Saturday, January 2, 2016

Richmond, VCU, Mason open A-10 play in style

Richmond's Janelle Hubbard
The Virginia wing of the Atlantic 10 is off to a rip-roaring start.

On Saturday, Richmond, VCU and George Mason all opened conference play with not just victories but road victories, which as any coach will tell you are like gold, particularly during league play.

Now, we know they don't hand out trophies for being 1-0.

But it sure beats the alternative.

The A-10's will close out its opening weekend with a nationally televised (CBS Sports Network, 1 p.m.) showcase game Sunday as Duquesne (12-1) puts its 11-game winning streak on the line against visiting perennial league power Dayton (7-4). But before we look ahead to Sunday, let's take a closer look at what the Virginia schools did Saturday:

Richmond 60, La Salle 43: Granted, the Explorers (3-10, 0-1) are really struggling these days, but spanking a league foe by 17 in its own building is still a sweet feat, especially for a Spiders team (8-6, 1-0) that had dropped four of its previous five games and is still operating without injured starters Lauren Tolson and Tuuli Menna. The day will be especially memorable for junior guard Janelle Hubbard, who raced past the career 1,000-point barrier by nailing a second-quarter jumper. We didn't see the shot, but we knew something was up when pictures of Hubbard began flooding our Twitter timeline. Welcome to the club, J-Hubb.
George Mason 73, Saint Louis 63 (OT): We remember sitting behind a computer last February and watching these same Billikens flat-out annihilate the Patriots (82-59). Evidently the Patriots (6-8, 1-0) remembered that, too, because they returned to the scene of the crime and avenged that rout in dramatic style. But here's what really blows our minds - Mason star Taylor Brown scored eight points on 1-of-9 shooting in 41 minutes. Used to be if Brown wasn't feeling it, the Patriots were toast. But Saturday, with Kara Wright notching 19 points and Reana Mohamed, Chinyere Bell and Kristi Mokube tallying 10 apiece, the Patriots thrived despite an off-night from the 2014-15 A-10 scoring champ. You know how it went from "The Supremes" to "Diana Ross and the Supremes?" Well, this bunch used to be "Taylor Brown and the Patriots." Looks like now it's simply "The Patriots."
VCU 74, UMass 66: Only twice through its first 13 games had VCU allowed more than 58 points, and the Rams lost both times. Saturday, though, a Rams team typically fueled by disruptive defense proved it could win a relative shootout as Adaeze Alaeze's 22 points (and 10 rebounds) led VCU (12-2, 1-0) to its sixth straight victory. It was also just the second of the 12 VCU wins that did not come by double digits. The other was the VCU resume's signature triumph, the 57-48 decision at nationally ranked Arizona State on Dec. 5.

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