Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thursday five-spot: What to watch for

Virginia's Sarah Imovbioh
Five things we'll be keeping an eye on Thursday:

Is it finally Tech's time? Virginia Tech has lost 14 straight to Virginia and hasn't beaten the Cavaliers in Cassell Coliseum since Dec. 3, 2002. We wonder, though, with just one player from the state (Kelsey Conyers) on the roster, do these Hokies feel the pain of this losing streak the same way Tech fans surely do? Whatever the case, Tech may very well turn their Commonwealth fortunes around Thursday as it's been a long time since the Hokies have been this well-equipped to defend their home court. But we're also expecting a spirited Cavaliers effort, and not just to maintain bragging rights. Given the strength of this year's ACC, a team intent on making noise in the conference can't afford to be losing at home to a relative league lightweight like Pittsburgh (no disrespect). That's what Virginia did Sunday, though, and so we're expecting the Cavaliers to be extremely hungry - famished, in fact - to get to 1-1 in league play. The Hokies, who didn't exactly distinguish themselves by losing at Boston College Sunday, need to be just as hungry, rivalry or no rivalry.

Free Liberty basketball: Can't beat the price - free - to watch Lady Flames basketball this season. Recently the school announced seven more games to be streamed on ESPN3, adding to a package that already included Thursday night's showdown with Gardner-Webb. The games are also streamed free on the Big South Network.

Big South Thursday: This conference got a jump on the action and all of its members have already played at least five league games. Liberty, Gardner-Webb, Coastal Carolina and Winthrop all share the lead with 4-1 records. History says this is often about the time that Liberty begins separating itself from the Big South pack. But the Lady Flames can't overlook Gardner-Webb. And we're really excited about next Thursday's Liberty at Winthrop showdown.

Healthy Longwood: Three games into the season, the Lancers lost guard Raven Williams, who was averaging 14 ppg at the time, to injury. Later, leading scorer Daeisha Brown missed four games, and second-leading scorer Kyndal Skersick missed three. And just as those two were coming back, leading rebounder Khalilah Ali went down for two games. On Saturday, for the first time since Nov. 16, all four of these players were available to play. We doubt it was coincidence that the Lancers put up a season-high 78 points in a victory over Charleston Southern. Longwood (5-9) is now 3-1 in the four games these four have played together. If the Lancers can keep these guys on the floor, this can be a very dangerous team.

Latrice getting it done: Looks like William and Mary freshman guard Latrice Hunter is really starting to figure Division I basketball out. After not scoring in double figures in any of her first nine games, Hunter has scored 10, 11 and 17 points in her last three while making 11 of 19 shots over that span. She's also dished out 10 assists in the three games.

Thursday's games

Virginia (7-7, 0-1 ACC) at Virginia Tech (10-4, 0-1), 7 p.m.

Gardner-Webb (9-5, 4-1 Big South) at Liberty (8-6, 4-1), 7 p.m.

Winthrop (10-4, 4-1 Big South) at Radford (2-13, 0-6), 7 p.m.

UNC Asheville (5-9, 2-3 Big South) at Longwood (5-9, 2-3), 7 p.m.

Delaware (9-3, 1-0 CAA) at William and Mary (3-9, 0-0), 7 p.m.

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