Friday, November 29, 2013

Statistical leaders, through Nov. 28

VCU's Robyn Parks

The Top 13 performers among the state's Division I teams in basketball's Triple Crown stats (points, rebounds, assists) through the games of Nov. 28, with total games played, statistical total and the average.


1. Robyn Parks, VCU                               6     122   20.3

2. Kirby Burkholder, JMU                        4       78  19.5

3. Daeisha Brown, Longwood                  5       93  18.6

4. Alyssa Bennett, Hampton                     5       90  18.0

5. Taylor Brown, George Mason              7      125 17.9

6. Uju Ugoka, Virginia Tech                     6      104 17.3

7. Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton           5       86  17.2

8. Rae Corbo, Norfolk State                     4       65  16.3

9. Janaa Pickard, George Mason              7     113  16.1

10. Kaitlyn Mathieu, William and Mary   4      64  16.0

11. Shae Kelley, Old Dominion                6      90   15.0

12. Stephanie Gardner, Old Dominion      6      89  14.8

12. Ashley Rininger, Liberty                     5      74  14.8

Others: Marlena Tremba, William and Mary 14.5; Ataira Franklin, Virginia 14.0; Raven Williams, Longwood 14.0; Precious Hall, JMU 13.8; Vanessa Panousis, Virginia Tech 13.7; Nicole Hamilton, Hampton 13.4; Sandra Ngoie, George Mason 13.0; Faith Randolph, Virginia 13.0; Isis Thorpe, VCU   12.8; Ayana Avery, Radford 12.7; Keira Robinson, VCU 12.3; Kyla Kerstetter, William and Mary 11.8; Monet Tellier, Virginia Tech 11.8; Ebony Brown, Norfolk State 11.5; Quineshia Leonard, Norfolk State 11.0; Genevieve Okoro, Richmond 10.5; Liv Healy, Richmond 10.5; Sarah Imovbioh, Virginia 10.5; Jessica Pellechio, VCU 10.2; Sadalia Ellis, Liberty 10.0.


1. Rachel Gordon, Norfolk State               4      50    12.5

2. Janaa Pickard, George Mason               7      76    10.9

3. Robyn Parks, VCU                                6      64    10.7

4. Ashley Rininger, Liberty                       5      53    10.6

5. Shae Kelley, Old Dominion                   6      63    10.5

5. Kirby Burkholder, JMU                         4      42    10.5

7. Uju Ugoka, Virginia Tech                      6       62   10.3

8. Liz Brown, Richmond                           3       27     9.0

9. Kaitlyn Mathieu, William and Mary      4       34    8.5

9. Genevieve Okoro, Richmond                 6      51    8.5

11. Talisha Watts, George Mason              7      58    8.3

11. Hannah Young, Virginia Tech              6      50    8.3

13. Sarah Imovbioh, Virginia                      6      49    8.2

Others: Khalilah Ali, Longwood 8.0; Alyssa Bennett, Hampton 8.0; Brielle Ward, Hampton 8.0; Ayana Avery, Radford 7.7; Katelyn Adams, Liberty 7.0; Liv Healy, Richmond 6.8; Quineshia Leonard, Norfolk State 6.8; Daeisha Brown, Longwood 6.7; Nicole Hamilton, Hampton 6.7; Heather Tobeck, Longwood 6.7; Jazmon Gwathmey, JMU  6.5; Jordynn Gaymon, Radford 6.3; Rachael Ross, Radford 6.3; Toia Giggetts, JMU 6.3; Taijah Campbell, Virginia Tech 6.2; Sandra Ngoie, George Mason 5.9; Monet Tellier, Virginia Tech 5.8; Kiera McIvor, Radford 5.5; Kristina King, Richmond     5.2; Catherine Kearney, Liberty 5.0; Chelisa Painter, Old Dominion 5.0.


1. Angela Mickens, JMU                              4   24    6.0

2. Taylor Brown, George Mason                  7   37    5.3

3. Monet Tellier, Virginia Tech                     6   31    5.1

4. Keira Robinson, VCU                               6   30    5.0

5. Vanessa Panousis, Virginia Tech              6   27    4.5

6. Nicole Hamilton, Hampton                       5   20    4.0

7. Rae Corbo, Norfolk State                         4   15    3.8

8. Deborah Headen, Longwood                    3   11    3.7

9. Emily Frazier, Liberty                               5   18    3.6

10. Jazmen Boone, William and Mary         4   14    3.5

10. Kermisha Clark, Radford                       4   14    3.5

12. Kelsey Wolfe, Virginia                           6   20    3.3

13. Daeisha Brown, Longwood                    5   16    3.2

13. Sadalia Ellis, Liberty                              5    16   3.2

13. Breshara Gordon, Radford                     6   19    3.2

Others: Jazamine Gray, Norfolk State 3.0; Ashlee Mitchell, VCU 3.0; Faith Randolph, Virginia 3.0; Ataira Franklin, Virginia 2.8; Anna Kestler, William and Mary 2.8; Shae Kelley, Old Dominion 2.6; Galaisha Goodhope, Old Dominion 2.6; Kyana Jacobs, George Mason 2.3; Precious Hall, JMU 2.3; Jessica Pellechio, VCU 2.2; Kieera Basey, Norfolk State 2.0; Kristina King, Richmond 2.0.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from LadySwish

Thanksgiving wishes to our players, coaches, fans and followers. Promising lots of content next week. Have a blessed day.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No place like home for Radford's Breshara Gordon

Breshara, brother Terry and Ava Gordon
Ava Gordon didn't need any fancy birthday presents this year.

Being able to watch daughter Breshara dribbling up and down the court in her own hometown was all the gift she needed.

"I can't tell you how much it means seeing her out there, especially on my birthday weekend," said Norfolk's Ava Gordon after her daughter's Radford Highlanders made stops at Norfolk State and Old Dominion Friday and Sunday. Breshara Gordon formerly starred at Norfolk's Lake Taylor High.

Evidently it also meant a lot to "Team Bre," the roughly 30-member contingent of siblings, aunts, uncles, friends and classmates who turned out in bold, Radford-red T-shirts in support of the Highlanders senior guard.

"Yeah, I saw them all up there," Gordon said with a smile. "It felt good."

Ironically, Breshara Gordon almost wasn't fit to perform at her own party. A victim of her second ACL injury in three years - one for each knee - the Highlanders guard was questionable to start the season.

That is, except to the mind and will of Breshara herself.

"This was the goal all through rehab, to be able to play in these games in Norfolk," she said.

Breshara wasn't out there half-stepping, either. Despite wearing a protective sleeve on her left knee and a brace on her right, Gordon said she felt great on the court. It showed in her play, too, as with Gordon operating with poise and discipline, the Highlanders played winning ball in both games for large stretches.

And when she sat down, things got away from the Highlanders. Against Norfolk State, the Highlanders trailed by just 40-36 when Gordon took a seat with 11:33 left. When she returned at the 8:34 mark, Radford was down nine. The Highlanders went on to lose 66-54.

Two days later, Radford trailed Old Dominion 34-33 when Gordon took a seat after picking up her fourth foul with 11:29 remaining. When Gordon came back with 5:39 left, ODU was up 11 en route to a 19-point victory.

Of course, there was more to Radford's late-game struggles than just Gordon's absence. But it's clear that this otherwise youthful team operates better when its senior leader is on the floor.

 Despite the two losses though, "Team Bre" was still pumped they got to see their heroine in person. Not surprisingly, no one was more excited than Ava Gordon, who for the previous three years had made it a point to travel to wherever her daughter was playing when her birthday rolled around.

Thankfully, this year, she never had to leave town.

Mother and daughter reunion

Ex-UVa. great Wendy Palmer getting it done at UNCG

Wendy Palmer
It's taken a couple of years, but it looks like Virginia hoops legend Wendy Palmer now has UNC Greensboro headed in the right direction.

The long-struggling Spartans picked up what should be a confidence-boosting road victory for their third-year head coach Wednesday night when they rallied from 12 points down in the final 10 minutes to top Norfolk State 73-66 at Echols Arena.

"This was a great win for our young team," said Palmer, who was a two-time Kodak All-American at Virginia and the first woman in program history to eclipse 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. "They just showed so much resolve."

UNC Greensboro won just 12 games in Palmer's first two seasons combined, but the Spartans are re-establishing themselves with a roster than features nine underclassmen, six of them freshmen. First-year players Shanese Harris (a Chesapeake native), Bailey Williams (Harrisonburg) and Jade Scaife along with sophomore Lucy Mason were all in the starting lineup.

Still, it was a senior that actually wore Norfolk State out. Center Janae Stevenson was a low-post beast down the stretch and finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds. NSU actually did a decent job defending the post in the first half. But the 6-2 Stevenson went for 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting after the break, and when the game was on the line late, she got whatever she wanted.

The victory boosted UNCG's record to 2-2. But while the foundation appears to be in place for this to be the Spartans' best team in years, it doesn't sound as though Palmer is quite ready to take on her old school yet.

"I haven't even thought about that," Palmer said with a smile. "Honestly, my main focus is on building my program."

Assisting Palmer in this task is Darren Guensch, who joined the Spartans after spending four years in assistant coach/director of operations roles at VCU.

As for Norfolk State (1-2), that had to be one disappointed locker room after having allowed those other Spartans to walk them down like that. The key now will be how NSU handles such a defeat. A year ago, the Spartans blew a double-digit second-half lead at home in their second game against Wofford and basically spent the next several weeks in freefall.

Here's hoping for a more successful response to the UNCG setback.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jacobs rescues George Mason

George Mason 60, Towson 58

We don't want to say George Mason senior guard Kyana Jacobs took over the game with her Patriots trailing Towson by eight down the stretch Tuesday night.

We'll let the official play-by-play report do it for us:

STEAL by JACOBS, Kyana                          02:55
GOOD! JUMPER by NGOIE, Sandra                   02:41  52-58 
ASSIST by BROWN, Taylor                         02:41
FOUL by JACOBS, Kyana (P2T9)                    02:28     
REBOUND (DEF) by (TEAM)                         02:28
GOOD! JUMPER by JACOBS, Kyana                   02:03  54-58
REBOUND (DEF) by JACOBS, Kyana                  01:48          
GOOD! LAYUP by PICKARD, Janaa [FB/PNT]          01:43  56-58
ASSIST by JACOBS, Kyana                         01:43
REBOUND (DEF) by JACOBS, Kyana                  01:15              
MISSED 3 PTR by BROWN, Taylor                   01:04              
MISSED LAYUP by BROWN, Taylor                   00:18
REBOUND (OFF) by WATTS, Talisha                 00:18
GOOD! JUMPER by WATTS, Talisha [PNT]            00:15  58-58
STEAL by JACOBS, Kyana                          00:04         
GOOD! FT SHOT by JACOBS, Kyana                  00:03  59-58
GOOD! FT SHOT by JACOBS, Kyana                  00:03  60-58

Kyana Jacobs
Talk about getting it done at both ends. Jacobs finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, and for those at the Patriot Center, it probably felt as though she put up all those numbers in the final 2:55. Janaa Pickard added 16 points and 6 rebounds and Sandra Ngoie chipped in 14 points as the Patriots (3-1) won their third straight.

Virginia Tech transfer LaTorri Hines-Allen led Towson with a career-high 20 points and 13 rebounds. 

Click here to read more about the Jabobs show, er, I mean the Patriots victory.


LadySwish state rankings - through Nov. 18

Richmond's Liv Healy
No change at the top or bottom from our preseason rankings, but plenty of shuffling in between as long-dormant Virginia Tech asserts itself as a potential force while VCU unleases "Fury" in all its fast-paced glory. Rankings are through games of Nov. 18:

13. Radford (2-2)
Last week: 13
On Friday, the Highlanders trailed Norfolk State by just 40-36 with a little over 11 minutes left, only to fall behind by as many as 14 en route to a 12-point loss. Two days later, they actually led at Old Dominion with under 12 minutes to play and were down just three with less than 10 minutes remaining. The Lady Monarchs went on to win by 19. The two-game takeaway? The Highlanders may be undersized and undermanned, but if they can squeeze out 10 more quality minutes per night, they're going to shock some folks this season.
Next game: Friday at Wake Forest

12. William and Mary (0-2)
Last week: 9
A similar story with the Tribe, who have played winning basketball in the first half in both games so far - 25-23 lead on Longwood; 32-31 deficit at East Carolina - before the milk turned sour. New coach Ed Swanson still seems to be sorting out which combination of players work best together. The good news is he has a lot of solid candidates for minutes. He's also got an impact freshman in Marlena Tremba, the 5-9 guard from Vienna who is averaging a team-best 16.5 points in 25.5 minutes per game.

11. Norfolk State (1-1)
Last week: 12
Senior Rachel Gordon earned MEAC Defensive Player of the Week honors after her 16-point, 16-rebound effort against Radford. The 16 rebounds are hardly surprising for the ballhawking Gordon, particularly against the smaller Highlanders. But Gordon, who typically spends most of her time in the low post, also burned Radford with a few jump shots. If this is now a part of her game, this may have been the first of several big offensive nights.
Next game: Tuesday vs. High Point

10. Longwood (2-1)
Last week: 11
Utah Valley became the latest victim of the "Dae Dae Show," as Daeisha Brown went for 24 points, 21 in the second half, as the Lancers rallied for a 59-57 victory. The kid's amazing, folks. Props also to fellow sophomores Khalilah Ali (9.0 points, 9.0 rebounds), Raven Williams (14.0 ppg) and Kyndal Skersick (7.0 ppg) all of whom have stepped up their games from a year ago.
Next game: Thursday at Xavier

9. George Mason (2-1)
Last week: 10
Thought for sure Janaa Pickard (21 points, 21 rebounds against Utah Valley) would nab Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors. Then George Washington's Megan Nipe had to go out and drop 31 points on then-No. 10 Cal in the Colonials' first win over a Top-25 program in five years. Tough league, this A-10.
Next game: Tuesday vs. Towson

8. Liberty (0-2)
Last week: 6
The Lady Flames are struggling to score (56 points per game), have yet to flex their usual rebounding might and have surrendered 51 points off turnovers in their two games. That said, a lot of teams would be 0-2 if they opened at Charlotte and against JMU, particularly ones that are in retooling mode like Liberty. No reason to think these guys won't figure things out eventually. Don't they always?
Next game: Tuesday vs. Virginia

7. VCU (2-1)
Last week: 8
Robyn Parks' line for the week - 24.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals. In short, she ballin'. As for the Rams' new, uptempo "Fury" style, well, a year ago VCU averaged 59.1 points per game. Today the Rams are at 83.0 ppg. They've also forced 22.3 turnovers a game, produced 80 points off those turnovers and outscored their three opponents 50-10 on the fastbreak. Uh, so far, so good? Not sure what was more impressive - the victories over Youngstown State and Elon, or the fact that the Rams were within five at Ohio State with 1:20 to play.
Next game: Thursday at Texas-Pan American

6. Old Dominion (2-1)
Last week: 4
Like VCU, the Lady Monarchs have excelled in turning defense to offense. ODU scored 20 of its 61 points off turnovers against Virginia Tech and 25 of its 56 against Radford in the same fashion. Also, they've outscored their three opponents 41-4 on the fastbreak. The flipside is that points in the halfcourt have been much tougher to come by, particularly in the last two games. The return of guard Ashley Betz-White from injury should help, but the continued development of freshmen bigs Odegua Oigbokie, Destinee Young and Ije Ajemba figures to especially pivotal in ODU maximizing its halfcourt potential.
Next game: Friday at Ohio State

5. Richmond (1-2)
Last week: 7
The Spiders' shooting percentages in their three games - 31.3, 31.9, 31.1. Come back, Rachael Bilney! Now imagine what those numbers would look like if the Spiders weren't forcing 23 turnovers a game. Combine the disruptive defense with just a little better marksmanship and these guys should be fine. Speaking of fine, this just in - freshman Liv Healy (a Reading, Mass. native and - hopefully - a Red Sox fan) can really play.
Next game: Thursday vs. JMU

4. Virginia (2-1)
Last week: 2
That the Cavaliers fall two spots is less a reflection on them and more about how well the three teams ahead of them have performed. Besides, there was nothing not to like about Virginia's performance Saturday in a 95-82 beatdown of Louisiana Tech. The performance suggests that the Cavaliers are one team when All-ACC performer Ataira Franklin (16 points, 5 assists, 5 steals against LaTech) is capable of playing to her standard, and a couple of notches below that level when Franklin and her balky knee don't quite have it. Sophomore Faith Randolph continues to be a consistently strong producer.
Next game: Tuesday at Liberty

3. Hampton (2-0)
Last week: 3
For the past three years, we've left Hampton games thinking, man, Alyssa Bennett could score 20 every night if she wanted to. Well, this year, apparently she wants to, as the Lady Pirates senior is checking in at 23.5 ppg through two games on 64.5 percent shooting. No one's going to shoot that high of a percentage all season. But since Bennett's talented enough to get to her spots and get the kind of looks she wants against just about anyone, we don't expect that scoring average to dip too much.
Next game: Wednesday at LSU

2. Virginia Tech (4-0)
Last week: 5
Enough with the comparisons to last year's team - these Hokies have already blown those out of the water. The question now is - just how good is this Tech team? Is this a middle-of-the-pack, or (gulp) better, team in the loaded ACC? Does it have NCAA Tournament potential? We realize we're getting way ahead of ourselves here. Still, this should be an exciting time for Hokies fans. For after years of just hoping their team would stay off the bottom, they finally have a squad they can dream about reaching for the top.
Next game: Saturday at Hofstra

1. JMU (2-0)
Last week: 1
How does a team not only survive but thrive despite 33.3 field-goal shooting? By averaging 24 second-chance points and 21 points off turnovers the way these Dukes have done in notching double-digit victories over Virginia and at Liberty. Now imagine how this will all look when some of those shots start falling.
Next game: Thursday at Liberty

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pruwit! from former Hampton star, now in Ukraine

High school star to MEAC Player of the Year at Hampton to pro in the Ukraine

Thanks to Keiara Avant for taking the time to chat with LadySwish. Last year's all-everything from Hampton is playing for Dynamo Kiev in the Ukraine, putting her accounting job at hold at KPMG, an audit, tax and advisory firm. The 5-11 guard is averaging 10 ppg for Dynamo Kiev (4-0).

Describe your typical day.

 A typical day for me in Kiev involves two practices. One in the morning and one in the evening. In between practices I usually read, cook, and/or sleep.

How does Kiev compare to Virginia?

Kiev is different from Virginia in a number of ways --  there is also a lot more traffic. What stands out the most to would be the driving. I can't really say that they follow many  of the traffic rules and regulations, which has resulted in a number of accidents I have witnessed.

What do you miss about America?

What I miss most besides my family, is American food. My favorite restaurants back home are Chipotle and Chick-fil-A. When I return home I'm sure that's all I will eat for at least a month!

Taking Russian in school must have helped a lot

I became fascinated with the Russian language at the start of 8th grade. I had a very good Russian teacher who broke down the language in a way that made learning easy and fun.

What stands out about your time at Hampton? (Pirates just had a big win vs. Southern Miss., by the way):

What stands out as special about my time at HU would have to be my four MEAC tournament championships, the four NCAA appearances, and receiving the first MEAC Player of the Year in Hampton's history.

How did you get into accounting?

My aunt really presented to me the opportunities of accounting, and when I took financial and managerial accounting I found interest and thought more about my future in accounting. I like accounting because working in the public practice, I get to be exposed to a lot of businesses and can study them. Learning about clients businesses and applying what I've learned in accounting bring out the fun in accounting for me.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hampton perfect so far in 2013

When Hampton (1-0) hosts Southern Miss today at 2 p.m., the team will be out to extend a hidden but pretty impressive streak - the Lady Pirates have yet to lose a regular-season game in 2013.

Starting with a 60-57 victory over Boston College on Jan. 2 and extending through Sunday's 64-37 win over St. Peter's, the Lady Pirates have won all 17 regular-season games they've played this calendar year. Add in postseason results and Hampton is 20-1 overall in 2013, with the lone loss coming to Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Hampton's last regular-season loss came on Dec. 30, 2012 at Virginia Tech in one of the weirdest games we tracked all year. After taking a 17-10 lead at halftime, the Lady Pirates, which led the nation in scoring defense, surrendered 45 second-half points to the offensively challenged Hokies, a group that averaged just 49 points for an entire game last season.

Other games Saturday:

Louisiana Tech at Virginia, 2 p.m.
     - Sophomore Faith Randolph is averaging 18.5 points as she assumes some of the scoring load from All-ACC senior Ataira Franklin, who unfortunately much continue to work around a balky knee. As will be the case all season, rebounding will be crucial for the undersized Cavaliers (1-1). Virginia got crushed on the boards in its season-opening loss at James Madison, then crushed High Point on the glass in winning by 19 on Monday. Meanwhile, the Lady Techsters opened their season by getting outrebounded 47-29 by South Carolina. Still, it sounds as though they expect much more success today.

"South Carolina was extremely big. Virginia we match up well (with) and we can kind of pound it in the paint a little," LaTech coach Teresa Weatherspoon told the (La.) News Star.

Utah Valley at Longwood, 2 p.m.
     - The Lancers (1-1) are coming off Tuesday's 58-52 victory over William and Mary, a game in which they trailed by 10 with less than nine minutes remaining. A quartet of sophomores is leading the way. Dae Dae Brown is averaging a double-double (10.5 points, 10.5 rebounds), Raven Williams leads the team with 15 ppg and Khalilah Ali (10.5 ppg) and Kyndal Skersick (9.5) have also been key contributors.

Friday's results

Norfolk State 66, Radford 54
     - Spartans senior forward Rachel Gordon had her way inside against the guard-oriented Highlanders, notching 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbing 16 rebounds. Also, nice job by NSU freshman forward Logan Powell, who chipped in 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting in just 9 minutes. As for the Highlanders, senior guard Breshara Gordon got off in her homecoming game (she's a graduate of Norfolk's Lake Taylor High) with a team high-tying 14 points. Ayana Avery also scored 14 points for Radford (2-1).

East Carolina 69, William and Mary 57
     - The Tribe (0-2) trailed just 32-31 at halftime before things went awry after the break. Freshman Marlena Tremba tied for team-high scoring honors with 13 points and is averaging 16.5 ppg so far. New coach Ed Swanson is clearly still looking at combinations as 12 players saw action and, with the exception of Kaitlyn Mathieu, none played more than 25 minutes. The good news for Tribe fans is it appears as though all 12 of them can contribute.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday's recap: Pickard dominates for George Mason

Yes, we too were blown away by the 21-point, 21-rebound performance - both career highs - turned in by George Mason's Janaa Pickard in the Patriots' 82-64 victory over Utah Valley Thursday night.

Turns out it was even better than we realized.Consider:

- The 21 rebounds were the most ever by any George Mason player at the Patriot Center, the building the team has called home since 1985. The previous high was 18 by Gretchen Lacey against Fairfield in 1995.

- It was the second-most rebounds by any player in a game this season. Pacific's Kendall Kenyon grabbed 24 boards in her team's season opener.

- Pickard's 12 offensive boards were the most by any player in a game this season.

- In shooting 9 of 15 from the field and 3 of 3 from the line, recording 4 assists, blocking a shot and not making a turnover, Pickard was as efficient as she was productive. In fact, her efficiency score of plus-37 was one of the 10 best by any Division I player this season, and the best so far by any D-I  player in Virginia. The five best in these parts:

1. Pickard - plus-37

2. JMU's Kirby Burkholder vs. Liberty - plus-32

3. Radford's Ayana Avery vs. Emory and Henry - plus-29

3. Virginia Tech's Taijah Campbell vs. Old Dominion - plus-29

5. VCU's Robyn Parks vs. Ohio State - plus-29

By the way, Pickard was part of our Elite 25 series on the best returning players in the state, so we knew she could play. But 21 and 21?

Heck of a show, Janaa. And a tip of the cap to Taylor Brown (17 points) and Kyana Jacobs (15) for their roles in helping the Patriots (2-1) capture their home opener.

Also Thursday:

Virginia Tech 71, Florida 59

First of all, it's pretty impressive to beat Florida in anything, isn't it?

Fortunately the story here isn't about how the Hokies blew a 28-point second-half lead, as the Gators cut 24 points off Tech's advantage until the home team regained control down the stretch. As a result, we're free to focus on the breakout performance of rookie guard Vanessa Panousis (a game-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting), who had contributed just 16 points in her first two games combined. Gators coach Amanda Butler certainly was impressed - and surprised.

"She clearly outplayed anything we had seen on film of her," Butler said. "She did a fantastic job of setting the tone for their team and versus our point guards which is something I'm very disappointed in. You have to give her credit. She was aggressive, she was attacking and was making plays for her team. She handled our pressure much more like a veteran than a freshman."

Led by the play of Panousis, the Hokies now find themselves not only 3-0, but an entertaining 3-0. Frankly, watching the Hokies play in recent years had been something you'd often find yourself wincing through, particularly when Tech had the ball. But these guys aren't just beating folks, they're lighting up the scoreboard (relatively speaking) as they do so. And offense sells tickets, right?

Get your popcorn ready, Tech fans. (Click here to read about Tech's victory over Old Dominion on Monday).

Ohio State 83, VCU 71

The Rams lost by 38 points when these teams met in Columbus last year. This time, the "Fury" folks made the Buckeyes work for it and were within five before a disastrous final 1:20 let the home team off the hook. Still, VCU fans should be pretty encouraged. Given how the rest of the non-conference schedule has been shaped, this team has a chance to win a bunch of games over the new few weeks with more efforts like Thursday's.

Upcoming games

Friday, November 15

Radford at Norfolk State, 6 p.m.

William and Mary at East Carolina, 7 p.m.

Saturday, November 16

Louisiana Tech at Virginia, 2 p.m.

Southern Miss at Hampton, 2 p.m.

Utah Valley at Longwood, 2 p.m.

Sunday, November 17

Radford at Old Dominion, 2 p.m.

Bucknell at Virginia Tech, 2 p.m.

UAB at Richmond, 2 p.m.

Elon at VCU, 2 p.m.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Week One statistical leaders

Dae Dae Brown - 5-foot-3, 10.5 rebounds per game.
Obviously it's way, way too early to start drawing conclusions based on the statistics of just one week. But just in case you were wondering which players have been really feeling it in the early going (Hello, Ms. Burkholder):

Kirby Burkholder, JMU                     2  47  23.5
Alyssa Bennett, Hampton                   1  22  22.0
Ayana Avery, Radford                       2  41  20.5
Stephanie Gardner, ODU                   2  41  20.5
Marlena Tremba, William and Mary   1  20  20.0
Faith Randolph, Virginia                     2  37 18.5
Taylor Brown, George Mason            2  36  18.0
Monnazjea Finney-Smith, VCU         1  18  18.0
Kaitlyn Mathieu, William and Mary    1  18  18.0
Rae Corbo, Norfolk State                 1  17  17.0
Ashley Rininger, Liberty                     2  33  16.5
Kristina King, Richmond                    2  32  16.0
Raven Williams, Longwood                2  31  15.5
Adaeze Alaeze, VCU                        1  15  15.0
Quineshia Leonard, Norfolk State     1  15  15.0
Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton        1  15  15.0
Sadalia Ellis, Liberty                          2  28  14.0
Robyn Parks, VCU                           1  14  14.0
Rachael Ross, Radford                      2  27  13.5
Shae Kelley, ODU                            2  26  13.0
Sandra Ngoie, George Mason           2  25  12.5
Olivia Healy, Richmond                     2  25  12.5
Janaa Pickard, George Mason           2  24  12.0
Nicole Hamilton, Hampton                1  11  11.0
Sarah Imovbioh, Virginia                   2  21  10.5
Daeisha Brown, Longwood               2  21  10.5
Khalilah Ali, Longwood                     2  20  10.0
Jessica Pellechio, VCU                     1  10  10.0
Kyndal Skersick, Longwood             2  19  9.5
Liz Brown, Richmond                       2  19  9.5
Kermisha Clark, Radford                 2  19  9.5
Talisha Watts, George Mason          2  18  9.0
Raeshaun Gaffney, Virginia               2  18  9.0
Genevieve Okoro, Richmond           2  18  9.0
Precious Hall, JMU                          2  17  8.5
Janelle Hubbard, Richmond             2  16  8.0
Isis Thorpe, VCU                             1  8    8.0
Rachel Gordon, Norfolk State         1  8  8.0
Koryn Lawrence, Norfolk State      1  8  8.0
Ryan Jordan, Hampton                    1  8  8.0

Kirby Burkholder, JMU                   2  29  14.5
Ayana Avery, Radford                     2  21  10.5
Daeisha Brown, Longwood              2  21  10.5
Shae Kelley, ODU                           2  21   10.5
Hannah Young, Virginia Tech           2  21  10.5
Rachael Ross, Radford                     2  20  10.5
Camille Calhoun, VCU                     1  10  10.0
Quineshia Leonard, Norfolk State    1  10  10.0
Alyssa Bennett, Hampton                 1  10  10.0
Khalilah Ali, Longwood                    2  19  9.5
Genevieve Okoro, Richmond            2  19  9.5
Liz Brown, Richmond                       2  18  9.0
Sarah Imovbioh, Virginia                   2  18  9.0
Talisha Watts, George Mason           2  18  9.0
Ashley Rininger, Liberty                    2   17  8.5
Taijah Campbell, Virginia Tech         2  16  8.0
Jordynn Gaymon, Radford                2  16  8.0
Robyn Parks, VCU                           1  8  8.0
Kaitlyn Mathieu, William and Mary    1  8  8.0
Olivia Healy, Richmond                     2  15  7.5
Uju Ugoka, Virginia Tech                   2  15  7.5
Monet Tellier, Virginia Tech              2  14  7.5
Keira McIvor, Radford                      2  14  7.0
Adaeze Alaeze, VCU                        1  7   7.0
Brascia Audain, Hampton                 1  7   7.0
Janaa Pickard, George Mason           2  13  6.5
Kristina King, Richmond                   2  13  6.5
Sandra Ngoie, George Mason           2  12  6.0
Ryan Jordan, Hampton                      1   6   6.0
Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton        1   6  6.0
Marlena Tremba, William and Mary  1  6  6.0
Heather Tobeck, Longwood              2  11  5.5
Sarah Beth Barnette, Virginia            2  11  5.5
Chelisa Painter, ODU                        2  11  5.5
Tiffany Minor, ODU                          2   11  5.5

Ashlee Mitchell, VCU                       1   7   7.0
Vanessa Panousis, Virginia Tech        2  11  5.5
Kermisha Clark, Radford                   2  11  5.5
Angela Mickens, JMU                       2  10  5.0
Shae Kelley, ODU                            2  10  5.0
Monet Tellier, Virginia Tech              2  10  5.0
Jazmen Boone, William and Mary     1  5  5.0
Ayana Avery, Radford                      2  8  4.0
Jessica Pellechio, VCU                     1   4   4.0
Jazamine Gray, Norfolk State            1  4  4.0
Sadalia Ellis, Liberty                          2  7  3.5
Olivia Healy, Richmond                     2  6  3.0
Kelsey Wolfe, Virginia                       2  6  3.0
Faith Randolph, Virginia                     2  6  3.0
Galaisha Goodhope, ODU                 2  6  3.0
LaQuanda Younger, ODU                 2  6  3.0
Emily Frazier, Liberty                         2  6  3.0
Keira McIvor, Radford                      2  6  3.0
Keira Robinson, VCU                        1  3  3.0

Kristina King, Richmond                      2  10  5.0
Robyn Parks, VCU                             1   5   5.0
Keira Robinson, VCU                         1   5   5.0
Jazamine Gray, Norfolk State              1  4  4.0
Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton          1  4  4.0
Kyla Kerstetter, William and Mary      1  4  4.0
Taylor Brown, George Mason             2  6  3.
Shae Kelley, ODU                              2  6  3.0
Rae Corbo, Norfolk State                   1  3  3.0
Ayana Avery, Radford                         2  5  2.5
Lexie Gerson, Virginia                          2  5  2.5
Nikki Newman, JMU                           2  5  2.5

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

JMU, Liberty set to square off on ESPN3

One down, two to go?

That's JMU's mentality as the Dukes invade Liberty Tuesday at 7 p.m. for the second round of their self-described "Get Back Tour."

The contest will air on ESPN3, which will also broadcast the Lady Flames' home contests against Virginia (Nov. 19), Richmond (Dec. 3), Radford (Dec. 7), Campbell (Dec. 28) and Gardner-Webb (Jan. 9). The games will also be video streamed for free on the Big South Network.

The Dukes' first three games this season - Virginia, at Liberty, Richmond - are against teams that beat them a year ago. During his weekly press conference Monday, Brooks said avenging those losses has been a motivating theme for his group throughout the preseason.

JMU accomplished Step One of its mission on Friday, when the Dukes ran past UVa. 63-46. Next up: the Lady Flames, who knocked off JMU 60-48 in Harrisonburg in 2012.

Tonight's game pits two superior rebounding teams, so a key could be which team can give the other fewest misses to rebound. Last season, the Dukes shot a ghastly 26.8 percent against the Lady Flames. Now if any team can win with that kind of shooting percentage it's JMU, as we've seen the Dukes do it before. But it's a huge ask on the road against a team of Liberty's caliber.

Meanwhile, Liberty will try to take better care of the ball than it did in its season-opening loss at Charlotte, when the Lady Flames committed 30 turnovers.

Finally, a special shoutout to JMU's Kirby Burkholder, who was named the Colonial Athletic Association's Co-Player of the Week after her 24-point, 16-rebound effort against Virginia.

Other Tuesday games:

George Mason at Morehead State, 6 p.m.
- Talisha Watts and the Patriots look to build on some encouraging performances in their season-opening loss at East Carolina.

Lynchburg at Radford, 7 p.m.
- Ayana Avery and Co. will be out to make it two straight against Division III foes at home before heading out for a gauntlet of tough road games.

Improved Virginia Tech holds off Old Dominion

Virginia Tech's Taijah Campbell
It's become part of the basketball vernacular, but we've never been crazy about the phrase, "She makes other players better" because, well, it's simply not true.

Think about it. Say Player A can't go to her left or hit from 15 feet. You can surround her with four starters from the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx and she still won't be able to go to her left or hit from 15 feet. The only person that can truly make Player A better is Player A, by getting her butt in the gym.

Now, can certain players make those around them "more effective?" Absolutely. Someone that can draw defenders, set up others or just create extra space on the floor can allow Player A to mask her limitations and do what she does best. She's no better. But with the right supporting cast, she can be a hell of a lot more effective.

We saw this phenomenon play out for Virginia Tech Monday as the Hokies topped Old Dominion 73-61 at ODU's Constant Center.

As we all know by now, the Hokies weren't exactly a great shooting team last year (how's that for being charitable?). But with newcomers Vanessa Paunousis and Maddison Penn now capable of stretching defenses - Penn stepping into and draining a 25-footer early in the first half was the first "Wow!" moment of the night - holdovers Taijah Campbell, Monet Tellier and Hannah Young were about as effective as anyone could have hoped.

The slender 6-3 Campbell burned ODU with three putbacks in the first half alone, made her first eight field goal attempts and finished with 19 points on 9-10 shooting and 11 rebounds. Tellier also had 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting and is making 52 percent of her shots through two games. This from a 37.5 percent shooter a year ago who went 0 for 9 from the field last season against ODU. And Young made half of her eight shots and slammed the door on the Lady Monarchs with a pair of late daggers.

If you're scoring at home, that's 20-of-30 shooting from three starters. It's not going to be like that every night. But we can certainly see why coach Dennis Wolff doesn't hesitate to call this the best team he's had at Tech.

Cleaning out the closet

- The Hokies prevailed despite a quiet night from starting forward Uju Ugoka, who picked up two fouls inside the first two minutes, sat out the rest of the first half and spent just 10 minutes on court. Ugoka, the highest-ranking Hokie at No. 11 on our Elite 25 list of the best returning players in the state, averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds last season.

- Lady Monarchs senior guard Stephanie Gardner (game-high 20 points) kept the Lady Monarchs in it by scoring all nine ODU points during a mid-second half run that turned a 46-41 deficit into a 52-50 lead. Don't know if it was fatigue, Tech's defense doing a better job on her or what, but Gardner did not attempt a shot over the final 7:00.

- A series of quick whistles threatened to spoil the entertainment value of the proceedings, but it wasn't as though these were hack officials out there making the calls. Lisa Mattingly is considered one of the top refs in the business and was part of the crew for last year's NCAA championship game. And Maj Forsberg has been a WNBA ref for years in addition to working high-level college games.

- Good things happened for ODU when freshman Odegua Oigbokie (9 points on 4-of-7 shooting and 4 rebounds in 12 minutes) was on the floor. She's a keeper.

- Meanwhile, it was a quiet night for ODU starters Tiffany Minor (4 points of 1-of-5 shooting and 4 rebounds in 32 minutes), Galaisha Goodhope (no field goals, 2 points and 2 assists in 25 minutes) and Chelisa Painter (4 points in 17 minutes and just 1:50 of playing time in the second half).

- The absence of injured guard Ashley Betz-White - can we now call her the Blonde Bomber? - was clearly felt as the Lady Monarchs could have used her zone-busting shooting ability down the stretch. Here's hoping she heals up and can suit up soon.

- Comparisons to last year's 55-35 ODU decision in Blacksburg are natural, but they're hardly an apples-to-apples deal. Of the eight Tech players who played at least 10 minutes Monday, only three participated in last year's game. As for ODU, Gardner and Painter were spectators when the teams met last November.

- So much for homecourt advantage - the road team has prevailed - by double digits - in each of the three meetings between these teams the past three years.

- Finally, attendance was announced at 2,449, and while we'll take ODU's word for that, we couldn't shake the feeling that a Lady Monarchs-Hokies matchup in Norfolk should be a bigger deal than a quarter-full Constant Center would indicate. Now that both teams are obviously on the rise, here's hoping future meetings become just that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday's recap: Richmond, Hampton come up big

Sunday's recap

Richmond 57, Miami 50: The Spiders shut down the Hurricanes most of the game, then hang on to notch a significant road victory.

Hampton 64, St. Peter's 37: The Lady Pirates scored 34 points off 26 Peacocks turnovers to hand coach David Six his 100th career victory (100-30).

East Carolina 75, George Mason 66: The Patriots battled gamely but couldn't overcome 28.8 percent shooting.

Player of the Day

Alyssa Bennett, Hampton: The Lady Pirates smooth senior led the way with 21 points (on 9-of-17 shooting), 10 rebounds and, as usual, smothering defense.

Special shoutouts

Genevieve Okoro, Richmond: The Spiders star went for 10 points and 11 rebounds as she continues her triumphant return from ACL surgery.

Talisha Watts, George Mason: The 6-2 junior from Lynchburg notched her first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds at East Carolina.

Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton: Impact freshman debuted with 15 points, logged 34 minutes and generally looked as though she'd been in the program for years.

Inside the numbers

Some familiar faces helped do in George Mason. ECU's Abria Trice (21 points, 7 rebounds) used to compete against the Patriots as a member of the UNC Wilmington Seahawks when both teams were in the Colonial Athletic Association. Also, Pirates starting forward Ondrea Shaw actually attended George Mason last year before transferring. The 6-4 Shaw finished with 7 rebounds...It was a tough debut for Patriots newcomer Taylor Brown, who hit her first two shots, including a 3-pointer 16 seconds into the game, but was hampered by foul trouble beginning late in the first half. The Georgetown transfer wound up fouling out with 8:34 left and the Patriots down seven (60-53). She finished with 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Given the new emphasis on curbing physical play, how games will be called going forward will be particularly important for Hampton, which has mastered in-your-face defense. The Lady Pirates were whistled for 23 fouls against overmatched St. Peter's, including five on starting forward Ryan Jordan and four on star guard Nicole Hamilton. We're betting these guys will adjust, though...Hampton has now won 15 straight home games dating back to the 2011-12 season.

Richmond shot just 31.9 percent but thrived by forcing 22 Miami turnovers and racking up 11 steals without running up a high foul count. The Hurricanes made just eight trips to the free throw line...Kristina King led Richmond with 11 points and freshman Janelle Hubbard added 10 of 4-of-7 shooting in 15 minutes.

Monday's games

High Point at Virginia, 7 p.m.
- On the heels of Friday's disappointing showing at JMU, something tells us we'll see a much more inspired effort, particularly on the boards, by the Cavaliers in this one.

Virginia Tech at Old Dominion, 7 p.m.
- The No. 5 team in our preseason rankings visits No. 4 after both posted emphatic season-opening victories Saturday. Given the upgrades on both sides, the game figures to bear little resemblance stylistically to the 55-35 ODU victory when these teams met in Blacksburg last year. We're sure the Hokies certainly hope so. The teams have split their two previous meetings the past two years, with each team winning in the other's building.

William and Mary at Longwood, 7 p.m.
- The Tribe becomes the last of the state's teams to open its season with this trip to Farmville.

Also worth noting, JMU received one vote in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday. Not surprisingly, the nod came from the Delaware News-Journal's Kevin Tresolini, who has been covering Colonial Athletic Association hoops for years. Tresolini has JMU 25th on his list this week.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Saturday's recap: Blowout city

Four teams, four season-opening dominating victories. Cue the highlights:

Radford 74, Emory and Henry 38: Double-doubles by Ayana Avery, Rachael Ross and freshman Kermisha Clark made for a stress-free (relatively speaking) debut for rookie head coach Mike McGuire.

VCU 85, Youngstown State 66: Marketing and promotions are fine. But in racking up 23 steals, scoring 33 points off turnovers and generally running YSU out of its own building, the Rams showed that the best advertisement for their self-described "Fury" style is the product on the court.

Old Dominion 97, Delaware State 67: With contributions coming from throughout the roster, the Lady Monarchs flexed some newfound muscle (32 offensive rebounds?) against the youthful Hornets. Bring on Virginia Tech (Monday night at the Constant Center).

Virginia Tech 84, Howard 32: Six Hokies scored in double figures as Tech racked up its first 50-points-or-more victory since 2004-05. We're coming, Old Dominion.

Player of the Day

Stephanie Gardner, Old Dominion
They call her "SG," but on Saturday at the Constant Center it should have been "HC" - for Heat Check - after she splashed three 3-pointers and racked up 13 points in the opening 4:14 en route to a career-high 21 points. Flashy dunks are fine, but we really get off on watching a player get white-hot from distance and start knocking 'em down. SG was that player Saturday. Plus, she's got the coolest hairstyle in the game.

Special shoutouts

Daisy Alaeze, VCU: Rams "forgotten returner" had 15 points and 7 rebounds at Youngstown State. She's not going to say this, so we will: Yeah, Robyn Parks can ball, Jessica Pellechio can stroke it and there's all these talented newcomers. But hey, guys, that's not all the Rams have.

Ayana Avery, Radford: The Highlanders sophomore seems to enjoy season openers. Last year she debuted with 18 points at Marshall. On Saturday, she drained six treys on her way to a career high-tying 21 points to help the Highlanders separate from Emory and Henry. Oh, and she also hauled down a career-high 11 rebounds - all 5-foot-5 of her.

Hannah Young, Virginia Tech: Last year, the Newcastle, Australia native got a late start on the 2012-13 campaign and endured an up-and-down debut season. But after her 11-point, 11-rebound, 4-assist effort against Howard, it looks like she's got the hang of this Division I business.

Sunday's games

Richmond at Miami, 2 p.m.
- After an encouraging effort Friday at Georgetown, Kristina King and the Spiders try their luck on the road against another traditional power.

St. Peter's at Hampton, 3 p.m.
- The Lady Pirates have not lost at home since January, 2012 (14 straight home wins, 11-0 last season). A victory would be the 100th for fifth-year Lady Pirates coach David Six (99-30).

George Mason at East Carolina, 6 p.m.
- The Nyla Milleson Era begins on the road for the Patriots. So does the Taylor Brown Era.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

JMU's Burkholder heads up Friday's standouts

Player of the night

Kirby Burkholder, JMU - The Preseason Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year flat-out went off on Virginia with 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Dukes' 63-46 pummeling of the Cavaliers Friday night at a raucous Convocation Center in Harrisonburg. The performance also allowed Burkholder to poke her head over the 1,000 career-point barrier (1,019). And on a personal note, it helped make us look good in our preseason rankings - for a change.

Special shoutouts

Olivia Healy, Richmond: The Spiders freshman reacted to her college debut as though she were still hoopin' at Reading (Mass.) High School (Go Red Sox!) while lighting up Georgetown for 17 points and 10 rebounds. Welcome to the big time, Liv.

Emily Frazier, Liberty: Her team didn't win, but the fact that Frazier was able to start, log 29 minutes and dish out a team-high four assists after suffering a season-ending knee injury last February made her personal battle a real triumph.

Raven Williams, Longwood: The Lancers sophomore poured in a career-high 20 points in a 63-46 loss at Seton Hall. Quote the Raven, indeed.

Kristina King, Richmond: Double-K narrowly missed a double-double but still checked in with a robust 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals at Georgetown.

Faith Randolph, Virginia: About the only Cavalier that could get anything to fall in Harrisonburg, Randolph finished with 18 points, one shy of her career high.

Quineisha Leonard, Norfolk State: Notched 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Spartans fought the good fight before falling by six at Morehead State. Also, welcome back, Rae Corbo (17 points in her first action since tearing an ACL in the second game of the 2012-13 season).

By the numbers

Brick city: Friday night's losing teams' shooting percentages

Richmond - 31 percent
Norfolk State - 30 percent
Virginia - 28.3 percent
Longwood - 24.1 percent

We're sensing a pattern here. Even victorious JMU did its share of misfiring, as the emphatic nature of the Dukes' victory masked the fact that the winners shot a measly 33.9 percent. Then again, when you dominate the boards (49-26) and rack up a 26-8 advantage in second-chance points, 33.9 percent ain't all that measly.

By the way, while the game highlighted how little margin for error undersized Virginia has to be competitive on the boards against a team with JMU's length, skill and want-to, we're confident the Cavaliers will regroup and recover from Friday's debacle - just like JMU did after getting whipped by 21 in Charlottesville to open the 2012-13 season.

To be fair, one team was reasonably accurate from the field as Liberty fell despite 44.7 percent shooting. Problem was the Lady Flames offset this with 30 turnovers, which Charlotte turned into 28 points. It marked the third time in four years Liberty opened a season in defeat after a 30-plus turnovers effort:

2010 - 30 turnovers in a 40-35 loss to Creighton
2012 - 35 turnovers in a 63-46 loss at Duquesne
2013 - 30 turnovers in a 66-56 loss at Charlotte

The good news is it can only get better from here...right?

Finally, while it's pretty cool that 5-foot-3 Daeisha Brown grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds for Longwood, the fact that the smallest player in the building collected the lion's share of the boards helps explain why the Lancers got killed on the glass 64-36. Of course, the best way to keep opponents off the glass - make more shots.

Saturday's games

Delaware State at Old Dominion, 2 p.m.

VCU at Youngstown State, 2:05 p.m.

Howard at Virginia Tech, 3 p.m.

Emory and Henry at Radford, 6 p.m.

Friday, November 8, 2013

LadySwish state rankings - 2013-14 preseason edition

Two years ago, we tabbed VCU as the preseason number one team in the state. The Rams went on to barely win as many games as they lost.

Last year, we picked JMU as our top team, a couple of days before the Dukes got blown out by 21 points at Virginia.

Keep this in mind as you check out our rankings for 2013-14. Just remember, eventually we're going to be right about this stuff.

13. Radford
Some tough sledding awaits new coach Mike McGuire as the Highlanders will open the season with just (a magnificent?) seven players, four of who have never played a college basketball game. Senior guard Breshara Gordon and junior forward Jordynn Gaymon will soon boost that number to nine, but given the whistle-happy nature of play this preseason, this may be the worst year in history to be caught with a short bench. It's not that Radford is devoid of talent. Ayana Avery, a three-point specialist a year ago, is developing into a complete player. Freshman Kermisha Clark seems poised to contribute quality minutes right away. And Kiera McIvor brings intangibles and an ability to make those around her more effective. In short, we like the players; there just aren't enough of them, particularly in the frontcourt. But hey, at least no one's going to be complaining about not getting enough minutes.
Season opener: Saturday vs. Emory and Henry, 6 p.m.

12. Norfolk State
Call us crazy, but there's a 16-18 win team in here somewhere. All-MEAC forward Rachel Gordon and Quineshia Leonard form a nice 1-2 in the frontcourt, and an infusion of promising freshmen guards should give NSU some nice options in the backcourt. Ebony Brown has the ability to be one of the best all-around players in the MEAC. Then there's speedy guard Rae Corbo, who looked sharp to our eyes recently in the Spartans' lone exhibition game. Afterward, NSU coach Debra Clark said Corbo was operating at about 70 percent. Based on what we saw, if Corbo has another 30 percent worth of burst in her, the NSU track coach would like a word with her after practice. Corbo's injury was a big reason why this group cratered a year ago and produced just seven wins. But there should be no excuses this time. OK, so we wish there was more perimeter shooting. But hey, the schedule's manageable and the talent seems capable. Sixteen-to-18 wins, guys. We're holding you to that.
Season opener: Today at Morehead State, noon

11. Longwood
The Lancers lost a lot of firepower from last year's surprise Big South Tournament finalist, but they do return one of the most exciting players around in sophomore Daeisha "Day-Day" Brown, the 5-foot-3 sparkplug who creates havoc at both ends of the court. While Day-Day's worth the price of a ticket by herself, Longwood has some nice young pieces around her in sophomores Raven Williams and Khalilah Ali (fellow sophomores Kyndal Skersick and Deborah Headen are coming off strong offseasons, too).  In addition, the return of shot-blocking ace Heather Tobeck provides something last year's tiny Lancers didn't have - a true low-post defensive presence. Tobeck sat out last season but blocked a school-record 122 shots over her first three years. Last year opposing Big South teams learned these Lancers play extremely hard and fear no one. Expect more of the same in 2013-14.
Season opener: Today at Seton Hall, 7 p.m.

10. George Mason
One shouldn't draw too many conclusions from exhibition-game results, so all we're really sure of after the Patriots' two preseason contests is that they're a lot better than Bowie State and Hood College. George Mason has a new coach, new system and a reshuffled lineup, so how the Patriots stack up against Division I foes remains unclear. But it does appear as though, after averaging 20.5 points and serving as the engine of the Patriots offense, Georgetown transfer Taylor Brown will be every bit as good as advertised. And that's a great place to start.
Season opener: Sunday at East Carolina, 6 p.m.

9. William and Mary
The Tribe graduated its top three scorers - two of whom notched more than 1,000 points in their career - and five significant contributors from last season, but new coach Ed Swanson is hardly starting from scratch. Kyra Kerstetter, Jazmen Boone, Anna Kestler and Kaitlyn Mathieu, a former CAA All-Rookie team member, form a nice nucleus of veteran players hungry to assume key roles. Add in five freshmen who all seem capable of contributing and the Tribe actually have one of the deeper teams in the state. It's hard to see how this group won't improve on last season's 8-22 record.
Season opener: Monday at Longwood, 7 p.m.

8. VCU
It certainly all sounds good - an uptempo style, lots of talented newcomers, a catchy slogan (Fury, anyone?). But after All-Atlantic 10 forward Robyn Parks and shooting star Jessica Pellechio, there's not much we're really sure about at this point. Rams coach Marlene Stollings has been light on specifics about the newcomers' progress during the preseason, and while we don't blame her, it doesn't help us figure things out. But a couple of years ago, Stollings took over a talented group at Winthrop and transformed it into a contender in one season. On paper, this VCU team has considerably more talent than that Winthrop team. Again, though, this all sounds good. Looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out on the court.
Season opener: Saturday at Youngstown State, 2 p.m.

7. Richmond
Former two-sport star Becca Wann's contributions were so varied losing her is kind of like losing two players. Still, it would be foolish to write off these Spiders. Kristina King is an All-Atlantic 10 player, and a healthy Genevieve Okoro is one, too. We keep hearing great things about freshman guard Olivia Healy. Plus, there are a lot of players - Liz Brown, Bria Powell, Kerri Soppe among them - who have been around a while and should be ready to step into more significant roles. In short, we're confident coach Michael Shafer will figure out a way to keep this team relevant.
Season opener: Today at Georgetown, 7 p.m.

6. Liberty
This is as close to a season of unknowns as it gets for the Lady Flames, who typically have 1-2 marquee players around which to build. Don't feel sorry for these guys, though. Ashley Rininger heads a deep frontcourt rotation that figures to continue Liberty's traditional rebounding dominance. Emily Frazier, Reagan Miller and Sadalia Ellis lead a loaded backcourt. And at least four freshmen are challenging for significant minutes. The non-conference schedule is formidable, so the Lady Flames may take a few lumps early. But by the time Big South conference play rolls around, we suspect Liberty will look like typical Liberty.
Season opener: Today at Charlotte, 5 p.m.

5. Virginia Tech
After years of being light on ACC-caliber players, the Hokies may have finally stockpiled enough talent to at least make league games a fair fight. Five newcomers have shored up the roster, most notably Australian point guard Vanessa Panousis, who helped her national U19 team to a third-place finish at last summer's world championships. Tech now has shooters to spread the floor and create space inside for posts Uju Ugoka and Taijah Campbell, which in turn could make it easier for guard Monet Tellier to get her 15-20 - or better yet make it possible that she doesn't have to. It's not saying much to predict this will be the best Hokies team in several years, but we'll say it anyway - This will be the best Tech team in several years.
Season opener: Saturday vs. Howard, 3 p.m.

4. Old Dominion
Talk about addressing your weakness. The Lady Monarchs, who ranked 307th out of 345 teams in rebounding margin last season, now look like a team capable of dominating the glass against some teams and at least holding its own on the boards against most others. Impact transfer Chelisa Painter is a big part of this transformation, as are freshmen bigs Destinee Young, Odegua Oigbokie and Ije Ajemba. Combine the added size with ODU's typically pesky defense and the all-around brilliance of Shae Kelley and the Lady Monarchs seem poised to take another step forward in Year 3 of the Karen Barefoot Era.
Season opener: Saturday vs. Delaware State, 2 p.m.

3. Hampton
With remarkable defenders Alyssa Bennett and Nicole Hamilton leading the way, all indications are the Lady Pirates will again be among the nation's stingiest teams in terms of points allowed (last year, they were THE stingiest, surrendering a Division I-low 47.8 points). We're not sure who will carry the load offensively, although Bennett and Hamilton are both capable and freshman Malia Tate-DeFreitas was a scoring machine in high school. And while the Lady Pirates do lack size, a couple of years ago we saw a Hampton team with no starter taller than 5-11 take Kentucky to overtime in the NCAA Tournament. In other words, it looks as though Hampton is set to kick a lot of MEAC - and non-conference - booty once again.
Season opener: Sunday vs. St. Peter's, 3 p.m.

2. Virginia
First and foremost, the Cavaliers are healthy, something they could never say last season. Beyond that they've got talented players all over the place, from All-ACC star Ataira Franklin and fellow seniors Lexie Gerson and Kelsey Wolfe to a veritable bounty of skilled underclassmen. The Cavaliers are undersized, which could cause them problems against some ACC heavyweights. But we're confident in Cavs coach Joanne Boyle's ability to not only work around that against most teams, but also exploit the opportunities smaller lineups can present. Besides, even middle-of-the-pack teams in this year's ACC should contend for NCAA Tournament bids, and we expect this Virginia team to do just that.
Season opener: Today at JMU, 7 p.m.

1. James Madison
Why JMU at No. 1? Simple. If there were checklists for women's basketball teams (experience, depth, front-line talent, etc.), the Dukes would have more boxes checked than any other team. From the presence of preseason CAA Player of the Year Kirby Burkholder to the return of defensive ace Nikki Newman and the emergence of point guard Muff Mickens, this team looks loaded. JMU coach Kenny Brooks knows what he has, too, which is why he has lined up a schedule (Virginia, UCLA, Vanderbilt, St. John's, North Carolina), that could make the Dukes a serious NCAA at-large candidate should his team not claim the CAA Tournament title. Of course, if this team is good as we expect, it won't need no stinkin' at-large bid.
Season opener: Today vs. Virginia, 7 p.m.

Friday, November 1, 2013

VCU's Hurt and JMU's Evans meet on opposite ends in France

We saw a lot of Courtney Hurt's team (VCU) vs. Dawn Evans' team (James Madison) in the CAA, and the two put on quite a show recently overseas, too. Hurt's USO Mondeville's team defeated Evans' team, Arras Pays D'Artois team 89-79 on Oct. 23.

Hurt: 7-of-10 from the field, 20 points, 11 rebounds, 29 minutes
Evans: 3-of-7 from the field, 16 points, 6 assists, 35 minutes

Hurt, the all-time leader in scoring and rebounding at VCU, had already given her teammates some scouting tips on Evans, No. 2 on the CAA's all-time scoring list: "I just told my teammates about her shooting abilities and tried to warn them about her quickness. My teammates were already familiar with her game, as she played in the French League last year and one of my current teammates, Sandra Dijon, played alongside her in Arras last season.

As for how her own season is going, Hurt says, "The French League is without a doubt the toughest league I have play in. It challenges me mentally and physically like never before. In college and even sometimes in Israel, I would match up with players around my height, but not so much over here. Post players are taller, more physical and the game is a bit faster."

Hurt, who played professionally last season in Israel, says she feels more like a professional athlete, though she doesn't dismiss the idea of returning to Elizur Netanya. "The games are packed every night with loud and passionate fans, something I really like! They go crazy after someone make a great play or block a shot; it really gives you energy. After the games, I have to dress up, sign up, take pictures with the fans and talk one on one with our sponsors. As far as on the court, here the level of pay is higher, and everyone is bigger, stronger, and there's not a huge drop in talent around the league. I feel like here I have to think about the game more as well; getting a feel for when to shoot and when to pass is huge. Everything is detailed, and teams are disciplined on both sides of the court. You make a couple of mistakes, and all of the sudden you're down 10."

If we hear from Dawn, we'll add her thoughts, too.

Lauren Shute: Despite not playing hoops, Richmond senior found her way to be an athlete for life

Lauren Shute is a girl after our own heart. The former Richmond player -- she has opted to forgo her senior year of eligibility -- loves to write about sports, particularly the stories no one tells from women's basketball (what a concept!). She has her own blog (just like us) and she loves to write. For a few minutes, though, Shute took the time to chat with LadySwish.

All the way from Dana Point, Ca., to Richmond. Why?

I don't really think of myself as a California girl. I grew up in a gym every day. We went to the beach, but I was never into the California lifestyle. We actually have a lot of family in the southeast, so I always visited. I actually got recruited by Richmond really early. We just happened to be playing North Carolina, and when I got on campus, I absolutely loved it. Committed super early and after having agreements with other coaches to take official visits, I told them, 'I think I'm good.' "

After playing sparingly over three years (Shute appeared in just 25 games in that span), why did you decide not to play this season?

I wasn't playing a lot, and I got to a place where I wasn't happy doing it anymore. I was a journalism major, and I found myself leaning more toward my journalism. I just wasn't happy anymore. I've had some family stuff going on. My mom's been through a couple of surgeries. I think I got burned out.

When I got here, it was really the first time on my own. I was in over my head. I was so excited to be away from home my freshman year, but at the same time, I didn't realize how hard it was going to be. My dad had been my only coach growing up. He coached me club, high school, the whole deal. It was really weird not having him on the sideline. I'm not sure I fit into the system in Richmond. I had a hard time finding my place on the team and adjusting to playing.

So what are your thoughts on Richmond, the school?

I love it! I absolutely love it. When I was picking schools, I was looking at a school I'd be happy at even if I wasn't playing. When things didn't go well at practice, I almost felt bipolar. I'd be so unhappy at practice, and I'd walk to the dorm and be so happy. I have unbelievable friends, amazing professors. I love my major. The campus is gorgeous. I love being on my own. I love everything even though I wasn't playing a lot. The community at Richmond is so close, I felt connected to everything. I got very lucky.

So tell us about this blog you've started.

Obviously, I feel like I have an interesting story. I absolutely love the girls that I've played with, and I feel like everybody has such an interesting story, and sometimes women's basketball doesn't get as much media attention. I love writing feature stories and writing about sports.

I like talking to people like Niveen Rasheed and Jacki Gemelos (her first two blog stories), people who you might know their names but you don't know their story. I'd like talking to someone who isn't all that well known to get their story out there.

And your cool internship?

I interned in New York this summer with Sports Illustrated for Kids. I was a reporting intern. It was my first time in the city. I interviewed Shaq; I went to the NBA draft. It sounds really corny, but I think I found a way to be an athlete for life. It was the first time I was excited about basketball in a long time.

What did you ask Shaq?

I was starstruck. When I was younger, he was like my favorite person ever. So I told him that before I interviewed him. He was releasing a shoe line, so I asked him about how he felt about the shoes being rereleased.

You're graduating in the spring. Then what?

I was invited back to SI, so I would love to intern there again. I would love to have a definite plan, but with journalism you kind of can't. I love it. I just want to keep doing what I love.