Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesday five-spot: What to watch for

Richmond's Genevieve Okoro
Five things we're keeping an eye on in Wednesday's games:

- A more aggressive Tiffany Minor: On two occasions late in Sunday's victory over North Carolina Central, Old Dominion's junior forward passed up a 3-point attempt to put the ball on the deck and finish at the rim. We were so pleased we almost violated the "no cheering on press row" rule. You see, while Minor is a fine 3-point shooter (25 of 76, 32.9 percent), she actually has a variety of offensive skills. Yet despite averaging nearly 30 minutes a game, Minor has attempted just 12 free throws and dished out only 15 assists in 14 games. Now if all she was capable of was shooting threes, fine. But Minor's simply too talented to not have a larger, more diverse impact on the Lady Monarchs offense, particularly in the halfcourt. So when the Lady Monarchs make their Conference USA debut Wednesday at Charlotte, here's hoping Minor's recent late-game assertiveness was a sign of things to come.

- Can George Mason hold up defensively?: Dayton ranks fifth in Division I in scoring (89.0 ppg) and has all five starters averaging double figures. The Patriots certainly have their share of weapons, too, in Taylor Brown, Janaa Pickard and Sandra Ngoie. But they haven't always been as successful stopping people - Mason has surrendered 85 or more points four times over a stretch in which they've gone 2-8 since Nov. 23. To be fair, two of those 85-plus games were in overtime. But if the Patriots don't have a strong defensive effort, Dayton won't need five extra minutes to put up a big number Wednesday at the Patriot Center.

- A resurgent Genevieve Okoro: The Spiders senior missed all but six games in 2012-13 after suffering an ACL injury but appears to be back in All-Atlantic 10 form. She averaged 15.3 points in a six-game stretch heading into Sunday's contest against Rhode Island, and while she had just 7 points in the low-possession 49-43 Spiders victory, she did haul down 12 rebounds and also converted the key three-point play with 1:56 remaining that finally put down the Rams.

- Free Richmond basketball: We don't get as many opportunities to see Richmond games as we'd like, but St. Bonaventure streams all its home games free of charge, so we're looking forward to checking this one out on the ol' laptop. Visit this page and click on the Live Video link to find the stream. By the way, Spiders point guard Keri Soppe hails from Rochester, N.Y., which is just a couple of hours and change away from St. Bonaventure. Tipoff time - 4:30 p.m. as the opener of a women's-men's doubleheader - isn't ideal, but it would be nice if Soppe had some hometown support (Soppe's Soldiers? Keri's Contingent?) in an otherwise-hostile Reilly Center.

- How VCU handles being the hunted: Not sure Atlantic 10 teams got too fired up for VCU last season. But this year's squad has won 13 straight and bagged a big win at Duquesne. Stories about the new and improved Rams are starting to pop up. Heck, they're even getting a little USA Today Top-25 poll love. So no way La Salle's Explorers are sleeping on this VCU. In fact, they're probably thinking, "Hey, let's make a name for ourselves and knock these guys off." Add in the fact that the Rams have a huge home game on Sunday against defending conference champion St. Joseph's and Wednesday's trip to La Salle has all the elements of a trap game. Don't fall into it, VCU.

Wednesday's games

Richmond (7-8, 1-1 Atlantic 10) at St. Bonaventure (11-5, 0-1), 4:30 p.m.

Old Dominion (7-7, 0-0 Conference USA) at Charlotte (6-7, 0-0), 7 p.m.

Dayton (7-4, 0-0 Atlantic 10) at George Mason (6-9, 0-2), 7 p.m.

VCU (14-1, 2-0 Atlantic 10) at La Salle (7-7, 2-0), 7 p.m.

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