Sunday, November 30, 2014

ACC/Big Ten Challenge headlines week in hoops

A look at this week's matchups:

Monday, Dec. 1

Virginia Tech at Florida, 9 p.m.
A lot depends on the availability of starting forwards Taijah Campbell (10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Regan Magarity (14.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg), both of whom sat out Saturday’s victory over East Tennessee State. Campbell has missed three straight games after suffering a concussion. Sophomore point guard Vanessa Panousis scored 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting in Tech’s 71-59 victory over Florida in Blacksburg last season. After this quick trip to Gainesville the Hokies will begin a stretch of six straight games at Cassell Coliseum.

Tuesday, December 2

Hampton at Lehigh, 11 a.m.
Another tough matchup for Hampton (0-4), whose first four opponents were a combined 18-4 through Saturday’s games with victories over then-No. 10 Maryland (Washington State) and then-No. 18 DePaul (Northwestern). The Mountain Hawks (5-0) are off to their best start since current Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was in charge 30 years ago. Hampton sophomore guard Malia Tate-DeFreitas has scored exactly 20 points in three straight games after getting 23 in the Lady Pirates’ opener. But the Lady Pirates have had virtually no other firepower – the team's second-leading scorer is at 5.8 ppg, and as a team Hampton is shooting just 24.1 percent from the field, easily the lowest of 349 Division I schools.

Longwood at High Point, 7 p.m.
The Big South opener for both. Expecting a much more determined effort here from the Lancers (0-5), who were humbled by 35 points Saturday at William and Mary – the same William and Mary High Point nipped by seven in overtime on Nov. 23. The Big South defending regular-season champion Panthers were picked to finish second to Liberty this season (Longwood was 10th) and are led by sophomore guard and preseason conference player of the year Kaylah Keys.

William and Mary at Radford, 7 p.m.
Intriguing matchup featuring two teams coming off rousing victories. On Saturday, the Tribe pounded Longwood by 35; the following day, the Highlanders (2-3) went on the road and outdueled Appalachian State. A year ago, Radford lost at home to App State by 23. William and Mary will be looking to post its third straight victory over an in-state foe (VCU, Longwood).

VCU at UNC Wilmington, 7 p.m.
The Rams (3-3) look to get back on track after a nightmarish 32-turnover performance at William and Mary on Thanksgiving Eve. In fairness, the Rams were dealing with a compressed schedule that often had them playing a game every other day (6 games, 13 days) - hardly ideal when you’re trying to master a new system under a new coach. Perhaps now they’ve had sufficient time to work out some kinks. The Seahawks (2-3) have dropped three straight at home, including both games in their own holiday tournament, despite having halftime leads each time.

Wednesday, December 3

Howard at Old Dominion, 11 a.m.
An early wake-up call for the Lady Monarchs, who will try to rebound from Sunday's humbling overtime loss to Rider during the fourth annual Education Day game in front of thousands of energized Norfolk elementary school students. Last year, a Constant Center-record 8,086 fans saw ODU trounce UMass-Lowell 90-57 – a turnout bolstered by nearly 6,200 students, teachers, staff members and volunteers from 32 elementary schools. There's a reason Howard (0-6) was scheduled for this game, but after the Rider debacle, nothing should be taken for granted. Still, something tells us the Lady Monarchs will be especially ready to play this game.

East Tennessee State at George Mason, 5 p.m.
The Patriots are averaging a robust 80.6 points per game and have put up at least 70 in every game. That they also rank last in the A-10 in scoring defense (76.3 ppg) suggests fans should be braced for yet another shootout. Say this for the Pats - they keep things interesting. ETSU (3-4) is coming off Saturday's 72-65 loss at Virginia Tech.

Richmond at JMU, 7 p.m.
The Dukes (5-1) have gone 12-0 against Virginia Division I programs since a 60-48 home loss to Liberty nearly two years ago to the day (Dec. 4, 2012). Two days before that (Dec. 2, 2012), Richmond also went to Harrisonburg and knocked off JMU 70-66.  

Virginia at Illinois (ACC/Big Ten Challenge), 8 p.m.
We never detect much buzz surrounding these annual ACC/Big Ten showdowns, but for those keeping score, Virginia is 5-2 lifetime in ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups after losing at home to Michigan by 20 last year. The 5-2 record of Illinois includes a 77-71 victory over then-No. 9 Kentucky and an overtime loss to Oklahoma. Both games were played in the Virgin Islands' Paradise Jam. Virginia is 5-1 after splitting two games over the holiday break in the FIU Thanksgiving Classic.

Thursday, December 4

Northwestern at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.
The first of six straight home games for the Hokies features by far the most formidable foe of the bunch as Northwestern’s 5-0 record includes a 97-91 victory at then-No. 18 DePaul. Virginia Tech has a 2-5 record in career ACC/Big Ten Challenge games after dropping last year's matchup at Indiana 71-65. By the way, not surprisingly the ACC is 6-0-1 lifetime in the series.

Friday, December 5

VCU at Old Dominion, 7 p.m.
A lot certainly has changed since the Rams last visited the Constant Center on Nov. 17, 2012 - only one of the 10 starters (ODU's Ashley Betz-White) and just three of the 22 who saw action (Betz-White, ODU's Tiffany Minor and VCU's Adaeze Alaeze) are still around. And of course, VCU has since changed head coaches. Other than that.... 

Hampton at Penn, 7 p.m.
The Lady Pirates are on the road for the sixth time in their first seven games. Defending Ivy League champion Penn has gone 3-0 against MEAC teams the past two seasons, including a victory over Howard in the first round of the 2013 WNIT.

Saturday, December 6

William and Mary at La Salle, 1 p.m.
The Exporers topped the Tribe 72-59 when these teams met in Williamsburg last season.

Longwood at Virginia Tech, 2 p.m.
Tall task - literally - for the undersized Lancers, 

Liberty at Radford, 2 p.m.
The Big South opener for both. Liberty has won 15 of the previous 16 meetings. including last year's 90-46 decision that Radford coach Mike McGuire accurately summed up as "complete domination by Liberty."

Delaware State vs. Virginia, 2 p.m.
Could be a good day statistically for several Cavaliers as the freewheeling Hornets can score in bunches but also give up points in even bigger bunches (82.7 ppg allowed). Case in point - earlier this year against George Mason, they racked up 91 points and still lost by 19.

Morgan State at Norfolk State, 4 p.m.
The MEAC opener for both. NSU was picked to finish eighth in the preseason while Morgan State was relegated to 13th in the 13-team league.

George Mason at St. Francis (Pa.), 5:30 p.m.
The Patriots crushed St. Francis 97-62 when these teams met in Fairfax last season. This year the Red Flash took an 0-4 record into Wednesday's game at Tennessee.

Hampton at Richmond, 7 p.m.
Only the third non-conference game against an in-state rival in the past three-plus seasons for the Lady Pirates, These two teams haven't met since a 71-43 Richmond victory in 2010. Then-freshman Genevieve Okoro had 9 points and 2 steals in 18 minutes in that one.

Sunday, December 7

JMU at Davidson, 2 p.m.
After this one the Dukes, like most schools, will break for exams. JMU's next game will be Dec.15 at Ohio.

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