Friday, February 17, 2012

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

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