Friday, March 23, 2012

WNIT: Virginia rolls; VCU falls

WNIT bracket

Virginia 74, Appalachian State 58 : This is clearly a bad matchup for the Mountaineers, as the mere sight of these guys turns the typically low-scoring Cavaliers into an offensive juggernaut. In its season opener, Virginia hung 80 points on Appalachian State in a 32-point victory. And the 74 points they put up Thursday were the most by the Cavaliers since an 84-41 win over Wagner on Dec. 28 in the Marriott Cavalier Classic. Ariana Moorer 16 led the way with 16 points and a career-high 11 assists while Ataira Franklin dropped 22 points and Telia McCall  added 14 for Virginia, which will meet Friday's JMU-South Florida winner in the WNIT quarterfinals. It's the fourth time in seven seasons Virginia has reached this tournament's final eight. Kate Mallow paced the Mountaineers (27-7) with 17  points and freshman Maryah Sydnor added 14. Sydnor originally signed with Longwood but was granted her release after the Lancers changed head coaches in December, 2011.

Toledo 81, VCU 64: The Rams' string of WNIT miracles ended at about the 8-minute mark of the second half when the defending WNIT champion Rockets broke a 51-51 tie with 22-3 run and left the Rams without enough time to work their late-game magic. As usual, the VCU relied heavily on senior stars Courtney Hurt (26 points, 17 rebounds) and Andrea Barbour (23 points), and the dynamic duo delivered by combining for 49 of the Rams' 64 points (26 of 28 in the first half). Offense wasn't really VCU's problem, though. When you surrender 81 points on 52.4 percent shooting, even scorers the caliber of Hurt and Barbour will struggle to keep up.Then again, few opponents have much success at Toledo's Savage Arena, where the Rockets have developed one of the most underrated homecourt advantages in Division I. The Rockets have now won nine straight at home and are 57-7 at Savage in three-plus seasons under coach Tricia Cullop. All six of last season's WNIT victories were home games, and so are all three of this season's postseason wins. Thursday night's crowd of 3,042 included a nice student section, spurred on by the fact that the first 300 to arrive got free pizza and T-shirts.

As for the Rams, it's tough to picture this team without Hurt, Barbour and fellow senior Chelsea Snyder leading the way. But we felt the same way a couple of years ago when D'Andra Moss, Kita Waller and LaToria Rorie moved on, and before that when Quanitra Hollingsworth departed. Not sure how Beth Cunninhgam is going to do it this time, but history says it's probably not a good idea against the Rams maintaining their status as Colonial Athletic Association contenders somehow.

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