Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Showdown, Part III - Hampton at Old Dominion

It's a common practice for women's basketball teams with the resources to shape their non-conference schedule - when concerned about your players being rusty after an exam break, schedule their first game back against a MEAC school.

But not necessarily THIS MEAC school. At least not since David Six took charge of the Hampton Lady Pirates.

During his eight-year tenure, in addition to winning five MEAC titles, the Lady Pirates own victories over Florida, LSU, Wake Forest, Auburn, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Boston College (twice) and Pittsburgh, among others. When Six took the Hampton job he said his goal was to make the Lady Pirates not just a conference power, but also nationally relevant. Clearly, he's accomplished both.

So it says a lot about what Old Dominion coach Karen Barefoot thinks of her 2016-17 team that she would line up these Lady Pirates, winners of five of their last six games, for her team's post-exam debut Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Constant Center.

It's the first of three challenging games in a four-day span; ODU will face No. 21 Syracuse Tuesday and Dayton Wednesday during the Florida Sunshine Classic in Winter Park, Fla.

The Lady Monarchs (4-3) have won three of their last four games and performed solidly in all four; the loss was a spirited duel at nationally ranked Miami. And in their last game, a 10-point victory over VCU, ODU actually took control of the game during a four-minute chunk of the third quarter with star Jennie Simms on the bench.

In previous seasons, it has taken the Lady Monarchs until deep into February to consistently play at a winning level. The recent four-game stretch suggests that this team may have found that level already.

The Lady Pirates can relate. After struggling through a four-game gauntlet of road games against Power 5 conference schools - Northwestern, N.C. State, Iowa and No. 6 South Carolina - the Lady Pirates have righted themselves with their trademark defensive tenacity and posted quality wins over Maine and Temple. On Thursday, they rocked Richmond 72-45.

Because of this schedule and Hampton's recent success, the Lady Pirates actually come into the game with a much higher RPI (77) than the Lady Monarchs (137). And playing on the road doesn't figure to bother Hampton - the Lady Pirates have played only two of their 10 games so far in their own building.

 In other words, forget pedigree or conference affiliation. This should be one heck of a battle.

NOTE: Old Dominion redshirt sophomore forward Carley Brew, a transfer from JMU, is now eligible to play and could see her first action as a Lady Monarch Sunday against Hampton.

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