Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflecting on 2015 with all our teams

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from LadySwish

Wishing our teams, coaches and sports information directors a restful holiday and a 
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas gift for all the teams in the state from LadySwish

With Christmas upon us, we're in the gift giving mood, so we've lined up presents for all of our teams (they're in the mail, guys). Included with each, a stocking stuffer, too. We know one per player is stingy, but that's all the LadySwish budget allows.

Enjoy!

James Madison

Our present: noisemaker

Drum set, maybe? Or some purple maracas, even a bullhorn might do it. The committee hasn't looked fondly on our Dukes, a 29-3 team last year that only got a No. 12 seed in the tournament. This year with losses to UCLA and St. Bonaventure, the Dukes need to make some really loud noise to make an impression (West Virginia and Baylor are on tap this weekend).

Stocking stuffer: Dance lessons for Muff Mickens.

Virginia Tech

Our present: A basket of Florida oranges.

We're still tickled over the Hokies dominating Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena, though we know Dennis Wolff is looking ahead. So we'll tie an ACC ribbon around our gift basket as a reminder of what's coming up for the state's best team.

Stocking stuffer: Australian guards Vanessa Panousis and fellow Aussie forward Hannah Young have heard so many shrimp on the barbie jokes we couldn't resist getting them their very own Barbie doll.

Hampton

Our present: a calendar

We've picked out a bright yellow one with the bright sunshine reflecting off the James River. We want to remind the Lady Pirates, who have played a brutal nonconference schedule that doesn't conclude until a Jan. 3 date with Princeton, that brighter days are ahead. MEAC play begins Jan. 9, and we're believer's that David Six's maddening preparation will pay dividends in conference play.

Stocking stuffer: "The Addams Family Christmas" movie for Malia Tate-DeFreitas, whose family owns a funeral home in Steelton, Pa.

Old Dominion

Our present: A 1,000-piece puzzle of Big Blue, one piece for every win in Lady Monarch history

Stocking stuffer: A Robert Parish jersey for Ogegua Oigbokie. She wears 34 for ODU (by the way, heal that knee up), but for a kid whose initials are OO, we'd like to see her have a jersey from the best NBA player to wear the double zeros.

William and Mary

Our present: A Golden State Warriors poster. I mean, talk about great beginnings? The Tribe's 8-1 start matches the best in school history.

Stocking stuffer: A CD of Mozart's Sonata in G Minor is a wonderful mix of cello and piano, instruments near and dear to sophomore Marlena Tremba who plays both.

Just needs a Kevin Garnett sticker!
Virginia

Our present: A hover board with a picture of Kevin Garnett, great for tooling around Charlottesville and a reminder that the Cavs need to step it up on the defensive boards.

Stocking stuffer: Sorry, Cavs. We're giving Joanne Boyle's daughter, Ngoty, this one. We've got a
new iPhone 6 picked out with a Beyonce ring tone; pink case included along with a copy of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." The kid's so smart, we figure she'll be reading in no time!

Virginia Commonwealth

Our present: Well, the Phoenix isn't a real bird we found out after visiting the Exotic Birds Pet Store and they won't let us have a Wildcat, so to toast your win over Arizona State, we're hoping you'll settle for tickets to the Metro Richmond Zoo.

Stocking stuffer: "Akeelah and the Bee," widescreen edition. This feel-good film is a favorite of both Keira Robinson and Adaeze Alaezea (and hey, Coach O'Boyle, it's PG!)

George Mason

Our present: A heavy wooden spoon and cooking thermometer, helpful culinary tools to help your sauce reach the perfect consistency. And we think the Patriots could use some consistency -- 4-6 record includes thrilling double OT win over Delaware along with frustrating losses to Radford and Georgetown.

Stocking stuffer: High quality yarn to make a Mason scarf for Chinyere Bell, who enjoys knitting in her spare time (trying to learn, too; can you teach us how to cable?)

Liberty

Our present: The film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The Lady Flames rank last in the Big
South in steals.

Stocking stuffer: A Steph Curry poster for Sheana Vega; she's a fan!

Radford

Our present: A spa day at BodyWorks (go for the deep tissue massage; it's on us); these Highlanders have been reduced to nine due to injury after starting the season with 13.

Stocking stuffer: "Criminal Minds" box set for Jayda Worthy, a soccer ball with Highlander logo for Jen Falconer and we're generous: the first season of "Scandal" in case you guys missed it.

Norfolk State

Our present: Ray Allen jerseys. The Spartans rank 342 among 344 schools in 3-point shooting.

Stocking stuffer: A Michael Buble Christmas album for Kiara Phillips, a fan of his.

Longwood

Our present: Home cooking. The rugged road started with a trip to Oregon followed by a game in Harrisonburg less than 48 hours later. They've been to Charlottesville, North Carolina, they're Morgantown bound followed by a trip to Delaware all before Christmas.

Stocking stuffer: A "Thing One" nightshirt for Kate Spradlin (her twin sis, Kellen, also attends Longwood and we're giving her a "Thing Two" nightshirt.

Richmond

Our present: Granted, we didn't spend big bucks here, but here's the link to apply for the Secret Service. No better guards in the country than the Spiders.

Stocking stuffer: We're feeling generous so we've got a 2016 Audi for Lauren Tolson and a BMW for Micaela Parson.



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

1,000 wins for Old Dominion: A personal reflection


Attaching the link to a story I wrote for espnW on Old Dominion achieving 1,000 wins as a program. While talking to some folks for it, they noted I was part of the story, too. I dismissed that comment -- reporters, and a blogger now -- are never part of a story they are telling. They are flies on the wall, listeners more than talkers, objective -- at least that is how they teach it in journalism school.

But some 20 years later after Old Dominion came into my life, I cannot deny they are part of my story.

I knew next to zilch when I covered my first women's basketball game on Dec. 21, 1995 when Ticha Penicheiro was a freshman and the opponent was South Florida. I knew ODU had just upset a Georgia team ranked No. 1 in the nation, but never in a million years could I have guessed the impact that covering this team would have on my life. My editor at the time told me not to make too big a deal out of ODU; it was women's basketball after all.

Lucky for me, ODU made a big deal out of itself with a trip to the Sweet 16 followed by a magical run in 1997 that ended with a loss to Tennessee in the national title game. Minus one year, I covered ODU until the 2008 season when the curtain came down on my newspaper sportswriting career. Now I was lucky enough to have my best friend suggest we create this blog to keep my hand in the game, and now I'm a regular contributor to espnW and co-producer with him of the best blog in the sport. But that took some time to unfold.

I grew up as a writer covering Old Dominion. My early stuff wasn't very good. I didn't have the context when I started, and it showed. I didn't know that interviews shouldn't be interviews at all -- they should be shared conversation. Wendy Larry, initially, intimidated the hell out of me. Then I finally realized she's a person; it's OK to say hello to her before you broach into a series of questions that sometimes she answered willingly, especially if they were about the latest CAA rout, and some not -- "Why did she transfer again?"

My first son was born in 1997, one reason it is easy for me to remember all the ODU highlights of that year, none more vivid than freshman Natalie Diaz picking me up on Purdue's court and spinning me around -- five months pregnant me, that is -- to celebrate the Lady Monarchs advancing to the Final Four. Man, was I dizzy.

That December, baby's first Christmas, I went to France and Portugal for 10 days with the Lady Monarchs. I had never flown internationally, and the flight was so bumpy, dishes flew. I remember everything from Lucienne Berthieu,  a new recruit, racing to bring pink toilet paper back to her club team's gym when someone noted there was none in the bathroom to being stranded all night on a bus on a snowy highway in France. Somewhere around 3 a.m. Wendy giddily compared it all to an "I Love Lucy" episode and Diaz trotted off the bus with a "Will work for food" sign.

I remember Tiffany Thompson's hot night at N.C. State and Kay Yow later coming into the press room handing me the box score I was looking for. I spent my son's third Thanksgiving in Hartford for an ODU/UConn game; thank goodness for that mall in Paramus where we finally let him stretch his legs for a few hours. The trips to Penn State -- brutal. My husband drove with me on those -- seems like we were always fleeing down the mountain with an pending snowstorm looming.

When baby No. 2 came along, the family travels largely ended, though one James Madison road trip became a tricky one when my husband forgot to pick up my suitcase before we headed to Harrisonburg.

Going solo as a driver was a huge confidence boost; it gave me freedom to see things for myself. In '97, my first-ever trip to California for Ticha's first pro game, I was a slave to the hotel, stressed about California drivers. I saw nothing despite lots of spare time, as I needed to stay extra for the "Saturday night stay" lower airline rate.

While ODU didn't have such a great time there in 2007 -- they lost to Florida State in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Stanford -- I had a blast. I got extra days there as my ticket was made as if ODU had advanced to the subregional final. I trekked everywhere myself -- Alcatraz, the stunning Santa Clara campus that is alma mater to this blog's co-producer, even San Jose for a men's lacrosse game (had a story to do). Loved it so much I took the family there two years ago.

I've seen the country thanks to the Lady Monarchs. Been back to Colorado, site of my first job, headed to Minneapolis for another national tournament game in 2005, drove from Lexington to Nashville for games there against Kentucky and Vandy.  Saw Mall of the America, Churchhill Downs and the Grand Ole Opry along the way.

One more note on baby No. 2 -- after a win over SMU in the NCAAs, I got food poisoning that hit while I was writing my game story. I've never vomited so much in my life, including all the way home. I got the story in and remember my husband saying from the ER that night/wee small hours of the morning -- "The security guard is reading the story you wrote last night."

Took the fam to the Virgin Islands for one of my favorite Thanksgivings. Got to see Maya Moore as a freshman in one of her first games, but what I remember best was the crystal blue water in the Caribbean, this marvelous bird show atop a mountain that thrilled the kids (the bird rode a bike) and the barkers on the street trying to lure tourists into the stores for good deals on diamonds.

I loved going to Tennessee. I never saw ODU win there, but what a place Thompson-Boling is. On my first trip there, a rare snowstorm blew into town, and by the time I was done with my story, I swear I was the only one in a building the size of Alaska. Outside my car looked like a hut buried in snow. Needless to say, that wasn't one of my favorite times. But I'll never forget the trip in 2004 when I was lucky enough to be writing the cover story for the Final Four program and needed to talk to Pat Summitt. I got to go to her house, and man, I remember every last detail down to the floating hoop in her pool to the mural on Tyler's bedroom wall to the fresh red polish on her pedicured toes.

I've never shared this last memory in writing as I've been careful in telling ODU's story over the years to make it about them, never me. But given the nature of this blog post, here goes. I loved covering ODU. Now realize, writers never root for teams the way fans do. I've never clapped after an ODU basket or cheered for the team in any way. But I cared about what I did, loved the relationships I built and hated it when I wasn't doing it anymore the traditional way (did I say thank God for this blog yet?).

ODU's CAA Tournament winning streak ended with the last game I covered for the newspaper. That's 50 straight CAA tournament wins halted on James Madison's floor against Drexel. The game wasn't close, and even though ODU hadn't ever lost in the tournament before, everyone saw this coming. Drexel had romped over them earlier in the year. But as I had written earlier in the week, no ODU class wanted to be the one to end that streak.

I knew it was the last game for me. The newspaper had reassigned me to news. I paced and kept a stoic face during the press conference and was the only reporter to go into the locker room. I was ready to ask the tough questions. But Wendy had told the players this was it for me, and every single one of them, on the day that streak ended, hugged me and told me how much they appreciated my coverage over the years.

I will never, ever forget that gesture.

While I deny being part of ODU's story, they are definitely a part of mine. Congrats to the team that is the fourth in Division I to amass 1,000 program victories.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What's on tap (Sun., Dec. 13)


JMU (5-2) at Richmond (6-2), 2 p.m.

   - In a game featuring two outstanding backcourts, the outcome could hinge on which team can get the most out of its young frontcourt players. The Dukes do have one veteran in the post in junior Da'Lishia Griffin, and she's gobbling up 9.9 rebounds a game so the Spiders will have a big challenge in dealing with her. The still-developing Dukes are just 1-2 in road games so far and are coming off Monday's 56-45 loss at St. Bonaventure. But JMU hasn't lost to an in-state opponent in more than three years, a stretch that includes home victories this season over Longwood and Liberty. The Spiders are 4-1 at home so far but will be without injured starters Lauren Tolson and Tuuli Menna.

Coppin State (2-6) at Virginia Tech (8-1), noon

   - The Hokies have won six straight since a Nov. 18 loss at Georgetown and are coming off Wednesday's 40-point win over another MEAC school, Morgan State. And while deadly 3-point shooting (8.3 triples per game) has been key, defense has been the bedrock of Tech's success as the Hokies have held five of their last six opponents to 47 points or less.

Maryland-Eastern Shore (3-6) at VCU (6-2), 1 p.m.

   - This game could mark the VCU debut of point guard and former Old Dominion standout GG Goodhope, whose Rams eligibility begins as soon as first semester grades are posted. VCU is 4-0 at home so far with victories over Coppin State, Campbell, Furman and UNC Wilmington and have yet to allow more than 45 points at the Siegel Center. The Rams will be playing without forward Camille Calhoun, who suffered an ACL injury in VCU's win at Arizona State and is out for the season.

UNC Wilmington (2-3) at Norfolk State (0-6), 6 p.m.

   - Leaky defense is mainly what's holding Norfolk State back as the Spartans are surrendering 80.8 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting (338th of 344 Division I teams). This seems like a good matchup for them since the undermanned Seahawks (eight healthy players) have yet to score more than 53 points against any of their four Division I opponents. Furthermore, UNCW is 0-17 in non-conference road games since 2012, a streak that includes losses at Richmond and VCU this season.
That said, the Seahawks compete hard, are good at forcing turnovers and are by no means an easy out.

Also see:

Statistical leaders

State rankings


Friday, December 11, 2015

Statistically speaking.... (through Dec. 10)

We begin with a few notes:

   - Virginia Tech's Vanessa Panousis has made more 3-pointers (31) than any other Division I player and is ninth in D-I in 3-pointers per game (3.44). She's also nailing them at a healthy 45.6 percent clip (42nd in D-I and second in the state to Old Dominion's Keyana Brown (47.1).

   - Only two Division I players in the country average more minutes per game than Hampton's Malia Tate-DeFreitas (39.0).

   - JMU's Muff Mickens is fifth nationally in assists per game (7.6).

Now, the statistical leaders among Virginia's Division I players through the games of Dec. 10:

Scoring
(games played, points, average and FG percentage)

Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton      8   150   18.8  37.7

Jazmon Gwathmey, JMU                 7    129  18.4  43.5

Jennie Simms, Old Dominion          6    110  18.3  34.5

Taylor Brown, George Mason         10   168 16.8   33.5

Janelle Hubbard, Richmond             8    134  16.8  45.5

Marlena Tremba, William & Mary  8    126  15.8  47.7

Ashley Rininger, Liberty                  8    125  15.6  52.4

Ashley Perez, JMU                          7    105  15.0   34.5

Others (min. 10.0 ppg): Micaela Parson, Richmond 14.0; Mikayla Venson, Virginia 13.6; Lauren Tolson, Richmond 13.4; Vanessa Panousis, Virginia Tech 13.1; Faith Randolph, Virginia 13.0; Alexandra Masaquel, William and Mary 12.9; Sadalia Ellis, Liberty 12.7; Janalya White, Radford 12.6; Aisha Foy, Radford 12.6; Koryn Lawrence, Norfolk State 11.3; Siobhan Beslow, Norfolk State 11.3; Isis Thorpe, VCU 11.3; Camille Calhoun, VCU 11.3; Muff Mickens, JMU 11.0; Aliyah Huland El, Virginia 10.9; Adaeze Alaeze, VCU 10.9; Kayla Roberts, Norfolk State 10.8; Lauren Moses, Virginia 10.7; Kaylah Lupoe, Hampton 10.6; Kristi Mokube, George Mason 10.5; Kara Wright, George Mason 10.2; Jayda Worthy, Radford 10.0

Rebounds

Da’Lishia Griffin, JMU 9.9; Siobhan Beslow, Norfolk State 9.3; Kayla Roberts, Norfolk State 8.8; Katelyn Adams, Liberty 8.6; Jayda Worthy, Radford 8.3; Ashley Rininger, Liberty 7.9; Alexandra Masaquel, William and Mary 7.8; Janayla White, Radford 7.6; Lauren Moses, Virginia 7.2;

Assists

Muff Mickens, JMU 7.6; Jenna Green, William and Mary 5.4; Jennie Simms, Old Dominion 4.2; Keira Robinson, VCU 4.1; Marlena Tremba, William and Mary 3.9; Sadalia Ellis, Liberty 3.9; Chanette Hicks, Virginia Tech 3.8; Jen Falconer, Radford 3.7; Koryn Lawrence, Norfolk State 3.5

3-point shooting
(by total made, with 3FG percentage)

Vanessa Panousis, Virginia Tech 31-68, 45.6; Hannah Young, Virginia Tech 23-58, 39.7; Lauren Tolson, Richmond 20-48, 41.7; Ashley Perez, JMU 20-68, 29.4; Mikayla Venson, Virginia 19-65, 29.2; Marlena Tremba, William and Mary 18-43, 41.9; Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton 17-47, 36.2; Keyana Brown, Old Dominion 16-34, 47.1; Jaymee Fisher-Davis, Liberty 16-50, 32.0  

Blocks

Abby Rendle, William and Mary 2.63; Jazmon Gwathmey, JMU 1.86; Kayla Cooper-Williams, JMU 1.83; Lydia River, Radford 1.43; Kaylah Lupoe, Hampton 1.38; Dominique Powell, Virginia Tech 1.33; Janalya White, Radford 1.29; Jayda Worthy, Radford 1.29; Siobhan Beslow, Norfolk State 1.17; Alexandra Masaquel, William and Mary 1.13

Steals

Sadalia Ellis, Liberty 3.14; Chanette Hicks, Virginia Tech 3.00; Gaby Gilmore, Radford 2.43; Keira Robinson, VCU 2.38; Micaela Parson, Richmond 2.0; Abby Rendle, William and Mary 2.0; Marlena Tremba, William and Mary 2.0; Breyana Mason, Virginia 1.9; Lauren Moses, Virginia 1.9 

Free throw percentage
(min. 2.5 att. per game)

Mikayla Venson, Virginia 87.9; Katelyn Adams, Liberty 85.0; Jazmon Gwathmey, JMU 82.1; Taylor Brown, George Mason 82.0; Sadalia Ellis, Liberty 80.0; Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton 79.2; Kara Wright, George Mason 78.4; Kristi Mokube, George Mason 77.8; Micaela Parson, Richmond 77.6; Adaeze Alaeze, VCU 74.1; Ashley Rininger, Liberty 73.9; Kaylah Lupoe, Hampton 73.9; Destinee Young, Old Dominion 72.7; Janayla White, Radford 72.3

Note: Hope we don't jinx them, but VCU's Isis Thorpe is 8-8 and JMU's Ashley Perez 7-7 from the line so far. Also, Virginia Tech's Vanessa Panousis just misses our 2.5-attempt cutoff but has made 17 of 20 (85.0).

Also see:


Weekly state rankings (through Dec. 8)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

VCU's Calhoun promises to be back stronger after ACL tear

As excited as we were for VCU to beat nationally ranked Arizona State last week, the gray cloud over it was the loss of Camille Calhoun for the season to those nasty letters again: ACL, MCL.

The 6-0 junior guard/forward took off for a layup in the third quarter, and in her words, "At the last minutes, I tried to change direction so I could do a move to get around a girl in the air."

That's when her knee gave way, and Calhoun felt the pain while airborne. 

"I just fell to the floor and threw the ball up; it hurt so bad," she said. "But I'm already doing well, trying to get my range of motion back."

Her ACL torn and her MCL sprained, Calhoun will have surgery on Dec. 29. Other than an injury to that same kneecap at Archbishop Spalding High in Severn, Md., this is her first serious injury playing basketball.

As well as the Rams are playing right now, this is a blow. Calhoun started six games and her 11.3 ppg is tied with Isis Thorpe for the top spot on the team. Her .493 percentage leads the Rams (6-2), who follow up dates with Maryland Eastern Shore and High Point by hosting Old Dominion and William and Mary on Dec. 19 and 21, respectively.

Calhoun promises she'll be cheering from the bench, and anticipating a red shirt year, she promises, "I'll be stronger and better for the next two season."


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gimme Five (or six): the state's top teams (Dec. 8)


1. Virginia Tech (7-1)

Last week: 4

Resounding road victories at Penn State and at Tennessee sent an emphatic message, particularly from a Tech team that had stumbled badly at Georgetown (73-56 losers) in its only previous road contest. While the win over the Lady Vols generated the headlines - and understandably so - in some ways we were even more impressed with what happened in State College, Pa. Tech seized control early, held it together during a Nittany Lions' second-half run then used back-to-back 3-pointers from Hannah Young and Vanessa Panousis to snap a 44-44 tie and re-assert command. Tough stuff, particularly in the other team's building. Of course, they don't hand out trophies for what teams do in December, and the Hokies still have some things to clean up (23 turnovers vs. Penn State; 10-20 FT shooting at Tennessee). But as we sit here today, this looks like a team that can compete for a spot in the top half of the powerful ACC.

Shoutout to: Panousis. Who are we to argue with the ACC and espnW? Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

Next up: Morgan State (2-7), Wednesday, 7 p.m. It will be the Bears' third straight game against a Virginia school (beat Norfolk State Saturday, lost to Hampton Monday). Also, Morgan State opened its season with a 92-31 loss at JMU.

2. Virginia (7-3)

Last week: 2

Rousing victories over NJIT Saturday and Bowling Green Tuesday helped reduce the sting of a shaky defensive effort in Wednesday's 85-73 home loss to Iowa. The Bowling Green victory came before 10,048 fans - mostly elementary and middle school children - during the Cavaliers' stunningly successful "Field Trip Day." In terms of Virginia's readiness for battles against upper-level ACC-caliber foes, we should get more answers on Dec. 21 when the Cavaliers visit Ohio State.

Shoutout to: Lauren Moses, who continues to hold it down in the post (two straight double-doubles) and has emerged as one of the Cavaliers' most important players. Her absence for stretches against Iowa because of foul trouble was a key factor in the Cavaliers' struggles.

Next up: Charleston Southern (5-3), Dec. 18, 7 p.m.

3. JMU (5-2)

Last week: 1

The Dukes tossed in an offensive stinker Monday night, shooting just 23.6 percent in a 56-45 loss at St. Bonaventure. The loss dropped JMU to 1-2 in road games, and it took a dramatic rally from 10 down in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter to produce the one win (68-56 in overtime at Hampton). The Dukes are averaging 81,5 ppg in four home games but just 52.7 ppg in regulation on the road and have yet to score more than 25 points in the first half of any of the three. To be fair, differing levels of competition explains some of that, and it's a small sample size. Still, the Dukes clearly haven't had the same firepower away as they've had at the JMU Convocation Center - and only one of their next five games is at home.

Shoutout to: Jazmon Gwathmey, who on Monday became the 29th JMU player to crack the 1,000-point barrier.

Next up: at Richmond (6-2), Sunday, 2 p.m.

4. Richmond (6-2)

Last week: 3

After surrendering 98 points to Marquette over the Thanksgiving break and nearly 50-percent shooting last week to Furman, the Spiders returned to getting their defense on and stifled Providence 57-50 to snap a two-game losing streak. The result, which came in Richmond's first true road game, marked the third time this season Richmond has held an opponent to exactly 50 points and fifth time to 57 or less. Not surprisingly, the Spiders are 5-0 in those games.

Shoutout to: Freshman Salita Greene, who notched a career-high 10 points and added eight rebounds in the victory at Providence. It was just the second time this season a Spider other than Janelle Hubbard, Lauren Tolson or Micaela Parson scored in double figures. Another freshman, Tuuli Menna, had 10 points against UNCW.

Next up: JMU (5-2), Sunday, 2 p.m.

5. (tie) William and Mary (7-1)

Last week: 5

We get all the buzz about what Virginia Tech did, but how 'bout some love for the Tribe's week - three victories in five days, two on the road, with the last coming by 17 at Clemson after holding the Tigers to just six points in the second half. William and Mary has now won five straight since a six-point loss at Richmond on Nov. 20, and the 7-1 start matches the best in program history.

Shoutout to: Sharpshooter and closet dime-dropper Marlena Tremba, who racked up a career-high 10 assists to go with her 14 points in the win over Clemson. As a team the Tribe had 20 assists for the second time this season and are averaging a robust 16.9 dimes through eight games.

Next up: vs. Norfolk State (0-6), Dec. 17, 7 p.m.

5. (tie) VCU (6-2)

Last week: not ranked

With their 57-48 victory at then-No. 17 Arizona State, these Rams certainly did their part in one of the most successful regular season weeks by Virginia schools in recent years. The game came at a cost, though, as forward Camille Calhoun suffered an ACL injury and is out for the season. It's an extremely tough break for Calhoun (tied for the team high at 11.3 ppg), who was really coming into her own this season and was a week removed from earning her school's student-athlete of the week honor. As for the team, the Rams have thrived with a balanced, all-hands approach and will soon add former Old Dominion point guard Galaisha Goodhope. That said, Calhoun will be missed.

Shoutout to: Keira Robinson, who had 14 points and eight rebounds in the big win at Arizona State.

Next up: vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore (3-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.

On the verge

Liberty (3-5, 1-1 Big South): The Lady Flames' loss to Gardner-Webb gave them a defeat in their Big South opener for the first time since 2009. Liberty evened its conference slate Saturday by downing Charleston Southern but did so without starting point guard Sadalia Ellis (12.7 ppg, second on the team), who apparently has a foot/leg injury. Here's hoping she heals quickly because the Lady Flames host Seton Hall (7-1) Saturday and visit No. 13 Duke (7-2) on Dec. 17.


George Mason (4-6): In terms of sheer excitement, it's hard to beat George Mason's 90-83 double-overtime win over Delaware Monday night. The Blue Hens' Hannah Jardine (career-high 31 points) sent the game into OT with a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left; the Patriots' Tiffany Padgett forced a second extra period with a jumper with 12 seconds remaining. And then the Patriots were flat-out perfect in the final five minutes - 5-5 field goals, 8-8 free throws. Taylor Brown finished with a season-high 28 points. Fun stuff.

Radford (3-3, 0-1 Big South) : The Highlanders, who have dropped six straight on the road dating back to last season, will be out to reverse that trend Wednesday at Xavier (5-2).

Rear echelon 
(not necessarily in order)

Old Dominion (2-6): On the heels of a rough opening stretch and a disastrous Paradise Jam, a shorthanded Lady Monarchs team produced its sharpest performance of the season Wednesday in pummeling Loyola (Md.) before a sellout crowd on Education Day at the Constant Center. It was ODU's second straight game without leading scorer Jennie Simms and starting center Ije Ajemba, both of whom are indefinitely suspended for violating team rules. Now on exam break, the Lady Monarchs will return to action next Tuesday at Howard (1-9).

Hampton (1-7, 1-0 MEAC): The Lady Pirates picked up their first victory Monday night at Morgan State. The MEAC opener also served as a relative breather in yet another grueling Hampton schedule. The Lady Pirates' first seven opponents are a combined 40-8 with three of them (Oregon, UTEP, Texas) still undefeated. Next up: at No. 2 South Carolina (8-0).

Longwood (1-6, 0-2 Big South): The Lancers should have a good opportunity to return to winning form in Saturday's home date with Division III North Carolina Wesleyan. Also, if you haven't seen it, check out this story on how Lancers coach Bill Reinson would not be denied his dream of becoming a college coach.

Norfolk State (0-6, 0-1 MEAC): The Spartans appeared to be on track for that elusive first victory Saturday, only to be outscored 26-10 in the fourth quarter of a nine-point loss at Morgan State. This after the Spartans had outscored the Bears 25-6 in the third quarter. NSU will try again Sunday at home against UNC Wilmington (2-3).

Previous rankings

Nov. 30
Nov. 23
Preseason




Hokies Panousis calls Thompson-Boling "probably my favorite arena," after huge Tech win over Tennessee


Ever been to Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville?

It's a cathedral of sorts. For one thing, it's orange inside just about everywhere your eyes take you. Blinding orange. It's overwhelming to walk in the octagonal building that sits northwest of the Tennessee River as a fan let alone play on a floor named The Summitt. You hear Rocky Top a few dozen times, and Junior Smoky, the floppy-eared Lady Vols mascot who won Dog of the Year over other pooches from Georgia and UConn in a recent contest, glides around on skates.

It's easy for Tennessee opponents to get swallowed up in electric digs like those, especially with more than 9,000 in tow, but Virginia Tech made it look easy romping over the No. 8 Lady Vols 57-43 on Sunday.

"It's probably my favorite arena I've ever been to," said Hokies junior guard Vanessa Panousis and we understand why. The Aussie amassed 21 points (more than Tennessee in the second half), including a dagger-delivering 5-of-8 from 3. Free throws weren't an issue, either, as she drained all six of her attempts. The loss ended the Lady Vols' 44-game home win streak over unranked teams. "

"As soon as I walked in, I thought it was amazing," said Panousis, and she was talking about practice the day before. " The amount of seats in that arena and the floor were great. On game day, to feel the atmosphere -- great."

As for that color . . . "I thought we had a lot of orange," she said. "It was incredible."

Panousis said she thought the Hokies, now a gaudy 7-1, started somewhat slowly offensively, but credited her team's patience in pulling off Tech's first victory over a ranked team since 2012. Tennessee likes to play fast with the horses it has -- redshirt sophomore Diamond DeShields among them. But the Lady Vols were listless on offense most of the way, including a miserable 1-of-19 from behind the arc.

"They make other teams speed up," said Panousis, who said the Hokies worked the clock throughout.

Tennessee was outscored 21-6 in the fourth quarter. The Lady Vols shot 24 percent in the second half.

With two minutes to go, Panousis begin to feel it. We're going to win, she thought, sizing up the energy from the Hokies bench. What she didn't know at the time: The 43 points was a program low for Tennessee.

As for Tech, Panousis' 13.5 ppg is best on the team  (she tallied 16 in the game prior to Tennessee, a win over Penn State). Having freshman Chanette Hicks so adept at the point has been a boon. Panousis played point most of last season and has moved to the other guard spot.

"Chanette has been great for us; she's one of the reasons I'm shooting so well," said Panousis, .467 from three-point range. "It's been really cool to learn the 2 spot and to adjust to that position."

All credit to the Hokies, and Panousis, named ACC and espnW Player of the Week. ACC play awaits, though five games at Cassell, wins we think, come first. But we gotta think the Hokies are on a Rocky Top high after earning their first win over Tennessee in eight tries.

"From the time that I've been a coach, we have never beaten a team of the stature of Tennessee," Tech coach Dennis Wolff said after the game. "This has been a historically good program, and we've been trying to work to get it back to where it was previously. . . I don't want to say that we're back, but we're headed in the direction."



Monday, December 7, 2015

Field-trippin' with the Virginia Cavaliers



You see and feel the difference the moment you step into the arena.

There are people - shiny happy (little) people, as Michael Stipe would say - where the empty seats usually are. The game hasn't even started yet, but the wall of sound these kids have already created causes little bumps to appear on your arms and a tingling sensation on the back of your neck. You're like, "Whoa, this must be a big deal...."

And we weren't even playing. So we can only imagine how Virginia's Cavaliers will feel when the electricity produced by thousands of elementary/middle school children engulfs them for their "Field Trip Day" game against Bowling Green Tuesday morning at John Paul Jones Arena.

We know this drill well, having experienced back-to-back sellout crowds (see above video) for Old Dominion's expertly engineered "Education Day." In our view, it's the coolest athletic event the school produces, a perfect synergy of community outreach, inspiring kids and athletic competition.

Now it's Virginia's turn to have the kids rock the house.

"To get screaming kids in the building is like having a sixth man. Young kids always want someone to look up to and aspire to. We've always done that, and now we get to reward them with a game. There's an educational piece to it. We will highlight what it takes to get here and what our student-athletes have to do in the classroom and on the court." - Virginia coach Joanne Boyle

We wanted more details so we contacted Cavaliers assistant director of basketball operations Hadley Zeavin, who in addition to having a wonderfully unique name speaks with a youthful exuberance that makes her an ideal spokesperson for this event.

We listened intently as Hadley broke it down:

Joanne Boyle
Roughly 6,300 kids from throughout Charlottesville and surrounding areas as far away as Harrisonburg (Spotswood Elementary)...Chaperones and teachers will bump the number to around 7,300. If anything close to Virginia's typical game-day crowd attends, we're looking at a total attendance in the 9,000-10,000 range...Walker Upper Elementary, the first school to sign on, is bringing virtually everyone (nearly 600) and will have its chorus sing the national anthem...Virginia's players have been regularly visiting schools and priming the students for this event...A Joanne Boyle-inspired production, with in-house credit for implementation starting with Todd Goodale (Senior Associate AD for External Affairs), Jane Miller (Sr. Associate AD for Programs) and Sarah Whitney (Assistant Director of Marketing and Promotions) and filtering through to many others who have no doubt busted their tails for months to make this work.

The payoff for all this tail-busting will come Tuesday morning, when thousands and thousands of screaming youngsters will make JPJ come alive.

"I can't wait to see all of those familiar faces! It will be a lot of fun playing in front of all the bright students!" - Virginia guard Aliyah Huland El

Now, since this is new to the Hoos, here's a primer on what to look for:

- Expect an energized opponent: Boyle's remark about the crowd being the Cavaliers' sixth man is largely correct (not to mention the coach in her speaking). But our experience is that kids like seeing the ball go through the basket no matter who shoots it, so Bowling Green's players may feel as though they're getting support, too.

Then again, Loyola (Md.) coach Joe Logan said he told his players just that prior to a youth day game at Pittsburgh, only to be chagrined when his players ran onto the court to a chorus of boos.

Cute kids at Pitt, huh?

They're watching everything: Of course, the players are the main stars. But some of these kids won't be able to tell their parents which team won but will have a detailed report on the cheerleaders. Others will be mesmerized by the band. We even came across one kid who left the game insisting he was going to become a referee because ''they get a whistle and get to boss people around."

Win the game: This is always the point, naturally, but it's uniquely painful to come up short in this spot. We've seen Old Dominion suffer some really tough losses, but we're not sure we've ever seen the Lady Monarchs as disoriented in defeat as they were after Maryland-Eastern Shore took them down in ODU's 2011 Education Day matinee.

After all, no one wants to let kids down.

That's all we've got for now. Enjoy the experience, Cavaliers Nation!

And hey, Hadley, send pictures!

"I am so excited to welcome Charlottesville-area children to JPJ!" - Virginia guard J'Kyra Brown

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What's on tap (Saturday, Dec. 5)

The busiest day of the women’s basketball season so far as 10 of the state’s 13 programs will do battle. A look at the matchups:

VCU (5-1) at No. 17 Arizona State (3-2), 4 p.m.

This first-round game in the Sun Devils’ ASU Classic looms as by far the toughest test for the stingy, disruptive defense that has fueled the Rams so far. The Sun Devils will be without junior power forward Kelsey Moos (10.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg), who suffered a right ankle injury last week in a loss to No. 2 South Carolina. Arizona State’s other loss was a season-opening 68-64 overtime loss to No. 11 Kentucky.

For what it’s worth, Virginia programs are 0-7 against Top-25 teams so far this season:

No. 10 Oregon State 110, Longwood 45 (road)
No. 8 Texas 79, Hampton 52 (road)
No. 6 Maryland 95, Old Dominion 49 (neutral)
No. 11 Ohio State 75, Liberty 65 (neutral)
No. 8 Mississippi State 92, Norfolk State 34 (road)
No. 16 California 77, Liberty 72 (neutral)
 No. 24 (USA Today) Iowa 85, Virginia 73 (home)

Richmond (5-2) at Providence (2-4), 2 p.m.

The Spiders will try to shake off consecutive losses in their first true road game of the season (five home, two neutral-site). Game will reunite Providence graduate assistant Keri Soppe with her ex-teammates – Soppe played point guard for the Spiders the past four seasons and had 12 points and 7 rebounds in Richmond’s 75-59 victory over the Friars last season. The contest will also pit Richmond’s Tuuli Menna against Providence’s Evi  Iiskola. Both are Finland natives that played together in club ball and on their national team.

Radford (3-2) at High Point (2-6, 1-0 Big South), 2 p.m.

This matchup marks the Big South opener for Radford, which picked up its second straight victory Wednesday by downing Davidson 79-68. High Point kicked off league play with Tuesday’s 79-68 victory over Longwood, a result that snapped the Panthers’ six-game losing streak.

Norfolk State (0-5) at Morgan State (1-6), 2 p.m.

The tipoff of MEAC play for both teams. Norfolk State has beaten the Bears all four times they’ve met the past two seasons. Morgan State has lost six in a row and has yet to beat a Division I team.
Presbyterian (2-5, 0-1 Big South) at Longwood (1-5, 0-1), 2 p.m.
The Lancers look to improve to 2-0 at home. Guard Daeisha Brown, who suffered an ACL injury early last season, scored 20 points in Longwood’s loss at High Point Monday and is averaging 14.7 ppg over her last three games. The Blue Hose fell at home to UNC Asheville in their Big South opener and are 0-5 against Division I teams.

Drexel (2-4) at Hampton (0-6), 4 p.m.

We’re expecting another low-scoring, grind-it-out affair between these two - The Lady Pirates outdueled the Dragons 45-42 in the first round of the 2015 WNIT and rallied to the previous season’s matchup 50-47. Drexel comes in on a three-game losing streak; Hampton had JMU reeling last Sunday before losing control of things late and falling in overtime.

Charleston Southern (5-2, 1-0 Big South) at Liberty (2-5, 0-1), 5 p.m.

Wednesday’s 61-57 loss at Gardner-Webb was Liberty’s fifth straight loss and first in a Big South opener since the 2009-10 season. But the streaks are all positive for the Lady Flames heading into this one – Liberty has won nine straight in this series, 14 in a row at home against conference foes and 21 straight at home against the Buccaneers. Liberty’s last home loss to Charleston Southern came in 1996.

William and Mary  (6-1) at Clemson (2-6), 6 p.m.

This matchup looms as a nice opportunity for a Tribe squad that won four straight and will be out for its third victory in five days against the youthful Tigers (an ACC-high 13 underclassmen on the roster).

NJIT (2-4) at Virginia (5-3), 7 p.m.

The Cavaliers will look to snap a three-game losing streak in this first-ever meeting with the Highlanders. Sophomore guard Mikayla Venson is coming off a career-high 28-point performance in Wednesday’s 85-73 loss to Iowa. It was her second big scoring game in less than a week, as Venson produced a then-career-high 25 points in Virginia’s Thanksgiving Day win over Green Bay.

American (0-7) at JMU (4-1), 7 p.m.

The nightcap of what JMU fans hope will be a successful sports doubleheader as earlier in the day (1 p.m.) the Dukes football team will play Colgate in the second round of the FCS playoffs. Fans can exchange their football ticket for free admission to the basketball game. The women’s basketball Dukes are heavily favored to hold up their end as they’ve won 12 straight in this series. In addition, the Eagles’ winless record this season includes an 0-3 mark against CAA schools (Hofstra, Elon, William and Mary).


Thursday, December 3, 2015

What's on tap (Thursday, Dec. 3)


Wofford (1-6) at William and Mary (5-1), 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

   - The Tribe made things interesting late - don't they always? - in Tuesday's win at Delaware State but held on to enough of their 19-point fourth-quarter lead to escape with a six-point decision and third straight victory. The game kicked off what could be a highly successful five-day stretch for the Tribe, who on Saturday will visit rebuilding Clemson (2-6). The Tigers, who start a freshman and three sophomores, had dropped six in a row before Wednesday's 63-54 home win over South Carolina State. William and Mary won at Wofford 71-51 when these teams met last season. The game featured a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double from Tribe center Abby Rendle. William and Mary is 2-0 at home so far (wins over Grambling and American).

Virginia Tech (5-1) at Penn State (3-3), 8 p.m.

   - The Hokies flunked their first road test, falling by 16 on Nov. 18 to a Georgetown team that is now 5-1 after finishing 4-27 last season. Three comfortable home wins later, Tech will play road game No. 2 at another team on the rebound as the Nittany Lions went 6-24 in 2014-15, Game is part of the two-day, 14-game Big Ten/ACC Challenge (Clemson is the 15-team ACC's odd team out). The Big Ten won five of the seven contests Wednesday, including Iowa's 85-73 decision at Virginia. Virginia Tech is 2-6 in Big Ten/ACC Challenge games.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What's on tap (Wednesday, Dec. 2)


Loyola (Md., 2-4) at Old Dominion (1-6), 11 a.m.

Another packed house is expected at the Constant Center for ODU''s fifth annual "Education Day" contest featuring more than 7,000 elementary school students from virtually all of Norfolk's public schools. Last year's game drew the arena's first-ever sellout for women's basketball (8,472), and ODU is actually expecting 200 additional kids for this year's matchup.

As for the game, the Lady Monarchs will continue to be without leading scorer Jennie Simms (18.3 ppg) and starting center Ije Ajemba, both of whom have been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Both players also missed the third of ODU's three games at the Paradise Jam Saturday, a 71-39 loss to South Dakota State. In addition to scoring, Simms also leads the Lady Monarchs in rebounds per game, assists and steals. She is also a team captain.

Loyola will be led by Bri Betz-White, the Greyhounds' leading scorer (15.8 ppg) and the younger sister of former ODU standout - and fan favorite at Education Day - Ashley Betz-White...Old Dominion has lost five straight since a 71-57 victory over Wagner on Nov. 15...This will be Loyola's third game against a Virginia school in the last 12 days. The Greyhounds knocked off Norfolk State on Nov. 21 and fell by a point to William and Mary on Nov. 23. The Greyhounds' last appearance at the Constant Center was also Wendy Larry's last game as Old Dominion's head coach. Loyola prevailed 67-65 in the first round of the WNIT on March 16, 2011.

Davidson (4-2) at Radford (2-2), 11:30 a.m.

The Highlanders are staging an "Education Day" matinee for the first time and will be looking to win their l1th straight at home. Radford tuned up for this contest by tearing through Division II Lees-McRae 84-39. Davidson has won three straight.

UNC Wilmington (2-2) at VCU (4-1), 7 p.m.

VCU ranks 10th in Division I in scoring defense (49.8 ppg) and 35th out of 344 schools in steals per game (11.2). The Seahawks have been pretty disruptive, too (9.8 steals per game, 21.8 turnovers forced) so this one could be fairly low-scoring. VCU won 59-53 when these teams met at UNCW last season.

Georgetown (4-1) at George Mason (3-5), 7 p.m.

The Patriots went 2-3 on their five-game, 11-day road trip (Utah, Alaska, Las Vegas) and will play playing at home for just the second time this season and first since Nov. 17. The Hoyas are coming off a two-game sweep of the TD Bank Classic tournament at the University of Vermont and have already matched their win total for the entire 2014-15 season (4-27).

Iowa (6-1) at Virginia (5-2), 7 p.m.

Game is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Hawkeyes are ranked 24th in the USA Today coaches poll. Virginia won five in a row before dropping its final two games at the Paradise Jam.

Liberty (2-4) at Gardner-Webb (4-1), 7 p.m.

Kickoff for both teams of the Big South's 20-game conference slate. The Lady Flames have won six straight league openers and 15 of the last 16. Liberty enters on a four-game losing streak, albeit against stiff competition (N.C. State, JMU, Ohio State, California).

Statistically speaking.... (through Nov. 30)

Hampton's Malia Tate-DeFreitas tops all scorers at 18.8 ppg.
Statistical leaders among Virginia's Division I players through the games of Nov. 30:

Top 10 scorers
(games played, points, average and FG percentage)

Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton      6   113   18.8  39.5

Ashley Perez, JMU                          5    93  18.6    41.2

Jennie Simms, Old Dominion          6    110  18.3  34.5

Jazmon Gwathmey, JMU                 5    91  18.2    46.5

Ashley Rininger, Liberty                  6    97   16.2   53.8

Janelle Hubbard, Richmond             6    96  16.0    47.3

Marlena Tremba, William & Mary  5    78  15.6    50.0

Micaela Parson, Richmond              6    88  14.7    43.2

Taylor Brown, George Mason         8    114 14.3   33.0

Isis Thorpe, VCU                             3     41  13.7   37.5

Others (min. 10 ppg): Alexandra Masaquel, William and Mary 13.4; Faith Randolph, Virginia 13.1; Sadalia Ellis, Liberty 12.8; Lauren Tolson, Richmond 12.7; Kaylah Lupoe, Hampton 12.5; Mikayla Venson, Virginia 12.3; Camille Calhoun, VCU 12.2; Aisha Foy, Radford 12.0; Vanessa Panousis, Virginia Tech 11.8;; Kayla Roberts, Norfolk State 11.8; Janayla White, Radford 11.8; Jayda Worthy, Radford 11.5; Koryn Lawrence, Norfolk State 11.2; Siobhan Beslow, Norfolk State 10.8; Aliyah Huland El, Virginia 10.6; Chanette Hicks, Virginia Tech 10.2;  Sidney Cook, Virginia Tech 10.0; Lauren Moses, Virginia 10.0; Kristi Mokube, George Mason  10.0; Abby Rendle, William and Mary 10.0

Note: Radford’s Jayda Worthy is tied for 7th nationally in field goal percentage (.667).

Rebounds

Da’Lishia Griffin, JMU 10.2; Kayla Roberts, Norfolk State 9.6; Jayda Worthy, Radford 8.8; Siobhan Beslow, Norfolk State 8.6; Katelyn Adams, Liberty 8.2; Ashley Rininger, Liberty 7.7; Abby Rendle, William and Mary 7.6; Regan Magarity, Virginia Tech 7.3; Jennie Simms, Old Dominion 6.8; Lydia Rivers, Radford 6.8; Ije Ajemba, Old Dominion 6.7; Alexandra Masaquel, William and Mary 6.6; Lauren Moses, Virginia 6.4; Tiffany Padgett, George Mason 6.4; Jazmon Gwathmey, JMU 6.2; Camille Calhoun, VCU  6.0; Malia Tate DeFreitas, Hampton 6.0; Kaylah Lupoe, Hampton 6.0; 
Savannah Felgemacher, JMU   6.0

Note: JMU’s Da’Lishia Griffin ranks 40th in Division I in rebounding (10.2).

Assists

Muff Mickens, JMU  8.6; Jenna Green, William and Mary 5.2; Keira Robinson, VCU 4.4; Jennie Simms, Old Dominion 4.2; Sadalia Ellis, Liberty 4.0; Koryn Lawrence, Norfolk State 4.0; Chanette Hicks, Virginia Tech 3.5; Marlena Tremba, William and Mary 3.2; Micaela Ellis, Longwood 3.0.

Note: JMU’s Muff Mickens ranks second in Division I in assists per game (8.6), trailing only Lipscomb’s Loren Cagle (9.0).

3-point shooting
(by total made, with 3FG percentage)

Vanessa Panousis, Virginia Tech 21-47, .447; Ashley Perez, JMU 18-51, .353; Lauren Tolson, Richmond 16-37, .432; Sidney Cook, Virginia Tech 15-39 .385; Keyana Brown, Old Dominion 14-29 .483; Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton 14-36, .389; Jaymee Fisher-Davis, Liberty 12-37 .324; Mikayla Venson, Virginia 11-42  .262; Marlena Tremba, William and Mary 10-24, .417; Jewel Triggs, George Mason 10-26, .385; Kyndal Skersick, Longwood  9-26, .346; Taylor Brown, George Mason 9-40, .225; Isis Thorpe, VCU 8-21, .381; Faith Randolph, Virginia 8-23, .348; Deborah Headen, Longwood 7-14, .500; Jazmon Gwathmey, JMU  7-16, .438;

Note: JMU’s Ashley Perez is tied for 11th nationally in 3-pointers per game (3.60) and Virginia Tech’s Vanessa Panousis is tied for 16th (3.50). Old Dominion’s Keyana Brown is tied for 34th in Division I in 3-point percentage (48.3).

Blocks

Abby Rendle, William and Mary 14; Jazmon Gwathmey, JMU 11; Kayla Cooper-Williams, JMU 10; 
Lydia Rivers, Radford 10; Dominique Powell, Virginia Tech 9; Taijah Campbell, Virginia Tech 9; 
Kaylah Lupoe, Hampton 9; Jayda Worthy, Radford 8; Kara Wright, George Mason 8; Siobhan Beslow, Norfolk State  7l; Bridget O’Donnell, George Mason 7; Aliyah Huland El, Virginia, 6; 
Koryn Lawrence, Norfolk State 6; Destinee Young, Old Dominion 6; Ashley Rininger, Liberty 6; 
Catherine Kearney, Liberty 6.

Note: William and Mary’s Abby Rendle is tied for 22nd nationally in blocks per game (2.8), while Radford’s Lydia Rivers is tied for 30th (2.5) and JMU’s Jazmon Gwathmey is 50th (2.2).

Steals

Chanette Hicks, Virginia Tech 20; Sadalia Ellis, Liberty 18; Lauren Moses, Virginia 16; Breyana Mason, Virginia 15; Keira Robinson, VCU 15; Mikayla Venson, Virginia 13; Gaby Gilmore, Radford 11; Aliyah Huland El, Virginia 11; Jennie Simms, Old Dominion 11; Kaylah Lupoe, Hampton 10; Taylor Brown, George Mason 10.


Note: Virginia Tech’s Chanette Hicks is tied for 24th nationally in steals per game (3.33) and is sixth among all Division I freshmen.

Also see:

State team rankings for Nov. 30

Monday, November 30, 2015

Gimme Five - the state's top teams (Nov. 30)

    
        1. JMU (4-1)
      Last week: 3
     
      The Dukes vault to the top after a 2-0 week featuring a dominant win over tough Liberty (ask Cal and Ohio State how tough) and an escape-from-the-dead overtime win at Hampton Sunday that left coach Kenny Brooks scrambling for superlatives.

      
      Shoutout to: Jazmon Gwathmey, your new Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week.

      Next up: vs. American (0-6), Saturday, 7 p.m.

2. Virginia (5-2)
      
Last week: 1
    
The Cavaliers drop a notch after Rutgers and Tulane cooled off Virginia’s formerly sizzling guards on consecutive days at the Paradise Jam. Still a lot to like about the way the Cavaliers have started, though. And to be fair, Virginia still owns arguably the two best wins of any of the state’s teams so far – at Middle Tennessee State and against Green Bay in the Paradise Jam opener.
   
Shoutout to: Lauren Moses. On a team where the guards have dominated, the 6-2 Moses was Virginia’s lone representative on the Paradise Jam all-tournament team. She particularly stood tall in the Tulane and Rutgers matchups, averaging 14 points  on 54.5 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds over the two games. With the guards likely to continue drawing the prime focus of opposing defenses, here’s hoping Moses can continue to get hers.

Next up: vs. Iowa  (6-1), 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Game kicks off a stretch in which the Cavaliers play eight of nine games at home.
3.      
       3. Richmond (5-1)
       
       Last week: 2

       The Spiders opened with five straight wins before they got caught on the wrong end of a shootout Sunday in a 98-80 loss to Marquette in the FIU Turkey Slam final. Going in Richmond hadn’t allowed more than 62 points in any game and had kept four teams in the 50s. Marquette, on the other hand, hung 95 on FIU in the tournament opener.

      Shoutout to: Janelle Hubbard and Micaela Parson, both of whom made the FIU Turkey Slam all-tournament team.

      Next up: vs. Furman (4-2), 5 p.m. Tuesday.

      4. Virginia Tech (5-1)

       Last week: 5

      A light week for the Hokies with just one result – Wednesday’s 73-42 whipping of Wofford – on the books. Tech’s lineup of opponents to date hasn’t exactly been rigorous so we’re giving them a bit of the benefit of the doubt here. We’ll have a lot more to go on a week from now, though, as Tech’s schedule is about to get a lot more interesting – and revealing.

      Shoutout to: Chanette Hicks. The true freshman enduring a trial-by-fire as the Hokies starting point guard came up big against Wofford with six steals, the most by a Tech player since 2011.

      Next up: Thursday at Penn State (3-3), 8 p.m. in Big Ten/ACC Challenge; Sunday at No. 8 Tennessee (5-1), 2 p.m.
5.      
      5. William and Mary (4-1)

Last week: (NR)

Is this really the fifth-best team in Virginia? Well...the team is off to its best start since the 1998-99 season, and there’s certainly no shame in the lone stumble, a six-point setback at Richmond. A couple of key stats: out of 344 Division I teams, William and Mary ranks among the nation’s Top 35 in fewest turnovers committed per game (13.2, 34th) and free throw percentage (77.5, 13th). So OK, maybe we're not absolutely convinced this is a Top-5 team, at least right now. But given those numbers, we are confident someone’s going to have to actually beat these guys, because they don’t beat themselves.

Shoutout to:  Marlena Tremba, who lit up American for 22 points in last week’s 62-51 victory. When Tremba is feeling it like this, the Tribe is truly dangerous.

Next up: at Delaware State (1-5), Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. 

On the verge

Liberty (2-4) – Team’s mired in a four-game losing streak, although the competitiveness of the Lady Flames’ games against N.C. State, Ohio State and California – and the second half against JMU - indicates a team much better than that record. It would help if the Lady Flames would stop falling 15-20 points down before top form kicks in. 

VCU (4-1) – Those thieving Rams (11.2 steals per game) have made themselves extremely tough to run offense against (and nearly impossible for Campbell, which trailed VCU 23-8 at halftime last week).

Rear echelon 
(not necessarily in order)

Radford (2-2) – Wednesday’s home date with Davidson will mark the Highlanders’ first game against a Division I team since Nov. 20’s last-second 54-53 loss at Youngstown State.

Longwood (1-4) – The Lancers are 1-0 at home after last week’s 60-49 win over N.C. Central, and star guard Daeisha Brown appears to be closing in on the form she displayed prior to last season’s ACL injury. Longwood will play three of its next five games at home.

George Mason (3-5) – Guard Taylor Brown scored 21 points and nailed the game-winning jumper in Sunday’s 64-63 victory that gave the Patriots third place in UNLV’s Lady Rebels Roundup and brought a successful end to Mason’s five-game, 11-day road trip.

Hampton (0-6) – JMU spectacular comeback in Sunday’s 68-56 overtime victory at Hampton obscured the fact that the Dukes didn’t crack the 40-point barrier until less than three minutes remained in regulation. Elite defensive performances are nothing new at Hampton, and if that kind of effort becomes routine the Lady Pirates should be in good shape going forward. That said, Hampton clearly left a victory on the free throw line – missed five straight in the final 31 seconds – and the ability to knock these shots down may be an ongoing concern. Hampton was shooting 59 percent from the line heading into the JMU game and is now at 56.3 percent, a figure which ranks 332nd in Division I.

Old Dominion (1-6) –  Some Paradise. The Lady Monarchs went 0-3 in the Virgin Islands – including losses by 46 and 32 points – and played their third game without leading scorer Jennie Simms and starting center Ije Ajemba after both were benched for a violation of team rules. In short, the trip will provide a stern test of coach Karen Barefoot’s renowned skill in finding positives in any situation.

Norfolk State (0-5) – As expected, Siobhan Beslow (10.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg), a graduate transfer from La Salle, has been a nice addition and pairs with Kayla Roberts (11.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg) to provide a solid post duo. But the Spartans are allowing 83.6 points per game, and it’s hard to beat anyone with a defense that leaky. 


Sunday, November 29, 2015

What happened, what's ahead (Nov. 29)



ICYMI – Saturday’s results

No. 16 California 77, Liberty 72 -  Stunning near-comeback for the Lady Flames, who trailed by 16 with five minutes to go but got to within three with a minute left at the South Point Shootout. Ashley Rininger was Ashley Rininger (18 points, 7 rebounds) and made the all-tournament team; Sadalia Ellis, Katelyn Adams and Jaymee Fisher-Davis all scored in double figures.  The Lady Flames (2-4) have now lost three straight, but  the setbacks were all by 10 points or less to N.C. State and nationally ranked Ohio State and this Cal squad.  

Tulane 67, Virginia 62 – The Cavaliers took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter but fell behind quickly in the final frame and couldn’t recover at the Paradise Jam.  Faith Randolph finished with 19 points but made just 6 of 20 field goals; the typically sweet-shooting Randolph-Mikayla Venson-Breyana Mason guard trio combined to make just 10 of 36 field goals. Virginia’s second straight loss and a  disappointing ending to a Paradise Jam outing that began strongly with a Cavaliers win over Green Bay.

South Dakota State 71, Old Dominion 39 – Speaking of disappointing…. With starters Jennie Simms and Ije Ajemba unavailable after a violation of team rules, the shorthanded Lady Monarchs hung around for a half before getting their doors blown off by the powerful Jackrabbits after the break. The defeat was ODU’s fifth straight and left the Lady Monarchs as the only one of the eight Paradise Jam teams to leave the Virgin Islands winless in the three-game event.

Radford 84, Lees-McRae 39 – The Highlanders got what they wanted – and perhaps needed – out of this one – a strong, confidence-building effort against the Division II Bobcats in which all healthy hands contributed. Jayda Worthy led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

UNLV 67, George Mason 62 – Another tough shooting night for the Patriots, who made just 31.9 percent of their field goals in falling to the host Lady Rebels. Taylor Brown led the way with 14 points but made just 4 of her 16 shots. The Patriots starters were a combined 10 of 40 from the field.

UNC Greensboro 81, Longwood 60 – It’s tough to win when you send an opponent to the free throw line 41 times (UNCG converted 29). On the plus side for the Lancers, Kyndal Skersick (16 points) scored in double figures for the third straight game, Micaela Ellis added 12 points and Daeisha Brown added a season-high 12 and she continues her push to regain top form after last season’s ACL injury.

Team records

Richmond 5-0; Virginia Tech 5-1; Virginia 5-2; William and Mary 4-1; JMU 3-1; VCU 3-1; Radford 2-2; Liberty 2-4; Longwood 1-4; George Mason 2-5; Old Dominion 1-6; Norfolk State 0-5; Hampton 0-5

Sunday’s games

Richmond vs. Marquette (1-4), noon – Title game of the FIU Turkey Slam. A victory would continue the Spiders’ best start since the 2008-09 team opened with an 8-0 mark.

Furman (4-1) at VCU, 1 p.m. – The Rams will unleash their turnover-inducing defense on the Paladins, who have won four straight but will be playing on the road for the first time this season. Furman head coach Jackie Carson , a Woodbridge native, was an assistant at JMU from 2006-10 before returning to lead her alma mater.

George Mason vs. Tulsa (1-4), 3 p.m. – Third-place game in the Lady Rebel Round-up and finale of the Patriots’ 11-day, five-game cross-country road trip.


JMU at Hampton, 5 p.m. – The first home game of the season for the Lady Pirates. JMU prevailed 85-53 when these programs met in Harrisonburg last season. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

What happened, what's ahead (Nov. 28)

Could the law firm of Hubbard, Tolson and Parson successfully close another case? Should we start calling her “Downtown” Keyana Brown? And was Liberty really leading mighty Ohio State in the fourth quarter?

Let’s check the highlights….

ICYMI – Friday’s results

Rutgers 60, Virginia 48 – You can’t win them all, right? The Cavaliers (5-1) got a career-high 18 points from forward Lauren Moses and 19 points off 19 Scarlet Knights turnovers, but it wasn’t nearly enough to offset an overall poor shooting night (28.8 percent FG, 65.8 percent FT) at the Paradise Jam.

Pittsburgh 67, Old Dominion 58 – Old Dominion’s second game at the Paradise Jam featured some encouraging signs for the Lady Monarchs (1-5) on offense. Jennie Simms had 9 assists to go with her team-high 17 points, Keyana Brown got white-hot from 3 (5-5) for the second time in three games and Destinee Young (13 points) added some much-needed scoring from a post player.  The attack whimpered down the stretch, though, as the Lady Monarchs made just one of their last seven shots as the Panthers pulled away. ODU has now been outscored in its last five fourth quarters and by a combined 66-37 in the fourth quarters during its four-game losing streak . Before the season began the Lady Monarchs boasted of outstanding conditioning, but so far that hasn’t translated into winning basketball at the business end of these games. More on Downtown Keyana Brown – DKB is now 8-14 from 3 over her last three games, and that includes an 0-4 effort in Thursday’s blowout loss to Maryland.

Richmond 60, Wichita State 48 – In the team’s FIU Turkey Slam opener, The Spiders’ sensational guard trio led the way again as Micaela Parson (a career-high 20 points), Janelle Hubbard (12) and Lauren Tolson (11) all scored in double figures for the third time in five games. Freshman forward Tuuli Menna chipped in seven points and eight boards as the Spiders cruised past a depleted Shockers bunch that is just a shell (shell-Shockers?) of the squad that won 29 games and the Missouri Valley Conference title last season. The Spiders’ 5-0 record marks the team’s best since 2008-09.

No. 11 Ohio State 75, Liberty 65 – Led by twin towers Ashley Rininger (18 points, 6 rebounds) and Catherine Kearney (11 points, 8 boards), the Lady Flames (2-3) gave the Buckeyes fits for three-plus quarters at the South Point Shootout and actually led 61-60 with 7:29 left. Ultimately, Ohio State’s ability to turn Liberty over (the Buckeyes scored 37 points off 29 Lady Flames giveaways) carried the day. Still, we doubt anyone who saw this game is still wondering what Liberty is doing in a tournament with Ohio State, California and Texas A&M.

No. 8 Mississippi State 94, Norfolk State 32 -  Koryn Lawrence led Norfolk State (0-5) with 12 points. Otherwise, the final score pretty much says it all.

Team records

Richmond 5-0; Virginia 5-1; Virginia Tech 5-1; William and Mary 4-1; JMU 3-1; VCU 3-1; Liberty 2-3; Radford 1-2; Longwood 1-3; George Mason 2-4; Old Dominion 1-5; Norfolk State 0-5; Hampton 0-5

Saturday’s games

Virginia vs. Tulane (3-3), 1 p.m. – Survival of the fittest as it’s the third game in three days for both at the Paradise Jam.  Tulane has gotten cuffed around in this event by Green Bay (a 21-point loss) and Rutgers (a 24-point setback). A little over a week ago, though, the Green Wave held its own in a six-point loss at Florida State, then followed that up with a one-point win over LSU.

Lees-McRae (0-5, Division II) at Radford, 2 p.m. – A year ago, Radford lost its non-Division I encounter. The humbled Highlanders regrouped and went on to have a successful season, but here’s hoping the team doesn’t learn its lesson the embarrassing way again.

Longwood at UNC Greensboro (2-3), 2 p.m. – The Lancers are coming off Tuesday’s 60-49 victory over North Carolina Central. UNCG is 0-3 against Division I programs (losses to South Carolina, High Point and Gardner-Webb).

George Mason at UNLV (4-0), 3 p.m. – The Patriots are winding up an 11-day odyssey that has taken them from Utah to Alaska before this two-day tournament in Las Vegas. Odds are the players have either formed an incredible bond or can’t wait to finally get away from each other.  Let’s hope it’s the former. UNLV has played all its games at home.

Liberty vs. No. 16 California (4-1), 5:15 p.m. - Another big challenge awaits the Lady Flames in the South Point Shootout (Las Vegas).


Old Dominion vs. South Dakota State (3-2), 5:45 p.m. – This will be the third of three games in the Paradise Jam for both. The quality of the Jackrabbits is evidenced by their extremely competitive losses to Notre Dame (by 11 points) and Maryland (7), teams that – as Old Dominion can attest – make a habit out of crushing folks by 40 or 50.