Thursday, February 20, 2014
VCU, ODU, Richmond go 3 for 3
Three games, three rousing victories. In other words, Wednesday was our kind of night.
Cue the highlights:
VCU 74, St. Bonaventure 57: One of the benefits of "Fury" is no matter how much the Rams struggle early, there's always the potential for an avalanche of stops and scores. St. Bonaventure found itself buried under such an avalanche Wednesday as the Rams shook off an opening 5-of-29 shooting effort and a two-touchdown halftime deficit to open up a can on the Bonnies after the break. Freshman Isis Thorpe scored 16 of her 19 points and hit four of her five 3-pointers during the second-half onslaught, but disruptive Rams' defense was probably the biggest key in flipping this game's script. The Bonnies, who came in averaging 15.6 turnovers per game, coughed it up 15 times in the second half alone.
What it means: In addition to clinching a 20-win season - the sixth in program history - and enhancing Marlene Stollings' Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year candidacy, the Rams (20-7, 8-6) now have victories over three of the projected top six seeds in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and a four-point loss at projected No. 1 Dayton. Translation: A lot of the contenders in this league will be hoping VCU is on the other half of their bracket.
Old Dominion 85, Rice 49: What VCU did to St. Bonaventure in the second half ODU did to Rice pretty much the entire game as the Lady Monarchs dominated with suffocating defense and relentless energy. Caught the first 10 or so minutes of this one on radio and it sounded as though Lady Monarchs forward Chelisa Painter, in particular, was everywhere, getting her hand on passes, ripping down rebounds and finishing at the rim. The Lady Monarchs also shot 18 of 23 from the free-throw line, an excellent performance from a team that came in ranked 340th out of 343 Division I teams in FT percentage. To be fair, Rice (11-14, 4-8) isn't exactly UConn - the Owls have one very good player - center Jessica Kuster - and a bunch of surrounding parts still trying to figure things out. But the Lady Monarchs put on the same type of dominating performance for a half on Saturday against Conference USA contender UTEP. So maybe, just maybe, this is the type of team they've finally become. Let's hope so.
What it means: The Lady Monarchs (12-14, 5-7) moved into a three-way tie for eighth place, a significant slot since the top eight teams receive first-round byes in the conference tournament (the top four get double-byes). They'll have another opportunity to flex their newfound muscle on Saturday at UTSA (12-12, 3-8).
Richmond 89, UMass 76: The Spiders haven't exactly been an offensive juggernaut this season, but they hung a season-high total on hapless UMass as Lauren Tolson, Kristina King, Janelle Hubbard, Amber Nichols and Genevieve Okoro all scored in double figures. The outcome was hardly a surprise, as the Minutewomen (3-24, 0-13) have now lost 17 straight games and haven't won at home since Nov. 20 (remarkably, against Rutgers). But even though the Spiders pretty much did what they were supposed to do, it was still nice to see them go out and do it.
What it means: Richmond (12-14, 6-7) has three games left and it takes at least a .500 record to be WNIT-eligible. If the Spiders go 3-0, they're all set no matter what happens in the A-10 Tournament. If they go 2-1, they'll need at least two tournament wins. And if they go 1-2 or 0-3, the WNIT is off the table. They'd either have to win the A-10 tourney and go to the NCAAs, or go home for good after any loss.
Finally, a special shoutout to Richmond freshman Liv Healy, who was scheduled to have knee surgery Thursday morning. We look forward to all going well and seeing this special player back on the court as soon as possible.