Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's love got to do with GMU, Hampton, JMU, Liberty, Longwood, NSU, ODU, Radford, Richmond, VCU, Va., Tech and W&M? Plenty

It's the day to celebrate being in love, and at that reminds us at LadySwish what we love about the 13 teams we call ours in Virginia.

George Mason: Two words jump to mind. Taleia Moton, all 5-foot-6 of her. The most improved player in the CAA? Consider the senior guard averaged 12.2 ppg last season, shooting 37 percent from the field and 19 percent from 3. This year Moton averages 20.9 ppg -- in five games she has scored 30 or more -- shoots 47 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3. Love that hot hand.

Hampton: Love the way these Pirates go about their business. David Six isn't looking to build a MEAC champion; he's looking for the Pirates to be a national contender. As for Jericka Jenkins, what's not to love? The underrated point guard remains the best in her position in the state and leads the nation in assists, averaging 8 per game.

James Madison: You can't help but love the confidence of Tarik Hislop, clocking winding down, Dukes down by one. Hand the ball to Hislop and count it. Add that to Nikki Newman's sweet embrace of defense and that marvel of a shooter named Kirby Burkhholder (can we remind you she scored 31 points all of last season?!). Lots to love about Kenny Brooks and his DEEfensive Dukes.

Liberty: For starters, how can you help but swoon over Averly Warley -- now the Big South's all-time leading rebounding who also happens to shoot 57 percent from the field? Love the team blog, also (wish more teams did one). And that 11-game Lady Flames win streak is pretty infatuating, too.

Longwood: What can we say? Love that the Lancers beat Air Force on the road on Jan. 7 (their first win away from Farmville in nearly a year). And you know what we love even more? The Lanceres are Big South Conference bound. Imagine how much fun this game will be with something to play for at the end!

Norfolk State: We're smitten when our kids do something special, and that includes Rachel Gordon becoming the 20th NSU player to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Plus we're tickled that NSU finally prevailed over a MEAC team on the road (Morgan State on Jan. 14) to halt a five-year streak of futility against conference foes away from Norfolk.

Old Dominion: We love Karen Barefoot's unbridled enthusiasm. Oh, sure, sometimes  we wonder how the Lady Monarchs coach can keep smiling, but you know what? At this point, ODU looks to be the most improved team in the league heading into the second half of the season. Add on Tia Lewis' consistency and candor (she lets us know when we're wrong, folks, something we admire) and we can't say enough about the headiness of Ashley Betz-White, a freshman with the poise of an upperclassman. Can't forget Mairi and Becca and their glorious ways of making the most ordinary words sounds extraordinary with their wonderful Scottish accents.

Radford: We adore the win streak (seven straight) and we're suckers for Da'Naria Erwin Spencer (the name is great and what a player!). Better yet we love that defense that holds opponents to 50.7 ppg and ranks 11th nationally in steals.

Richmond: It's February 14, and this team has already won 20 games. We didn't anticipate Richmond being in NCAA Tournament contention given its youth, but we love the fact that they're in the conversation. We also are sweet on Abby Oliver, so consistent at what she does offensively that we sometimes overlook her. And we hold a special spot for Becca Wann, who doesn't just play two sports (soccer and basketball); she excels at two sports.

VCU: Who can't help but love the rise of Courtney Hurt as one of the nation's premier offensive threats? Then there's Andrea Barbour, a leading scorer on just about any other team, who doesn't take a night off. We haven't met Beth's new baby Margaret Jane, but you know what? We know we'd love her to pieces.

Virginia: Frankly, we admire the way the Cavs have gone about their business under new coach Joanne Boyle. We love Debbie Ryan? Who doesn't? But right now we really like, dare we say love? the way Boyle has this team playing, particularly given the coaching transition and the loss yet again of point guard China Crosby. We'd love to see them in the NCAA Tournament, and we think we might get our wish.

Virginia Tech: Simply put, we love this score: Virginia Tech 75, No. 8 Maryland 69. That result stands as the biggest upset of the season in the sport, and it was in College Park. Tech hadn't beaten a top 8 opponent since 1998. Love that score, Hokies.

William and Mary: Mickey Mouse used to scare Janine Aldridge. Taysha Pye plans to read the Bible cover to cover. Want your pooch trained? Take him to Jaclyn McKenna. We plain and simple love the Tribe -- who we got to know better thanks to the insightful and fun 20 questions on the team website for each player.

Lots to love about Love and Basketball in the state of Virginia. Hey, someone should make a movie.... Happy Valentine's Day, players, coaches and fans!

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