Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday five-spot: What to watch for

Tiffany Suarez
Five things we'll be watching for today:

 - Is Suarez the answer?: After being used sparingly initially, Virginia rookie point guard Tiffany Suarez blew up with 16 points and 6 assists against Coppin State in last week's Cavalier Classic. "If anybody's watched us, the pace picks up when she comes in," Cavaliers coach Joanne Boyle told the Daily Progress. "I feel like people get easier shots. We're playing at a faster pace, and we need that. There's just a better flow out there when she's in there." Suarez will be holding it down at the point again when the Cavaliers (7-6) kick off ACC play against Pittsburgh (8-7, 0-1 ACC) at John Paul Jones Arena. For more on the Cavaliers heading into this game, check out this other Daily Progress story.

Fast starting Hokies: Hampton outplayed Virginia Tech pretty significantly in the first half Wednesday en route to a 70-60 victory. A lot of the credit for this belongs to the Lady Pirates. But we doubt the Hokies (10-3) enjoyed watching that first-half tape. So look for them to come out with tremendous energy and want-to in their ACC opener at Boston College (9-5).

- NSU's road woes: Norfolk State (5-7) is 0-3 in true road games this season. Last year, they were 0-13. In four-plus seasons under head coach Debra Clark, the road record is 8-48. In the two seasons before Clark arrived, it was 2-27. Not sure today's opponent, Penn (6-2), is the ideal candidate to reverse this trend, especially with the Quakers coming off a win over ACC middleweight Miami. Now Norfolk State did beat Penn last year, but of course, that was at home. At Penn? Well, let's just say history isn't on the Spartans' side.

- Knocking 'em down: Old Dominion's LaQuanda Younger and Tiffany Minor shot with confidence and accuracy Thursday in a 24-point loss at Duke. Good thing, too, because the Blue Devils neutralized ODU star Shae Kelley and forced other Lady Monarchs to get it done. To their credit, Younger and Minor stepped up. N.C. Central (5-6) obviously won't have Duke's answers for Kelley, but here's hoping ODU's perimeter players rise to the occasion again anyway. Too often this season ODU (6-7) has struggled for long stretches until Kelley bailed them out, and this is as big a reason as any why the Lady Monarchs have yet to record anything resembling a quality win. With all due respect to these Lady Eagles, a win today won't change that. But while ODU is the heavy favorite, this N.C. Central team is much improved over the offensively challenged outfit that went 2-28 last season and got thumped 59-33 at ODU. Note: Nice touch by Old Dominion having a moment of silence for longtime Monarchs/Lady Monarchs supporter Arthur Lovisi prior to Saturday night's men's basketball game against George Mason. Lovisi passed away last month.

- Snakebitten Spiders: You are what your record says you are, so Richmond is a 6-8 team (0-1 Atlantic 10), period. It's worth noting, though, that the Spiders lost by four at Georgetown, by four against UAB, by two against Pacific and by five Thursday against St. Joseph's in a game in which Richmond led the entire second half until the 1:03 mark. So a case can be made that Richmond is actually a 9-5 or 10-4 team disguised as a 6-8 team. Of course, you don't get partial credit in sports. But there's nothing stopping the Spiders from making the rest of their season special. Anyway, we're not expecting a nailbiter today when the Spiders host Rhode Island (5-9, 0-1) as Richmond has won 13 straight in the series. Then again, you never know, so if it winds up being a tight one, here's hoping the Spiders are able to close one of these out.

Sunday's games

Virginia Tech at Boston College, 1 p.m.

Rhode Island at Richmond, 2 p.m.

North Carolina Central at Old Dominion, 2 p.m.

Pittsburgh at Virginia, 2 p.m.

Norfolk State at Penn, 2 p.m.

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