Saturday, November 10, 2012

The stars of opening day/night

Emily Correal
With the first day of the 2012-13 season now in the books, here are a few of the players that demanded our attention:

Kashay Barnes, Norfolk State - If you get a chance, check this young lady out. Missed layups are all-too-common in the women's game, but Barnes has an uncanny and most-welcome ability to finish in traffic around the rim. And while she's got a bit of a funky release on her 3-pointer, it doesn't prevent that shot from being money, too. At least it was Friday night, when she torched Penn for a team-high 16 points off the bench in the Spartans' well-executed 60-51 victory. Heading into the season, it appeared the Spartans had everything except a player who could just get hers, a pure scorer. In Barnes, it looks like they have one now.

Keiara Avant/Verdine Warner, Hampton - The Lady Pirates' two emphatic answers to the question: Who's Hampton going to turn to in the post-Jericka Jenkins era? The formerly underrated Avant went for 26 points and 13 rebounds in HU's 37-point beatdown of Southern Miss (in the Golden Eagles' own gym, no less). The 6-6 Warner, meanwhile, punctuated her Hampton debut with the following numbers: 17 points, 18 rebounds, 4 blocks. Last season, Warner and Norfolk State's Barnes were teammates at Monroe College, along with another Norfolk State transfer, Aivah Parham. No wonder that team won an NJCAA national title.

Sarah Imovbioh
Sarah Imovbioh, Virginia: We kept hearing about  how raw she is and how much basketball she still has to learn. Then in her first game, the former Parade All-American gets a start, scores 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting and grabs 10 rebounds in UVa.'s 78-57 rout of JMU. Can't wait to see what she does once she figures this game out. By the way, Imovbioh's start came at the expense of senior Simone Egwu, who is sidelined with a leg injury. Cavaliers coach Joanne Boyle said the hope is that Egwu will be out only 2-3 weeks.

Jackie Cook, Old Dominion: Delivered 17 points and 9 rebounds in ODU's 55-35 suffocation of Virginia Tech. When sizing up the Lady Monarchs this season, there was a tendency to focus on this newcomer or that transfer or such-and-such-a-sophomore. Thanks Jackie - along with Mairi Buchan (10 points) and Becca Allison (7 points, 8 rebounds), too - for reminding everyone that the veterans on this squad can play a little basketball, too.

Emily Correal, William and Mary - Hindsight wasn't the only thing that was 20-20 at Kaplan Arena Friday. The senior forward's 25 point, 21-rebound effort wasn't enough to prevent her Tribe from falling to East Carolina, but it looks as though EmCo is set to really go off in her final season. The 21 boards tied the school's single-game record. By the way, it was players with ties to teams in this state that did William and Mary in - twins Whitny (16 points, 9 rebounds) and Britny (12 points) Edwards, formerly of Virginia, and Virginia Tech transfer Kyani White (12 points, 7 steals) led East Carolina.

More kudos

- Led by Chelsea Coward (16 points and 15 rebounds) and freshman Daiesha Brown (18 points), Longwood gave Richmond fits before succumbing by 10 at the Robins Center. First impressions suggest the Lancers may be better than anyone predicted - including us.

- Congrats on crossing the 1,000-point threshold at George Mason, Amber Easter,

- Seven 7-pointers from Kirby Burkholder? What a potent weapon. Too bad it was the only one locked and loaded for JMU Friday night.

- Welcome to the Top 5 on Liberty's all-time scoring list, Devon Brown (1,460 career points).

A few concerns

Look, it's only one game, so no overreactions here. That said, we couldn't help arching an eyebrow about:

- Virginia Tech's shooting: All hail ODU's defensive efforts. But 35 points? C'mon Hokies. We know you're better than that. A lot better. So just burn the tape. Or better yet, send it to Norfolk. We suspect the Lady Monarchs won't mind an extra copy.

- JMU's readiness for battle - Again, full credit to Virginia. But with 28 turnovers and no offensive thrust coming from anyone exceept Burkholder, the Cavs defense was coupled with a surprisingly not-quite-ready-for-primetime performance by the Dukes. Here's JMU coach Kenny Brooks' post-mortem:

- 35 Liberty's turnovers: Unfortunately, turnovers have become something of a systemic problem with the Lady Flames in recent years, the biggest thing holding them back from taking that next step as a program. I mean, the Lady Flames held Duquesne to 29.7 percent shooting, won the rebounding battle by 10 and got a game-high 19 points from Brown. But when you surrender 36 points off turnovers, it's like you're giving all of that back.

But again, for Liberty and everyone else that suffered defeat Friday, it's only one game. No one's season was made or broken Friday night. We're just getting started.

Coming up

Sunday, Nov. 11
Quinnipiac at James Madison, 1 p.m.
William and Mary at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 12
Miami at Richmond, 7 p.m.
Hampton at Mississippi State, 7 p.m.
Virginia at Penn, 7 p.m.
VCU at Elon, 7 p.m.
Air Force at Longwood, 7 p.m.

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