Sunday, December 2, 2012

King, Wann lead Richmond past JMU

As writers, we cringe when players and coaches used the phrase "we stepped up." It's the ultimate sports cliche, a phrase so overused it's pretty much lost all meaning.

That said, every once in a while, the tired old line actually fits. So with apologies to journalists everywhere, here goes: Kristina King and Becca Wann really stepped up in Richmond's 70-66 victory at JMU Sunday.

That's right, we said it. You see, over the Thanksgiving weekend the Spiders saw junior forward Genevieve Okoro go down for the season with an ACL tear. Already an all-conference performer, Okoro seemed poised for her best season yet. And while the Spiders have plenty of good players, they don't really have another Okoro, someone with that combination of athleticism and hops. She seemed to be the one player the Spiders couldn't replace. That is, unless one of two of the other Spiders started doing stuff they'd never done before.

Which is precisely what happened Sunday. I mean, Kristina King is a very nice player who has really come into her own this season. But a career-high 29 points, 11 more than she'd ever scored in a college game before? Damn, girl! Oh, and Spiders coach Michael Shafer said she did a great job defensively, too. Meanwhile, all Richmond got from Wann, who moved into the starting lineup after Okoro's injury, was a career-high 21 points and 15 rebounds. You know, Delle Donne numbers.

Now, no one expects these two to go off like this every night (right?). But it's clear the Spiders understand that in order to get the team results they covet without Okoro, everyone else is going to have to do a little more. This time, King and Wann did a lot more.

In short, (gulp) they stepped up.

Still, the biggest shot of the game came from ol' reliable Rachael Bilney, who drained a 3-pointer - her only one of the game - with 2:26 left to vault her Spiders ahead 63-61. Bilney's shot came 18 seconds after the Dukes, who trailed the entire second half, had finally forged ahead on a Tarik Hislop layup. Richmond would not trail again.

Hislop finished with 22 points. But it was an otherwise tough day for the Dukes. In addition to the obvious defensive struggles against King and Wann, JMU was also beaten on the boards and generally lost the battle of physicality, according to Dukes coach Kenny Brooks.

"Richmond was tougher than we were," Brooks said during his postgame radio interview.

Brooks' track record suggests he'll find the appropriate corrective measures. It will help if he can have his whole team available for practices. Freshman point guard Angela Mickens has only recently returned to action after battling injuries, and sophomore forward Toia Giggetts missed time after suffering a concussion.

In other games Sunday:

George Mason 58, UAB 55: In her first game since dropping a career-high 33 points on Drake eight days ago, Patriots senior Rahneeka Saunders scored seven straight points in the final 1:34 to wipe out a four-point deficit. Saunders finished with a team-high 16 points, Amber Easter added 13 points and 9 rebounds and Janaa Pickard had 11 points and 11 boards.

Old Dominion 73, Dartmouth 59: A career-high 23 points from redshirt senior Mairi Buchan led the way for the Lady Monarchs, who also scored 28 points off 23 Dartmouth turnovers. Jackie Cook added 19 points, Tiffany Minor chipped in 10 and Shae Kelley pulled down 12 rebounds.

No. 25 West Virginia 54, Virginia 47: Would have loved to see the Cavs get a win here, but we're not surprised they struggled to score. Most teams do against the rugged Mountaineers, one of the most physical teams in the country.

Saturday's shoutouts

Devon Brown, Liberty: Scored 9 of her game-high 28 points in the final 4:45 as the Lady Flames rallied for a 67-65 victory at Radford in an exciting Big South opener. Liberty trailed the entire second half until Tolu Omatola scored with 43 seconds left.

Alyssa Fenyn, Virginia Tech: Tied her career high with 17 points and added 7 assists and 4 rebounds as the Hokies topped Longwood to win for the third time in a seven-day span. Fenyn got strong support from Monet Tellier (13 points, 8 assists) and freshman Lauren Evans (10 points, 10 assists). Notice that's 25 assists from three players.

Da'Naria Erwin Spencer, Radford: Scored a season-high 21 points in the near-miss to Liberty while moving into seventh place on the Highlanders' all-time scoring list with 1,215 career points.

VCU's "high octane" style: Looks as though the Rams age getting the hang of this uptempo approach as it yielded five double-figure scorers in an 86-57 victory over Florida A&M - Robyn Parks (19 points), Jessica Pellechio (14), Kaneisha Atwater (13), Janniina Koivunen (12) and Robyn Hobson (10). Also, Shekinah Henry grabbed 14 rebounds.

Kenia Cole, Hampton: The sophomore guard poured in a career-high 20 points as Hampton kicked off MEAC play with a 59-46 win at South Carolina State. By the way, it's pronounced Ka-NEE-yuh. Nice double-double by Keiara Avant, too (12 points, 12 rebounds).

Crystal Smith, Longwood: The senior's season-high 26 points in the loss at Virginia Tech were produced in part by a career-high 5 3-pointers.

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