8-7 CAA) trailed 24-22 at the break behind a spirited rally, fueled in part by Lady Monarch walk-on Brianca Washington seeing significant playing time that included a beauty of a reverse layup. But it wasn't enough, as the Rams turned into the VCU team we suspected they were capable of becoming at season's beginning. True to form, Courtney Hurt had 21 (plus 20 boards) and Andrea Barbour had 16, inspiring coach Beth Cunningham to say, "Courtney and Andrea were huge for us. They played like two first-team all-conference kids tonight." And they got help: eight points and nine assists from freshman point Christina Carter and 10 points from 6-6 Chelsea Snyder. ODU was gold from the free-throw line (15-of-15), but its offense sputtered and was unable to respond to a late 11-4 VCU run. Jo Guilford scored 13 and Jackie Cook, 12, while Tia Lewis had an unusually off game, with just four points (but a team-best nine boards).

The real winners? More than $3,000 was raised for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Northeastern 61, James Madison 50
Results like this one make you wonder just how crazy the CAA Tournament is going to be. The Huskies (6-20, 4-11) recorded their first win over the Dukes, who must be awfully disappointed given how the NCAA Tournament committee might view this outcome when deciding at-large berths. The Dukes (20-6, 11-4) could not overcome an offensive sluggishness that saw them shoot 28 percent. They were without a player in double figures with Tarik Hislop and Kirby Burkholder each contributing eight. Still, JMU remains in sole possession of second in the league. Kudos to Nikki Newman with a team-high 11 rebounds and Lauren Whitehurst for blocking a career-high 6 shots, but when it came down to points, there just weren't enough from JMU.

Richmond 63, Fordham 50
Everybody should have a Senior Day like Abby Oliver, who scored a game-high 23 with nine rebounds. Oliver, the lone senior on one of the youngest teams in the nation, was also 6-of-6 from the free-throwline to keep her atop the nation in free-throw shooting. Genevieve Okoro also had a dream game: 13 points 14 rebounds, and the Spiders improved to 21-6, 8-4. "Abby's terrific every day," said Spiders coach Michael Shafer.  "The reality of it is, I told her, 'You never let us down.  You just never let us down.' ... It's fitting that it's Senior Day, but I feel like every day is Senior Day for her. ... I hate to say it, but she can't leave. We've got to talk to the NCAA! She can't leave."

UNC Wilmington 78, William and Mary 71
The Tribe (10-16, 3-12) got itself into a hole and clawed back but not far enough despite 18 from Jaclyn McKenna, 15 from Taysha Pye and 12 from Taylor Hilton. But the Seahawks showed off their balanced offense that included five players in double figures, including 20 from Jessica Freeman off the bench and 11 points and 10 assists from Alisha Andrews.

George Mason 70, Georgia State 68 OT
Six times Taleia Moton has scored 30 or more, and the senior who we call the most improved player in the league, converted a pair of free throws with .1 second on the clock to clinch the victory over the Panthers (7-19, 1-14). In case you've noticed this is the second OT game in a row for the Patriots (13-13, 7-8), but marks their first win in the extra period since 2007.

Virginia 66, Virginia Tech 40
It was a banner effort from the free-throw line (24-of-25 including Ariana Moorer connecting on all 13 of hers), as the Cavaliers (19-9, 7-7 ACC) beat the Hokies (7-20, 3-11) for the 11th straight time. Moorer's effort from the line was a school record and completed a day that also included 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Tech shot just 25 percent and was led by Aerial Wilson's 13.

Barefoot on Barefoot: Sharon on her Old Dominion sis Karen

Can you tell who is who?

Talk to Karen and you think she is Sharon. Talk to Sharon and she sounds just like Karen.

Sure, there are differences. Karen has brown hair and brown eyes and wears a whistle around her neck most of the time. Her kids are college women -- Lady Monarchs.

Sharon is blond with hazel eyes. She cuts hair. Her kids are Christopher, 10, and Gabe, 2.

Karen is also older. By seven minutes.

"Ha, ha, ha," Karen says, an age difference that Sharon is clearly tired of hearing about.

"Yep,  she likes to joke about that,'' Sharon says good-naturedly.

The Barefoot twins (or should we say the Barefeet?) are two of a kind. For one thing, that fast-talking, sweet Southern twang. Who is who? It's hard to tell. They used to fool their boyfriends on the telephone as teenagers.

"That was Karen's idea," Sharon says emphatically.

"She is my BFF for life," says Karen. "We can finish each other's sentences. She's the beauty. I'm the grinder basketball girl."

Actually they both used to play hoops, though even at 5 years old, Sharon realized this was Karen's game.

"We were at a YMCA camp and I remember her going up to make this layup," Sharon says. "It was just amazing. Right then I could tell basketball was really her. It's like her body and the game are one, completely in tune.  I reflect on that moment a lot."

You probably know the story. Karen was a terror at point guard at Menchville High School. You might remember her from Sports Illustrated's  "Faces in the Crowd," where Barefoot was recognized as being the first man or woman in NCAA history to score more than 2,000 points and amass 1,000 assists during her career (now Courtney VanderSloot of Gonzaga is the only other player to also hold that distinction). For four years, the three-time All-American led CNU in assists and steals. Need we go on?

"My brother Johnny got me into basketball," Karen said. "I followed my granddaddy, Lem Wheeler, who played for Julie Conn in Newport News. ... He started the first girls basketball organization at the Y in Newport News."

As for her "baby" sis:

"When I played, I actually scored for the other team," giggled Sharon, who played one year of JV at Menchville. "Let's just say it wasn't my thing."

Sharon liked to model (just like their mom, Joy, who modeled for "Good Morning America"), and when they were young, Karen took part, too. Sharon cringes when she recalls their runway walk for what used to be the department store Leggetts.

"If I did it, she'd try it, too," Sharon said. "When I was nervous, Karen always said, 'We'll try it together.' "

Karen chose CNU to stay close to Sharon, who now lives in Gloucester. Like most twins they have that quirky twin bond that's hard to explain. "I remember driving to CNU one night and I got this sense that I needed to get there fast," Sharon says. "Sure enough when I got there Karen was in the training room ready to go to the ER. Somebody had come down on her making a shot and busted her eye."

"What makes Sharon and I a perfect fit is that we are complete opposites," Karen says. "We feel each other's emotions and know each other's thoughts."

They both love to annihilate Mom's chili dip. And they can't get enough of the Chevy Chase movie "Vacation." Karen cut the cord when Gabe was born -- "That was one of the special moments of my life," she says. "Like cutting the nets down."

Nags Head is among their favorite spots, mile marker 6 1/2 to be specific -- "my granddaddy's cottage," Karen explains.

When Karen get the job at Lenoir-Rhyne in 2001 in faraway Hickory, NC (344 miles away from Gloucester), Sharon remembers "the hardest day." The twins had never been apart.

"Karen came over and she put on this song, Christopher Cross' 'Sailing,' " Sharon says. "I played flute then and had done a solo of that song. We both just teared up."

Their lives have never followed a similar path, yet they have been intertwined. Big things tend to happen to them together. When Karen left for Carolina, Sharon (who has since added "Lamb" to her name) gave birth to her first child. Shortly after Sharon became a mom again, Karen got the job as head coach at ODU.

Sharon loves to have Karen close to home. They are planning a summer bash for their 40th birthday, which is on March 6 (the party will have to wait until the basketball season concludes). They don't go a day without speaking, usually one, two, OK three times a day.

And you know what? Try as LadySwish might, we couldn't get Sharon to snitch on Karen for being negative and/or unenthusiastic about anything in life.

Not housework. Not traffic jams. Not rain on your only day off.


Never Karen. "She just really embraces life," Sharon said. "She's just really into doing good and helping others."

Now Karen gets plenty mad, confesses Sharon. "My brother had this bag of jellybeans. She and him are so super competitive. She had to get this one particular color of jellybean, and he had ......"


That's Karen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Big South stunners: Liberty, Radford go down

Just another Saturday in the Big South? Not hardly....

Winthrop 71, Liberty 69: The Lady Flames brought an 11-game winning streak into this contest and had won by 25 points when these teams met in Lynchburg in late January. But the Eagles made hay from the 3-point line (10 of 32 3-pointers) and by converting Liberty's numerous mistakes (23 turnovers) into points (20). Avery Warley led Liberty (17-8, 12-2 Big South) with 19 points and 15 rebounds and Tolu Omotola added a season-high16 points, but it wasn't enough to prevent a Winthrop team that came in averaging 70.1 points a game from doing its thing and winning for the fourth time in five games. With the victory, the Eagles (14-11, 8-5) slipped into third place in the conference standings. Meanwhile, the saving grace for Liberty is that second-place High Point also lost Saturday (77-72 to Charleston Southern), meaning the Lady Flames will maintain their two-game lead atop the standings. It was High Point's fourth straight loss.

Presbyterian 52, Radford 49: Kristen Stevens' 3-pointer with 12 seconds left brought an end to Radford's seven-game winning streak.Ashley Buckhannon led Radford (14-11, 8-6 Big South) with 15 points and freshman Ayana Avery came off the bench to chip in 13. But Highlanders star and leading scorer Da'Naria Erwin Spencer (17.4 ppg), who had scored at least 21 points in five of her last six games, was limited to just 8 points against the Blue Hose on 3-of-10 shooting. The loss dropped Radford from third place into a fourth-place tie with Charleston Southern.

NSU takes Long road to OT victory; Hampton stifles UMES

Norfolk State 78, Delaware State 73 (OT): Hard to imagine a more interestingly triumphant Senior Day than the one enjoyed by NSU's Whitney Long. The Spartans star and leading scorer missed all six of her shots in a first half than ended with the Spartans trailing by nine. When play resumed in the second half, Long was on the bench. She stayed there until the first media timeout (15:26), at which point NSU's deficit was 20. Upon her return, Long promptly missed shots No. 7 and 8. Then, with 14:25 remaining, Long stripped the ball from DSU's Tasia Bristow and went coast-to-coast for a layup. And the rest is Norfolk State history. Long had 25 points and five steals over the five 14-plus minutes of regulation, then added two more points and another steal in overtime as the Spartans (10-14, 5-8 MEAC) completed a remarkable comeback against the hapless Hawks (5-20, 2-10). Long's 27 points for the game were the most by an NSU player this season, while Batavia Owens (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Rae Corbo (15 points) also came up big. In addition, Tyisha Bridges, who like Long was honored as a departing senior, chipped in nine points as the Spartans, who have been on the wrong end of this blowing second-half leads business quite a few times this season, made someone else feel that pain for a change. Now, we can't help but wonder, exactly how did the Spartans get in so deep a hole against a Delaware State team they beat by 18 points just two weeks ago in the Hawks' own building? But given the way things turned out Saturday, we'll withdraw the question.

In other MEAC action:

Hampton 47, Maryland-Eastern Shore 29: No, we're not reading from the halftime box. This is what happens when the Lady Pirates (19-4, 11-1 MEAC) clamp down defensively, which is precisely what they've been doing to MEAC foes during their current four-game winning streak. One week ago, Norfolk State squeezed out just 46 points a games Hampton; Delaware State could manage only 33 the game before that. And now this - a season-low points allowed total in which the Hornets (9-15, 6-6) shot just 7 field goals and 15.9 percent from the field. Hampton didn't exactly light things up from the floor, either. But when the opposing team only makes seven baskets the whole game, you really don't have to. With the victory, the Lady Pirates kept pace with Florida A&M atop the MEAC standings. FAMU dispatched Savannah State 58-45 to also improve to 11-1 in the conference. The co-leaders will meet Saturday in Tallahassee. Also, Howard (20-7, 12-2) got a 3-pointer with six seconds left from Tamoria Holmes to vault past Coppin State 50-49. The Lady Bison have won 7 straight and 19 of 21 games since Dec. 3, with the only two losses over that span coming to Hampton.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Karen on video and our very own feature on the ODU coach coming Sunday

Love this Daily Press video on Old Dominion coach Karen Barefoot. Check it out and mark your calendars for Sunday as LadySwish has a very special feature on Barefoot that we can't wait to share with you.

JMU, W&M prevail; ODU, VCU, George Mason and Virginia stumble

Thursday's results:

Towson 70, George Mason 68 (OT): Prior to Thursday night, the Patriots hadn't played an overtime game in nearly four years. If they're going to turn out like this one, they'll gladly wait another four years for the next one. Sheree Ledbetter's rebound putback with two seconds left in overtime lifted Towson to its fourth straight victory. The Patriots, meanwhile, were left to wonder what if:

   - They hadn't turned the ball over with 12.8 seconds left in overtime and the game tied at 68?

   - They'd been able to hold onto that five-point lead with just over a minute to play in regulation?

This year's Tigers (16-9, 7-7 CAA) have tended to thrive in late-game situations, as Thursday's game marked the sixth time this season they've won after a game-tying or game-winning basket in the final 10 seconds. As for the Patriots (12-13, 6-8), we suspect they rather do without such drama.

William and Mary 66, VCU 63: Don't know if the Tribe did some soul-searching or held any come-to-Jesus meetings after Sunday's 19-point home loss to Drexel, but they responded with the type of balanced, clutch performance we've long believed these guys had in them. Taylor Hilton, Katherine DeHenzel, Taysha Pye and Jaclyn McKenna all made key shots/free throws in the final two minutes as the Tribe (10-15, 3-11 CAA) snapped a five-game losing streak and scored their first win in Richmond since the 2005-06 season. VCU's effort was led - as usual - by Courtney Hurt, who surpassed Quanitra Hollingsworth as the program's all-time leading rebounder and now has 1,117 boards for her career. The senior forward recorded 21 points and 11 rebounds on the night for her 16th double-double of the season. But Hurt's usual scoring tag-team partner, Andrea Barbour (17.4 ppg), had 6 assists but went 0-for-7 from the field and did not score a point in 34 minutes. Frankly, we didn't think that was possible. It's the latest in a series of odd occurrences in what has been a real head-scratcher of a season at VCU (14-11, 7-7).

James Madison 62, UNC Wilmington 53: Prior to Thursday, the Dukes (20-5, 11-3 CAA) were becoming notorious for their mastery of the "yeah, but..." victory. Like a couple of weeks ago, they beat Old Dominion. Yeah, but they got outrebounded by 20-plus. That win over George Mason? Yeah, but they only shot 22 percent. How 'bout that overtime win over Drexel? Yeah, but they only made 10 of 25 free throws. And so it has gone. Thursday, though, there were a lot of "yeahs" but no real "buts" as the Dukes scored the first 12 points and kept the Seahawks at arm's length all night. There was good stuff all over the stat sheet. JMU shot a sizzling 51 percent from the field and held UNCW to a measly 28.4 percent. They won the rebounding battle by 12, had three double-digit scorers (Kirby Burkholder with 18, Tarik Hislop with 17 and Kiara Francisco with 10) and spooned out 19 assists on 26 field goals. OK, so the 21 turnovers were a tad high. Still, the Dukes' fifth straight victory was clearly the cleanest of the bunch, and it solidified JMU's hold on second place in the CAA race while clinching the program's seventh straight 20-win season.

Drexel 53, Old Dominion 45: A stunning reversal of fortunes for the Lady Monarchs, who led 27-13 after the first 20 minutes before losing their mojo. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time ODU has struggled coming out of the halftime locker room. Still, it takes two teams to produce a turnaround this dramatic, so credit the Dragons for gettting their 3-point game going (8 of 16 from distance after the break) and cranking up their CAA-leading scoring defense and holding ODU to just 18 points in the second half. Tia Lewis finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds (all defensive) for ODU (9-17, 6-8 CAA); Hollie Mershon led all scorers with 18 points and Kamile Nacickaite added 16, all in the second half, for Drexel (13-11, 9-5). The loss eliminates ODU from consideration for the WNIT, as only teams with .500 records or better can receive at-large bids to that tournament. The best the Lady Monarchs can finish now before postseason invitations are handed out is 17-17, and that would require going 4-0 at the CAA Tournament. Of course, if the Lady Monarchs do that, they won't care who's in the WNIT because they'll be headed to the NCAAs.

No. 8 Maryland 73, Virginia 56: The Cavaliers (18-9, 6-7 ACC) have been so competitive so often this season it's strange to see a game where they're never really in it. This was such a game, though, as the Terrapins (22-4, 9-4) jumped out quickly (16-5) and continued cruising to hand coach Brenda Frese her 300th coaching victory. Maryland's dominance was reflected by their 53-27 rebounding edge and 48 points in the paint. Reigning ACC Player of Week Tianna Hawkins put down dibs on next week's honor with a 26 point, 14-rebound effort in which she made 12 of her 13 shots. Ariana Moorer scored 23 points and 5 steals for Virginia, but there were precious few other highlights on a night when the Cavs simply didn't have it. "It was our worst game of the year," Virginia coach Joanne Boyle said.

CAA standings
Delaware              14-0   23-1
James Madison     11-3   20-5
Hofstra                   9-5   17-8
Drexel                    9-5   14-11
UNC Wilmington   8-6    15-11
Towson                  7-7   16-9
VCU                      7-7   14-11
George Mason       6-8    12-13
Old Dominion         6-8    9-17
William and Mary   3-11  10-15
Northeastern          3-11   5-20
Georgia State         1-13   7-18