Thursday, February 28, 2013

NCAA hypocrisy: Stringer's numbers count; Donovan's don't

Let's start by making this clear. LadySwish wishes to congratulate Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer for winning her 900th game. It is a marvelous accomplishment and one that will go down in the record books. Our problem, however, is the record books.

Some statistics count. Others are disregarded. We've harped on this before; let us harp again.

Old Dominion center Anne Donovan does not hold the NCAA record for shots blocked despite blocking 801 shots between the years 1979 and 1983. Baylor's Brittney Griner holds the mark with 712  swats given that Donovan recorded all but 427 of her blocks in AIAW play.

Those same record books recognize Stringer for 900 victories despite 144 of those coming at Cheyney State during, get this, AIAW play.

We'll say it again before anybody gets testy. We respect Stringer and Griner for their accomplishments. But we don't respect a system that slights some AIAW numbers and rewards others. We don't slight a league that crowned champions that include UCLA, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech and Rutgers.

Stringer now join Pat Summitt, Jody Conradt and Sylvia Hatchell as coaches with at least 900 victories.  We'd be remiss not to point out that 351 of Conradt's victories were in AIAW play. Hatchell collected 272 of her victories at Division II Francis Marion.

Again, not slighting anyone here, but why aren't Donovan's 801 blocks good enough to make her the No. 1 shot blocker to play the game?

We can't help but quote Lynette Woodard, who amassed an incredulous 3,649 points at Kansas between 1978 and 1981 but does not have her name in the NCAA record book. Jackie Stiles is ranked No. 1 for career scoring with 3,393 points.

 Said Woodard, "Basketball did not start when the NCAA blessed it."

We couldn't have said it better.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Atlantic 10 update: Richmond rolls, VCU facing must-win scenarios

Richmond continued its late-season surge Wednesday as the Spiders cruised past Rhode Island 60-50 for their season-high fourth straight victory.

Kristina King scored a team-high 14 points and Rachael Bilney added 13 for the Spiders, who shot out to a 16-4 lead and overcame going scoreless for the final six minutes of the first half to lead by as many as 23 points after the break.

A couple of weeks ago, the Spiders were in danger of not qualifying for the 12-team Atlantic 10 Tournament. Now they're in the field with room to spare - with a 6-7 conference record, the Spiders are currently in a three-way tie for seventh place with Xavier and George Washington. Richmond closes its season at home Sunday against Charlotte (22-4, 11-1), which has won 11 in a row and is 8-0 lifetime against the Spiders. Still, win or lose, the Spiders know they will be seeded somewhere between 7 and 11 at the A-10 tourney.

The situation is more dicey - but not impossible - for VCU (10-17, 3-9), which as of Wednesday night is in 13th place out of 16 teams - one spot out of the tournament. The Rams have two games left. If they lose both, their season's over. If they win both, although it's not totally clear at this point, we'd like their chances. Problem is, one of the two games is Thursday night at Charlotte (22-4, 11-1), one of the hottest teams in the country. If VCU can pull off the upset, then prevail as expected in their season final Sunday at home against Rhode Island (6-21, 1-12), the Rams could qualify for the tournament outright, or at the very least tie for a tourney slot with as many as three other teams. Not sure how that would all sort out.

Now if the Rams lose at Charlotte and win against Rhode Island, they would then need La Salle to lose its final game at St. Bonaventure. The Rams and Explorers would wind up tied for 12th place with identical 4-10 records. The first tiebreaker for a two-team deadlock is head-to-head record, and since VCU beat La Salle 69-50 on Feb. 17, the way we read it the Rams would nab the 12th seed in this scenario and head to the tournament.

St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and UMass have all be eliminated from A-10 tournament contention.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Seniors chats: George Mason's Rahneeka Saunders

LadySwish gets sentimental this time of year, just one of the reasons we like talking to seniors. We recently caught up with George Mason's Rahneeka Saunders, who has started 56 of the Patriots last 57 games. The 5-6 guard from Washington, D.C. makes the George Mason offense go, leading the team in scoring (11.5 ppg) and assists (78).

Reflect on your George Mason memories.

I think of the game I just played a few days ago. I hit the game-winning shot against William and Mary. That was pretty exciting. That was the first time I've ever hit a game-winning shot. I'm glad coach (Jeri) Porter had the confidence to put the ball in my hand at the last minute. (Saunders scored 19 with 13 boards in the 57-56 victory.)

A memorable road trip?

I really enjoyed New Mexico. That was the farthest I've ever been. (Patriots traveled to Las Cruces over Thanksgiving, defeating Drake and falling to New Mexico State.)

What's next?

I plan to play overseas. I'm getting my game tape ready and looking for an agent.

And once your playing days are over?

I really want to get into coaching. If not, I'd like to work for a professional sports organization.

How does Rahneeka Saunders spend a day off?

For fun, I like to play my XBox 360. I like to play Need for Speed, and I also like to play (NBA) 2K13.

Who do you enjoy watching play the game?

For men, I love to watch the Wizards and the Heat, and I love to watch the Mystics. I like all the WNBA teams. I like Alana Beard, and I like to watch Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi.

It's great to hear somebody rooting for the Wizards!

I love the home teams. I love the Wizards. I like John Wall; I've met him.

Do you like being a scorer or a passer?

I would like to go back to passing. Don't get me wrong. I love to score, but I think I'm more of a passer. At the same time, I think I adjusted well to being a scorer. I really like the role I have right now. I'm excited my team depends on me to produce points. I accepted the role I had this year, and I want to build on it and make scoring become more a part of my game.

How special will Senior Night be (it's Thursday against UNC Wilmington)?

My family will be there. Most of my friends. will be there. It will be an exciting moment. This year, my mom hasn't felt all that well, so she hasn't been to as many of my games. For her to be there, it will mean a lot to me. Hopefully I'll play well, and we'll get a win.

What will you miss the most about George Mason?

I would say being around my team. I really enjoy them. I have good friendships with them.

What kind of things do you guys do together?

We cook at each other's house and play card games.We play Taboo.

The best cook is ... ?

Cierra (Strickland). She cooks spaghetti really well. I like to make breakfasts.

ODU routs Hofstra, improves WNIT chances

Shae Kelley
OK, coaches. Remember back in October when you told us you were gearing your teams to peak at the end of the season? Well, here we are. Show of hands - how many of you can honestly say your team is doing that right now?

Hmmm, don't see many hands...wait, there's one, attached to a point guard-sized woman who is jumping up and down....

Karen Barefoot, is that you?

Sure is. And it would be tough to argue with her after Old Dominion's 80-57 Senior Day dismantling of Hofstra Sunday at the Constant Center, a game the Lady Monarchs coach agreed was her team's best performance of the season.

"I would say so. As far as our overall team performance, yeah," Barefoot said after the Lady Monarchs carved up a Hofstra team that had handled them relatively easily earlier this year in New York. "This was a really talented team we just played, and we made them play bad."

Superlatives abounded for the Lady Monarchs Sunday, but what really stood out to us is how efficiently ODU burned the Pride in the halfcourt. Crisp passing continually led to easy layups or wide-open perimeter shots. Everyone got into the act, too - all but one of the 10 Lady Monarchs to see action had at least one of the team's 19 assists.

The Lady Monarchs led by 17 at halftime and by as much as 25 midway through the second half. The beating was so thorough that with 5:30 left, Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn Steveskey said "uncle" and finished the game with five freshmen.

The loss was potentially devastating to the postseason hopes of the Pride, who also faded badly down the stretch in 2011-12. With a 12-14 overall record and nationally ranked Delaware next on the schedule, Hofstra is facing a scenario in which they may have to reach the CAA final just to have the requisite .500 record to accept a WNIT bid.

ODU's WNIT outlook is considerably brighter. Last week we wrote that, based on the WNIT's history of awarding bids, the Lady Monarchs had likely already done enough to earn a nod. The victory over Hofstra cinches it, in our opinion. Tough road games at JMU and Northeastern await. But with ODU playing its best ball of the season, the Lady Monarchs may not be done polishing up that resume yet.

Finally, we often get so caught up in making our point we look back at a post and notice we haven't mentioned a single player. And guess what? We did it again. So, here are a few quick player hits:

Ashley Betz-White: Strong performance on defense - as always - and on the ball, easily her best since her recent bout with concussion symptoms. Took a nasty spill in the second half and banged her head against the scorer's table wall, but laughed it off after the game while indicating everything's cool in the ol' noggin.

Jackie Cook: Talk about finishing strong - Cook is averaging 19.7 ppg over her last three games and has scored at least 17 in each contest. Prior to this stretch, Cook hadn't scored more than 16 in any game since before Christmas (25 vs. Alabama A&M on Dec. 21).

Shae Kelley: Continuing her strong push for All-CAA honors - as evidenced by her Co-CAA Player of the Week nod. Oh, and she's also made 10 of her last 14 free throws over the last two games.

Becca Allison: Lightning-fast guard tied a season high with 14 points. Also showed toughness in bouncing back from a hard first-half foul while streaking in for a layup. Barefoot was livid, apparently over the lack of a flagrant foul call, and had to be restrained from heading onto the court. For what it's worth, a still photo of the play shows the Hofstra defender did get one hand squarely on the ball - and the other on Allison.

Chelisa Painter: Fierce shoes!

Shakeva Richards: Modest numbers - 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists - barely hint at the pivotal role Richards played defensively and on the boards as part of the unit that helped the Lady Monarchs break things open in the first half.

Mairi Buchan: Seems to be playing with a lot of confidence. Making quick, decisive moves upon receiving the ball.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

JMU closing in on Delaware?

Add another chapter to what throughout the Elena Delle Donne Era has been by far the CAA's compelling rivalry.

Just this season alone we've seen the Blue Hens pull away late for a seven-point victory on Feb. 10 in Harrisonburg that had been their closest conference encounter. That is, until Sunday, when the Blue Hens survived 61-60 in a nail-biter that played out before a regional TV audience and the largest women's basketball crowd in Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center history (5,098). The final 30 seconds alone was a big-time thrill ride, featuring:

     - Tarik Hislop banking in a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to cut a five-point deficit to two;

     - Delle Donne, a 91-percent free throw shooter who had made her first 11 attempts, rimming out the 12 with 15 seconds left to keep it a one-possession game (61-58).

     - Hislop driving into the lane for a 2-point jumper - which missed - with four ticks left and the Dukes down three.

      - And finally, with the Blue Hens essentially needing only to get the ball inbounds and get fouled, JMU's Precious Hall stealing it from Lauren Carra and laying it in as time expired.

     In his postgame radio interview, JMU coach Kenny Brooks boldly asserted his Dukes had been the better basketball team. Now, the scoreboard doesn't lie. But coaches don't give the media quotes like that without their own agenda. We suspect Brooks was mostly sending a message to his players that instead of feeling deflated by Sunday's result, the Dukes should leave Newark with a renewed sense of confidence they can take the Blue Hens down should the teams lock up for Round 3.

The trick for the Dukes is to set up that Round 3. The Dukes need just one win in their remaining three games to clinch at least the third seed in the CAA Tournament, and the same is true for Drexel. In other words, all signs point to a 2 vs. 3 tournament semifinal featuring Drexel and JMU, with the winner earning a final-round shot at the top-seeded defending champion Blue Hens.

The Dukes certainly know better than to sleep on the Dragons, who have won three of the last four meetings - including a 2-point decision at JMU earlier this season - and have JMU coming to their place in the March 6 regular-season finale. If the Dukes can't solve their Drexel puzzle, none of this let's-get-our-Delaware-swagger stuff will matter.

But if the Dukes can find their way to another game with the Blue Hens, well, in the words of ex-boxing official Mills Lane - not to mention Marvin Gaye - "Let's get it on!"

Virginia Tech celebrates good times

Feels great to get a big win, doesn't it?

Obviously, Virginia Tech (9-19, 3-13 ACC) hasn't posted many. But every now and then they've provided glimpses of what's possible. The latest came Sunday, when Monet Tellier crashed through the 1,000-point barrier with a 24-point performance and Uju Ugoka added 21 points and 12 rebounds in Tech's 71-52 drubbing of No. 19 Florida State.

That Tech was able to hold down a potent Florida State offense (the Seminoles came in averaging an ACC-leading 78.5 points per game) wasn't really that surprising, as the Hokies almost always play pretty stout defense. What Sunday really showcased was how, when the Hokies share the ball - 19 assists - and get Tellier and Ugoka cooking offensively, too, they can present some real problems. Just ask Florida State.

Tellier, a junior who began the day with 989 points, now has 1,013 after 87 games with the Hokies. She ranks 13th on the list of active scorers among Virginia's Division I schools.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Who's scored the most points?

Virginia Tech's Monet Tellier

We were trying to make this a Top 20 list, but somehow we wound up with 21 names. are the top 21 active career scorers among Virginia's Division I schools through games of February 23:

1. Devon Brown, Liberty  - 1,891 points (118 games)

2. Tarik Hislop, JMU - 1,695 (130)

3. Da'Naria Erwin Spencer, Radford - 1,346  (102)

4. Emily Correal, William and Mary - 1,298 (112)

5. Janine Aldridge, William and Mary - 1,262 (123)

6. Chelsea Coward, Longwood   - 1,240 (112)

7. Amber Easter, George Mason - 1,217 (115)

8. Ataira Franklin, Virginia - 1,119 (96)

9. Rachael Bilney, Richmond - 1,118 (123)

10. Ashley Buckhannon, Radford - 1,081 (106)

11. Crystal Smith, Longwood - 1,060 (105)

12. Jackie Cook, ODU - 1,011 (118)

13. Monet Tellier, Virginia Tech  - 989 (86)
      (Tellier's next game is Sunday at home vs. Florida State)

14. Tolu Omotola, Liberty - 956 (114)
      (includes 42 pts. in 20 games for TCU in 2008-09)

15. Alyssa Fenyn, Virginia Tech - 901 (116)

16. Kirby Burkholder, JMU - 847 (87)

17. Keiara Avant, Hampton - 816 (107)

18. Rahneeka Saunders, George Mason - 804 (115)

19. Robyn Parks, VCU - 799 (90)

20. Jaclyn McKenna, William and Mary - 733 (113)

21. Mairi Buchan, ODU  - 711 (121)

Tracking the transfers

Former Virginia Tech center Taylor Ayers
Ever wonder what happened to some of the players that passed through - or in some cases, almost passed through - one of Virginia's Division I schools before moving on? We have, too....


Jacqueline Brewer, 5-9 G, Winchester, Va.
Time at VCU: One season (2010-11). Made CAA All-Rookie Team.
Transferred to: Mount St. Mary's. Ranks second on the team in scoring at 9.7 ppg and is shooting a team-best 38.9 percent from 3-point range.

Christina Carter, 5-8 G, Thomasville, N.C.
Time at VCU: One season (2011-12). Made CAA All-Rookie Team
Transferred to: North Carolina A&T. Is sitting out the 2012-13 season per NCAA transfer rules.

Aprill McRae, 6-3 C, Raleigh, N.C.
Time at VCU: One season (2011-12). Made CAA All-Rookie Team.
Transferred to: North Carolina A&T. Is sitting out the 2012-13 basketball season per NCAA transfer rules, but started 18 of 31 volleyball matches for the Aggies last fall and ranked fourth on the team in kills.

Kiana Trice-Hill, 6-2 C, Raleigh, N.C.
Time at VCU: One season (2011-12). Sat out the season with a knee injury.
Transferred to: Shaw, which won the 2011-12 Division II national title but features 11 new players this season. Appeared in Shaw's exhibition game against Duke but not in any regular-season games.

Old Dominion

Pryncess Tate-Dublin, 5-9 G, Suitland, Md.
Time at ODU: Two seasons (2008-10)
Transferred to: Virginia State. Is averaging 4.2 points in 17 games for the Trojans.

Brittany Campbell, 6-4 C, Indianapolis
Time at ODU: Two seasons (2010-11, 2011-12)
Transferred to: Chicago State. Is sitting out the 2012-13 season per NCAA transfer rules.

Myeisha Hall, 5-8 G, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Time at ODU: One season, one semester (2011-12, 2012-13). Made CAA All-Rookie Team in 2011-12.
Transferred to: Stetson. Will be eligible for the second semester of the 2013-14 season.

Queen Tiye-Jackson, 6-0 F, Ewing, N.J.
Time at ODU: One season, one semester (2011-12, 2012-13).
Transferred to: College of New Jersey, where she says she will no longer play collegiate basketball.

JoNiquia Guilford, 5-10 G, Portsmouth
Time at ODU: Four seasons (2008-12). Sat out all but five games of her freshman season with a knee injury.
Transferred to: Hampton. Guilford graduated from ODU in May with a degree in criminal justice with a minor in sports management and is eligible to play this season for Hampton while pursuing a master's degree. She is currently averaging 4.8 points and 2.7 rebounds for the Lady Pirates.

Kaniesha Atwater, 5-7 G, Fort Pierce, Fla.
Time at ODU: None. Atwater initially signed with ODU in the fall of 2010 and was considered the jewel of what turned out to be Wendy Larry's final recruiting class after she was named to the prestigious Parade All-America team. But in August of 2011, Atwater opted to remain in Florida.
Signed with: VCU: Atwater signed with the Rams prior to this season. She is averaging 6.8 ppg and has started 12 of the Rams' 27 games.

Carolann Cloutier, 5-9 G, Montreal, Quebec
Time at ODU: One season (2009-10)
Transferred to: UMass. Slowly rounding into form after suffering an ACL tear late last season. Has started the last 11 games and is averaging 4.3 ppg.


Chikilra Goodman (left)
Christy Willis, 5-8 G, Houston, Texas
Time at Hampton: One season (2010-11)
Transferred to: LSU-Shreveport. Now a senior, Willis is averaging 13.7 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Lady Pilots (20-4), who are ranked No. 25 in the NAIA national coaches poll.

Breanna Harris, 5-11 F, Mansfield, Texas
Time at Hampton: One season (2010-11):
Transferred to: Texas A&M-Commerce. A junior, Willis is averaging team-highs of 15.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Kenyada Brown, 6-3 C, Cincinnati, Ohio
Time at Hampton: One season (2011-12). Played just 14 minutes.
Transferred to: Moberly Area Community College. Has started 28 of 29 games and is averaging 4.7 points and 5.1 rebounds.

Jianni Jackson, 6-1 G/F, Riverside, Calif.
Time at Hampton: One season (2009-10)
Transferred to: Cal State-Northridge. Jackson is averaging 4.8 ppg in her second season with the Matadors.

Jasmine Williams-Hayes, 5-9 G, Yorktown, Va.
Time at Hampton: One season (2009-10)
Transferred to: Francis Marion. Williams-Hayes has started 20 of 21 games and is averaging 8.0 ppg and 4.9 rpg.

Breanna Jones, 6-0 F, Springfield, Va.
Time at Hampton: One season (2009-10)
Transferred to: Seton Hall. Jones joined the team as a walk-on prior to the 2011-12 season. She has appeared in 25 games and is averaging 9.3 minutes per game in 2012-13.

Chikilra Goodman, 5-9 G, Philadelphia, Pa.
Time at Hampton: One season (2010-11). Goodman's mother, Tondalaya, is Hampton's all-time leading rebounder.
Transferred to: Stony Brook. Has started 24 games and is averaging 8.8 ppg, 6.8 rebounds and team highs of 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals for the Seawolves (13-14).

Virginia Tech

Abby Redick, 6-1 G, Roanoke, Va.
Time at Tech: The 2009-10 season and seven games in the first semester in 2010-11.
Transferred to: Drexel. Has appeared in 24 games and is averaging 2.4 ppg this season.

Shanel Harrison, 6-0 F, Washington D.C.
Time at Tech: Three seasons from 2008-11. Led the Hokies in scoring and rebounding as a junior. Was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules in July, 2011.
Moved on to: La Salle. Is averaging 12.2 ppg - the exact same number she averaged at Tech as a junior - and 6.6 rebounds. Cracked the 1,000-point career mark earlier this season.

Kyani White, 5-6 G, Manassas, Va.
Time at Tech: One season (2010-11)
Transferred to: East Carolina. Has started all 25 games and is averaging 6.2 points, 3.2 assists and a team-high 2.3 steals.

Brittni Montgomery, 6-3 F, Fort Pierce, Fla.
Time at Tech: Two seasons from 2010-12
Transferred to: Central Florida. Is sitting out the season per NCAA transfer rules.

Latorri Hines-Allen, 6-1 F, Montclair, N.J.
Time at Tech: Two seasons from 2010-12
Transferred to: Towson. Is sitting out the season per NCAA transfer rules.

Taylor Ayers, 6-2 C, Augusta, Ga.
Time at Tech: Two seasons from 2009-11 and the first six games of the 2011-12 season.
Transferred to: Augusta State. Is averaging 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Lady Jaguars (17-5).


Whitny Edwards, 5-11 F, Charlotte, N.C.
Time at Virginia: Three seasons (2008-11) alongside her twin sister Britny. Both graduated from Virginia in three years.
Transferred to: East Carolina, the school where her father, Blue Edwards, starred in the late 1980s. Blue Edwards is a member of the school's athletic hall of fame. Whitny currently leads the Pirates in scoring (11.8 ppg) and averages 6.1 rebounds.

Britny Edwards, 6-1 C, Charlotte, N.C.
Time at Virginia: Three seasons (2008-11). Sat out the 2010-11 season as a non-medical redshirt.
Transferred to: East Carolina. Averages 10.2 points and a team-best 8.6 rebounds for the Pirates (18-7, 8-4 Conference USA).

Bria Smith, 5-10 G, Massapequa, N.Y.
Time at UVa.: None. An ESPN Top-10 recruit, Smith signed with Virginia but asked for and was granted her release after Debbie Ryan stepped down.
Signed with: Louisville. The sophomore averages 9.0 points for the nationally-ranked Cardinals.


Miah Register, 5-9 G, Trenton, N.J.
Time at Richmond: Started first 7 games of the 2011-12 season and averaged 7.9 ppg before deciding to transfer.
Transferred to: Fairleigh Dickinson. Averaged 5.0 ppg in 10 games after establishing eligibility after the first semester. Has not appeared in a game since Jan. 28.

Leah Johnson, 5-10 G, Teaneck, N.J.
Time at Richmond: Appeared in 27 games in 2010-11; sat out the first semester of 2011-12 with a knee injury before electing to transfer at midseason.
Transferred to: Fairleigh Dickinson. Has yet to appear in a game.

Joyous Tharrington, 5-11 F, Lynchburg, Va.
Time at Richmond: Two seasons (2009-11).
Transferred to: George Mason. Has started all 25 games and is averaging 7.9 points and 5.3 rebounds.

James Madison

Brittany Crowell, 5-9 G, Brandywine, Md.
Time at JMU: Two seasons (2008-10)
Transferred to: UMBC: Is averaging 11.8 points and 4.2 rebounds.

Kristine Mial, 5-9 F, Springfield, Va.
Time at JMU: One season (2009-10), but did not play for the Dukes. Moved on to Frederick Community College where she ranked sixth in the nation in scoring (21.8 ppg) and earned NJCAA All-America honors in 2010-11.
Transferred to: East Carolina. Ranks fourth on the Pirates in scoring at 9.5 ppg.

Briana Jones, 6-2 F/C, Powder Springs, Ga.
Time at JMU: One season (2011-12)
Transferred to: Georgia Southern.  Is sitting out the season per NCAA transfer rules.

Debbie Smith, 5-10 G, Hampton, Va.
Time at JMU: Two seasons (2010-12)
Transferred to: North Carolina A&T. Is sitting out the season per NCAA transfer rules.

Achiri Ade, 6-1 F, Baltimore, Md.
Time at JMU: None. Signed with the Dukes but did not meet Colonial Athletic Association qualifying standards.
Enrolled at: Midland College. Is averaging 14.5 points and 12.6 rebounds in her second season at Midland and has 17 double-doubles for the Lady Chaparrals (22-6). Averaged 11.7 points and 10.0 rebounds for Midland last season.


Maryah Sydnor, 6-1 F, Radford, Va.
Time at Longwood: None. Sydnor signed with Longwood but asked for and was granted her release after head coach Kristin Caruso was fired.
Signed with: Appalachian State. Earned Southern Conference Freshman of the Year honors last season. Is currently averaging 14.9 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Mountaineers (18-8).


Carra Coy, 6-6 C, Summerville, S.C.
Time at Liberty: One season (2009-10)
Transferred to: Charleston Southern. Has appeared in 15 games.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Breaking down NCAA/WNIT prospects

Hampton's Olivia Allen

For some teams, it may only be the wildest of dreams for a magical March run. Still, as February winds down every one of Virginia's 13 Division I teams still has something to play for.

A few notes:

- At this point no team has positioned itself for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Hampton (MEAC) and Liberty (Big South) will be favored to play their way in by repeating as conference champions.

- Both teams are also on track for automatic WNIT bids for finishing first in their respective conferences, so each will be guaranteed to play in one of the postseason tournaments.

- Four other teams - JMU, Virginia, Old Dominion and Richmond - have shots at at-large WNIT bids. A fifth, Radford, has an outside chance.

- Of course, all of the above teams save ODU could also get white-hot, win their conference tournaments and advance to the NCAAs. The Lady Monarchs are ineligible for the CAA Tournament because of their impending move to Conference USA.

- WNIT teams must finish with at least a .500 overall record so for Norfolk State (5-18), William and Mary (6-19), George Mason (8-17), Virginia Tech (8-17), Longwood (9-17) and VCU (10-16) it's either win a conference tournament and advance to the NCAAs, or go home.

- VCU faces the added burden of still needing to qualify for its conference tournament (only 12 of the Atlantic 10's 16 teams are invited; the Rams are currently 13th).

Analyzing the NCAA/WNIT chances:

James Madison (18-8, 12-2 CAA)

Thursday's 79-45 mauling of Towson was the Dukes' 14th win in their last 16 games - a streak that began, ironically enough, immediately after JMU fell to 1-6 and lost reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year Nikki Newman for the season to a foot injury. The Dukes already have one high-value win this season (No. 25 Green Bay) and can pick up another Sunday at No. 18 Delaware. But since even toppling the mighty Blue Hens would leave the Dukes with just three victories over teams inside the RPI Top 100, it's hard to see an NCAA Tournament bid in the Dukes' future unless they win the CAA Tournament. And doing that may require not just beating Delaware but also pesky Drexel, which has won three of the past four meetings with JMU (the teams will meet again in the regular-season finale on March 6 in Philadelphia).

Hampton (21-5, 12-0 MEAC)

For all of the three-time defending MEAC champion Lady Pirates' success under head coach David Six, the Lady Pirates have yet to get through a conference regular season unbeaten. But with three of their final four games at home, Hampton has an excellent chance to wrap up a 16-0 MEAC campaign before heading to a conference tournament being played some 20 miles from campus at the Scope in Norfolk. The Lady Pirates will almost certainly have to win this tournament to make the NCAAs, as their RPI is in the mid-80s and their lone quality win (LSU) is somewhat offset by two "bad" losses (Prairie View, Virginia Tech). But if Hampton does win the MEAC, that win over LSU could bump the Lady Pirates up a bit in seeding. Two years ago, a Hampton regular season win over Florida helped the Lady Pirates get a No. 13 seed, the highest ever for a MEAC team in a 64-team NCAA Tournament. Last year, with a similar team but no win of that caliber, HU was relegated (unfairly, we think) to a No. 16 seed.

Virginia (15-11, 7-8 ACC)

On Jan. 27, the Cavaliers beat Wake Forest for their third straight win and appeared to be on track for at least an NCAA at-large bid. They've lost five of six games since - a decline accelerated by a spate of injuries - and currently bear little resemblance to the squad that hammered JMU by 21 and knocked off Vanderbilt and Miami earlier this season. Making matters worse, Thursday's night's come-from-ahead loss at Clemson raised the specter of a banged-up Virginia losing its last three games, then flaming out in the first round of the ACC Tournament. This worst-case scenario would leave Virginia at 15-15 and still a likely WNIT invitee. But would the Cavaliers even accept the bid under these circumstances?

Liberty (21-6, 13-2 Big South)

Death, taxes and the Lady Flames winning the Big South...kinda seems that way, doesn't it? Liberty is two games clear of the conference field with three games remaining and in prime position to win the regular-season title for the 14th time in 16 seasons. The Lady Flames have also won 14 of the last 16 conference tournament titles and loom as a prohibitive favorite again when the league unveils its new format - a combined men's and women's event at the new HTC Center in Conway, S.C. - March 5-10. The Lady Flames don't have much of an argument for making the NCAAs without winning this tournament, as despite a relatively high RPI (61 as of earlier this week) Liberty has just one victory over an RPI Top 100 team (JMU). But if the Lady Flames can secure a seed in the 13-14 range and get the right first-round matchup (not too athletic), this team is capable of busting some brackets.

Old Dominion (18-9, 9-6 CAA)

A few weeks ago, when ODU's RPI was in the 140s, we weren't sure about the Lady Monarchs' WNIT prospects. Now that they have 18 wins, including triumphs over Drexel and Northeastern, and an RPI in the 120 range, we like their chances. Since the WNIT expanded to 64 teams in 2009, teams with profiles similar to the Lady Monarchs have been extremely likely to receive bids. Of course, the Lady Monarchs shouldn't just take our word for this, particularly with three games left. Still, the quality of the competition - Hofstra,  at JMU and at Northeastern - is such that even if ODU drops all three, we believe the WNIT will still come calling. And don't be shocked if the Lady Monarchs see a first-round matchup with Virginia when they get there. The WNIT loves to do stuff like that.

Richmond (14-13, 4-7 Atlantic 10)

After a rough patch from the middle of January through mid-February - losses in 7 of 9 games - and with an RPI in the low 130s, the Spiders still have a bit of work to do. Obviously a .500 record is a must. So here's the deal. If Richmond wins at least two of its last three games, the Spiders will finish above .500 no matter what they do in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. A 1-2 record means the Spiders will need one A-10 tourney win to hit .500 on the nose. And if the Spiders finish 0-3, they would have to win three conference tournament games to become WNIT eligible - and that's assuming the Spiders weren't one of the four A-10 teams that fail to qualify for the 12-team postseason tourney. Breaking down Richmond's last three games, the Spiders have an excellent opportunity for a win Wednesday at Rhode Island (6-20, 1-10). Conversely, the Spiders are 0-8 lifetime against Charlotte (21-4, 10-1) so prevailing at home in the March 3 season finale will be a major challenge. The swing game is Saturday's 2 p.m. showdown with Butler (16-10, 7-4). A win here would take a ton of pressure off the Spiders the rest of the way.

Radford (13-11, 8-7)

With just three games remaining, the Highlanders are in excellent position to finish at .500 or better even if they stumble early in the Big South Tournament. Radford's problem is the relatively low quality of a lot of its wins based on how the WNIT typically evaluates teams. Ten of the Highlanders' 13 victories have come against teams with RPIs of 230 or beyond, and an 11th win was at the expense of a non-Division I team. Furthermore, Radford's own RPI as of Wednesday was 213. Last year, the highest RPI to receive an at-large WNIT bid was 163. Radford played Miami to a tie game for nearly 30 minutes in the Hurricanes' own gym and has two single-digit losses to Liberty - one by two points - so we've seen the Highlanders compete with quality teams. We just suspect the WNIT isn't going to see enough quality wins.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Liberty's Brown, ODU's Cook close in on milestones

Liberty's Devon Brown

Old Dominion senior Jackie Cook went into Thursday night's game against William and Mary just 10 points shy of becoming the 30th Lady Monarch to reach 1,000 for her career. Also on Thursday at UNC Asheville, Liberty's Devon Brown (1,869 points) needs just 15 points to pass Megan Frazee for second place on the Lady Flames' all-time list. And on Friday against North Carolina, Virginia Tech junior Monet Tellier will need 26 points to join the Hokies' 1,000-point club.

Here's a timeline of some of the other notable milestones reached this season:

Jackie Cook
Nov. 9 - George Mason senior Amber Easter began the season needing just 10 points to reach 1,000. She racked up 12 in the Patriots' opener at Oakland to become the 15th player in program history to reach the milestone.

Nov. 25 - William and Mary senior Janine Aldridge cracked the 1,000-point barrier in a game at the University of Texas-San Antonio. She currently has 1,253 career points.

Dec. 8 - Two weeks after teammate Aldridge reached 1,000 points, William and Mary senior Emily Correal reached four figures herself in a game against Navy. She's now at 1,272 points.

Dec. 20 - Longwood senior Chelsea Coward cracked the 1,000-point barrier during a 12-point performance at Arizona. She became the 19th Lancer to reach this milestone and the first in the program's Division I era.

Jan. 24 - Virginia junior Ataira Franklin nailed a 3-pointer against Boston College to become the 29th member of the Cavaliers' 1,000-point club.

Feb. 7 - Longwood senior Crystal Smith becomes the 20th Lancer all-time and second this season (Coward) to reach 1,000 career points.

Feb. 7 - Radford senior Ashley Buckhannon became the 20th member of the Highlanders' 1,000-point club - and second currently in uniform - with a 14-point effort against Campbell. Teammate Da'Naria Erwin Spencer has 1,321 career points.

Feb. 10 - JMU senior Tarik Hislop breaks Tamera Young's program record by making her 126th career start as the Dukes take on Delaware. Hislop went into Thursday's game against Towson having appeared in 129 games, one short of Courtney Hamner's program record for appearances. Not surprisingly, Hislop crashed through the 1,000-point barrier a long time ago and currently has 1,678 points, fourth on the school's all-time list.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Richmond holds off VCU

VCU got a monster night from Robyn Parks.

Richmond got a monster night from behind the 3-point line.

The Spiders' 3s won out - barely.

Richmond splashed a season-high 12 3-pointers to overcome Parks' 29-point, 20-rebound barrage and hold off the Rams 66-62 Wednesday night at the Robins Center. It was the Spiders' fifth straight victory in the series and 13th in the last 15 meetings.

More importantly, it strengthened the Spiders' case for landing a spot in the 12-team Atlantic 10 Tournament. Richmond (14-13, 4-7 A-10) is now in a four-way tie for ninth place with three games remaining. The Spiders must also keep an eye on maintaining at least a .500 overall record to qualify for a WNIT bid should they fail to win the A-10 Tournament.

Meanwhile, VCU (10-16, 3-8) dropped one spot out of the field for now into 13th place and makes Saturday's 1 p.m. home game against Xavier (10-15, 4-7) something close to a must-win affair. The Musketeers are a game ahead of the Rams in the conference standings.

Richmond's Bilney sisters combined for 75 percent of Richmond's 3-point assault against the Rams as Rachael, who was honored pre-game for notching her 1,000th career point, hit nailed five of them and her twin sister Samantha drilled four on her way to a career-high 14 points.

The Spiders led 63-49 with just over six minutes remaining before the Rams ripped off 11 straight points to get to within three points with less than a minute left. Richmond finally sealed the deal with - what else? - a Rachael Bilney 3 with 24 seconds left.

It was the second time in less than a month a Richmond basketball team has burned VCU with 12 3-pointers. On Jan. 25, also at the Robins Center, the Spider men connected on a dozen from distance in an 86-74 overtime decision over the then-16th-ranked Rams. The victory snapped a 13-game  Rams winning streak.

The loss spoiled a career night for VCU's Parks, who made 8 of 16 field goals and 13 of 17 free throws. It was the second 20-20 effort in as many seasons for the Rams, who got a 32-point, 21-rebound effort from Courtney Hurt against Morgan State last season.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

High stakes for Richmond, VCU

It's always a big deal when city rivals Richmond and VCU face off, but there figures to be an extra sense of urgency for both sides when the teams' 89th meeting commences Wednesday at the Spiders' Robins Center. Because while most teams are fine-tuning their games for their conference tournaments, Richmond and VCU still have to worry about qualifying for their conference tournament.

Only the top 12 of the Atlantic 10's 16 teams will compete in the A-10 Championships, which will be held March 8-10 at St. Joseph's with the nationally televised title game March 16 at the glamorous Barclays Center in Brooklyn. With four games left in the regular season, Richmond (13-13, 3-7 A-10) and VCU (10-15, 3-7) are in a three-way with Xavier (9-15, 3-7) for 11th place. If the season ended today, one of these teams wouldn't play on.

Richmond has won four straight and 12 of the last 14 meetings, but previous matchups likely provide little insight into Wednesday's game. VCU, for example, not only has a completely different coaching staff and playing style but also has just three players who have ever played a game against Richmond. As for the Spiders, their 78-77 victory over the Rams last year featured 21 points from Abby Oliver and 21 points and 13 rebounds from Genevieve Okoro. Oliver has graduated, while Okoro suffered a season-ending knee injury last November.

Both teams come into the game on a slight uptick. Richmond snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday with an 81-63 spanking of UMass. On the same day, VCU picked up its second straight victory - after a six-game losing streak - by throttling La Salle 69-50.

Atlantic 10 standings (through Feb. 19)
Dayton                         10-0     22-1
Charlotte                        9-1     20-4
St. Joseph's                    9-1     18-6
Duquesne                       8-2     19-5
Fordham                        8-2     18-7
Butler                             6-4     15-10
Temple                           5-5     12-13
George Washington        5-6     11-14
Saint Louis                     4-6     10-15
La Salle                          4-6     8-17
Richmond                      3-7     13-13
VCU                              3-7     10-15
Xavier                            3-7     9-15
St. Bonaventure              2-8     9-16
UMass                           1-9     3-21
Rhode Island                  1-9     5-19

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Congratulations, Rachael!

Yes, Richmond snapped a four-game losing streak with Sunday's 81-63 victory over UMass. But the most memorable - and coolest - development of the day can be summed up in this one tweet:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dawn Staley named Hall of Fame finalist

Our first thought upon learning that former Virginia great Dawn Staley is one of the finalists for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was, "Wait, you mean she's not in that already?" I mean, check out this resume:

- The 1998 National High School Player of the Year (USA Today)

- A two-time national collegiate player of the year (1991, 1992) and a three-time Kodak All-American.

- Leader of a Virginia team that reached three Final Fours and the 1991 title game.

- The only player in NCAA Tournament history to win the event's Most Outstanding Player award despite playing for the losing finalist.

- A three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time FIBA world champion as a player and an assistant coach for a fourth Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. squad.

- A player whose exploits in the fledgling American Basketball League were so captivating Magic Johnson implored the NBA to buy the whole league just to get Staley. "She's a show-stopper," Johnson raved.

- A five-time WNBA All-Star, and a player whose charitable exploits were so extensive the league named its community service award after her (the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award).

- A member of the WNBA's "Top 15" honoring the most influential players in the league's history.

- The winningest coach in Temple history while leading the Owls to six NCAA Tournament appearances.

- A member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame (2008) and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (2012).

Now, strange things have been known to happen on these hall of fame committees, so despite her accomplishments it shouldn't be taken as a given that Staley will actually be among the finalists to hear her name called when the Class of 2013 is announced on April 8. But clearly, Staley's been hall of fame-worthy for quite some time now. Here's hoping the committee does the right thing.

If inducted, Staley would become the 16th woman inducted in the Naismith Hall primarily for her accomplishments as a player, joining Luisa Harris-Stewart, Nera White, Ann Meyers, Uljana Semjonova, Carol Blazejowski, Anne Donovan, Cheryl Miller, Nancy Lieberman, Joan Crawford, Denis Curry, Lynette Woodard, Hortencia de Fatima Marcari, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sara Jones, how lucky we were to have known you

Hoops for the Cure, a year ago.

Our plan was to visit Sara Jones on Friday afternoon.

We didn't make it, sadly, because she didn't make it. The Old Dominion volunteer assistant coach to Karen Barefoot died on Friday morning at her Norfolk home. She had been under hospice care due to a metastatic cancer that weakened her body but could never mess with her spirit.

LadySwish is lucky. We talked to Sara at length after the Lady Monarchs fell to Pitt on Jan. 2. She made us laugh, smile, cry a bit, but mostly reflect on her tenacious ability and attitude to beat odds most of us never imagine facing.  Our conversation was interrupted often -- by children wanting to share a story, by adults wishing her well, by Lady Monarch fans giving hugs, kisses and gifts. She talked to  everyone easily. She winked and laughed and had a special affinity for little girls, who no doubt reminded her of her precious 5-year-old niece, Landon.

Only when we asked, did Sara turn the conversation to the cancer that had returned three times, each time more vile than before. She shared details of a journey that took her from Norfolk to M.D. Anderson in Houston to Chicago to Atlanta and back home again. Each time she was hoping for her miracle, though she refused to waste a moment  dwelling on the possibility it might never happen. She had a bucket list for the long term and plans for the short term. She didn't waste a day thinking about dying. She had too much living to do.

"Cancer doesn't define me," she said. "Never will."

Sara and Landon
Sara, 40, would have been at Sunday's Hoops for the Cure game, hosted by Old Dominion at 2 p.m. If you've been to that game in previous years, you know the impression those few minutes make preceding the tip. ODU calls it the survivor's walk and invites breast cancer survivors to circle the arena to the song "I Will Survive."

You watch as women and men -- some who look barely out of their 20s; others with walkers; some with no hair; others with plenty; and others, such as ODU senior associate athletic director Debbie White, who look amazingly fit and stylish -- make the circle with smiles, waves and high fives. You cheer a different cheer than the one that comes with the first Lady Monarch points. You are in awe of the perseverance it took for them to be standing where they are.

A few weeks ago, we expected Sara to be part of that circle. But while Hoops for the Cure is about celebrating those who survive breast cancer, it is also about remembering many don't. There is early detection. There is chemo. There is radiation.

There is no cure.

All of us seem to know someone who has endured watching someone we know or someone we love have their life turned upside down by the results of a biopsy. Twice, Sara thought she made it to that five-year mark. But the cancer that first invaded her body at 28 never allowed her to eek pass it.

Like many, LadySwish was touched by Sara Jones, moved by her in a manner even the most gifted wordsmith would find hard to explain. She was candid and genuine, witty and funny. Words like hero are often over used, but rarely have we seen the level of passion, the commitment, the energy despite needing a wheelchair at times, that drove Sara to sit alongside Barefoot on the ODU bench. What marvelous medicine these Lady Monarchs provided her and she them.

All of us will miss her. None of us will forget her. She had lessons for basketball players, for cancer survivors, for just about anyone who has ever faced an obstacle and wondered how on earth to overcome it. While she won't be able to physically circle the Constant Center on Sunday, we have no doubt she'll be there looking down, leading, teaching, inspiring.

She was Sara Jones. She is Sara Jones. May she rest in peace.

ODU volunteer assistant Sara Jones passes away

Old Dominion volunteer assistant coach Sara Jones lost her heroic battle with cancer Friday at 7:57 a.m. She was 40 years old.

Jones had overcome multiple bouts with the disease and become an inspirational presence at practices and games the past two seasons for Lady Monarchs coach and long-time friend Karen Barefoot, who described Jones as "her hero."

Old Dominion will release a full story with quotes from Barefoot later today. LadySwish will share some thoughts as well. On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Lady Monarchs will host Northeastern in the 11th annual Hoops for the Cure game to raise cancer awareness.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy birthday, Marie (Malone) from LadySwish

LadySwish sends birthday wishes to Virginia Beach native Marie Malone (SISU Denmark). The former Hofstra star (24 today) was EuroCup MVP two weeks ago and was recently named MVP in the East-West Dameligaen All-Star Game. Malone (Kellam High School) ended up with 21 points and eight boards.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Can JMU topple mighty Delaware?

Brace yourselves for yet another chapter in what in recent years has been the Colonial Athletic Association's most compelling rivalry.

Interesting stuff often happens when JMU tangles with Delaware, from then-freshman Elena Delle Donne's "Hello, World" 54-point explosion at JMU in an overtime Dukes victory to JMU stopping the Blue Hens' surprising CAA Tournament run in the 2011 final to last year, when JMU led seemingly unbeatable Delaware for 32 minutes before the Blue Hens rallied for a seven-point victory.

If nothing else, conference history will almost certainly be made when the teams square off Sunday at 2 p.m. at the JMU Convocation Center. Delle Donne has 2,557 points and needs just 11 more to eclipse former Dukes superstar Dawn Evans as the CAA's all-time leading scorer. Evans played in 125 career games; Sunday will mark Delle Donne's 100th contest as a Blue Hen.

In addition, Delle Donne also needs only 11 free throws to surpass ex-Drexel star Gabriela Marginean's conference record of 684 from the line, and only 7 field goals to top Marginean's CAA-record total of 904.

Of course, as was the case when JMU survived that 54-point explosion four years ago, the Dukes would gladly cede all the individual accolades to Delle Donne if they can get it done as a team. After a rocky start to the 2012-13 season, the Dukes (15-7, 9-1 CAA) have clearly found their groove as they've won eight straight and 12 of their last 13. Remarkably, this streak began immediately after JMU lost reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year and team catalyst Nikki Newman for the season to a foot injury.

Still, Newman's absence may be most clearly felt against these Blue Hens. What separated Newman from other defensive specialists was her ability to stymie elite scorers. In her last three games against JMU the usually-efficient Delle Donne made just 15 of 53 shots (28.3 percent), in large part because Newman made her work so hard to get looks. This season Delle Donne is shooting 48.8 percent from the field and is connecting at a 56.9 percent clip over her last seven games. If she approaches that number Sunday, the Dukes can probably cancel Christmas.

Indeed, the only team hotter than the Dukes of late has been these Blue Hens (19.3, 10-0), who have won 14 in a row since a Dec. 20 loss to Maryland and are basically chewing up and spitting out all CAA comers. Only Drexel (a 65-56 loser on Jan. 27) has avoided a double-digit loss to Delaware, which has won its 10 conference games by an average of 24.3 points. The Blue Hens have also won 31 straight games against CAA foes since the Dukes prevailed in that 2011 CAA tournament final.

In addition to dealing with Delle Donne, the Dukes must figure out some way to score against one of the nation's stingiest defenses. The Blue Hens rank fifth nationally in scoring defense (49.7 ppg) and seventh in Division I in field goal percentage defense (32.6).

If all of this seems to be pointing to the Dukes being fairly significant underdogs on paper, well, they are. But if there's one thing we've learned in following JMU under coach Kenny Brooks it's that his teams are often capable of efforts that defy the numbers. In November, for example, the Dukes went up against a Green Bay team that statistically is even stingier that Delaware. The Phoenix have held 14 of its 21 opponents to 49 points or less and all but one to 62 or less. That one was JMU, which hung 89 on Green Bay in a three-point overtime victory.

We not expecting the Dukes to go off like that again. But again, interesting things happen when these teams get together. Can't wait to see how this latest edition unfolds.