Friday, January 10, 2014

Saturday's five-spot: What to watch for

Old Dominion's Stephanie Gardner 
Five things we'll be keeping an eye trained on during this huge day in hoops:

- Old Dominion's 3-point shooting: So far this season, there's been a strong correlation between the quality of the Lady Monarchs' long-distance shooting and the quality of their performance. Think about ODU's most encouraging efforts this season, outside of the games against opponents they could overmatch physically. The 89-82 overtime loss to Marist? ODU hit a season-high 14 3-pointers and shot 48 percent from deep. The victory at Boston University was aided by 46-percent 3-point shooting. And they were at 40.9 percent at Duke. Now look at the more disappointing outings. They shot 22 percent from three against Virginia Tech, 25 percent against Bowling Green, 26 percent at Pittsburgh and a measly 18 percent in Wednesday's 21-point loss at Charlotte. Obviously there are other factors involved in the wins and losses. But to this point ODU has held its own against its stiffest foes only on days/night when the long-range shots have fallen at a healthy clip. So if you tell us ODU will shoot in the 40-percent range on 3-pointers Saturday against Tulane, we're pretty confident the Green Wave will have all it can handle. But if the Lady Monarchs' deep shots aren't falling, the numbers suggest they could be in for a long afternoon.

By the way, here's Tulane coach Lisa Stockton's take on the Lady Monarchs: "They're very athletic. They're going to get up and defend us. We're going to have to really take care of the ball. We're going to need the type of team effort in scoring (in Thursday's 77-61 win at Marshall) and that balance against them. It's a great program. There's going to be a good crowd and we're excited to go up there."

- Will this be "the day" for Radford?: The Highlanders continue to battle and produce strong efforts, including a near-miss Thursday against Big South co-leader Winthrop. Yet the team is still in search of its first victory over a Division I team. Today's opponent, UNC Asheville, can feel Radford's pain, as it went 0-16 in league play last year. Now these are much-improved Bulldogs. But we keep saying the Highlanders are competing too hard not to pick off someone eventually. Ironically, UNC Asheville is the last Division I team Radford defeated, in the first round of the 2013 Big South Tournament.

Tyler Hobgood
- Tyler Hobgood's development at Hampton: The 6-1 redshirt sophomore forward from Oxford, N.C. began her college career at Miami, where she was briefly a teammate of Old Dominion's Stephanie Gardner, and established eligibility at Hampton after the first semester. Between seeing limited minutes as a freshman at Miami and not playing at all last year, Hobgood hasn't been involved in live competition in a long time and is being eased into the Lady Pirates' rotation. We suspect that process will be accelerated beginning today when Hampton visits Delaware State. The Lady Pirates have won 11 straight against the Lady Hornets and 32 straight against MEAC foes.

- Liberty's dominating post trio: Anyone that's watched the Lady Flames recently can clearly see that Ashley Rininger, Catherine Kearney and Katelyn Adams are all kicking butt down low. But thanks to Liberty sports information ace Paul Carmany, we can back this up with numbers. The trio has combined for 36.5 points, 28.5 rebounds and nine double-doubles in six Big South games. That's getting it done, folks.

- A whole different ballgame: A few days after having to deal with one of the nation's highest scoring teams (Dayton), George Mason will travel to one of its least potent in injury-ravaged Rhode Island, a team that has scored 44 points or less in each of its three Atlantic 10 games. Even with their shorthanded roster, the Rams still do a pretty good job of getting games played on their own low-possession terms. But with Taylor Brown, Janaa Pickard and Sandra Ngoie leading the way, the Patriots should have enough firepower to get out of Rhode Island with their first A-10 win.

Today's games

Hampton (11-4, 2-0 MEAC) at Delaware State (4-9, 0-2), 2 p.m.

Norfolk State (5-8, 1-1 MEAC) at Maryland-Eastern Shore (3-10, 0-2), 2 p.m.

UNC Asheville (6-9, 3-3 Big South) at Radford (2-14, 0-7), 2 p.m.

Gardner-Webb (9-6, 4-2 Big South) at Longwood (5-10, 2-4), 2 p.m.

Tulane (10-4, 1-0) at Old Dominion (7-8, 0-1), 2 p.m.

George Mason (6-10, 0-3 Big South) at Rhode Island (5-11, 0-3), 2 p.m.

Richmond (7-9, 1-2 Atlantic 10) at Fordham (13-3, 2-1), 2 p.m.

Presbyterian (3-12, 1-5 Big South) at Liberty (9-6, 5-1), 7 p.m.

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