Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chit chat with William and Mary's Alex Masaquel

Aloha, Alex Masaquel. Caught up with the Tribe senior, a Hawaii native and future dentist who continued her outstanding season Sunday with 18 points and 12 rebounds in William and Mary's game with James Madison at Kaplan Arena. The game played out before the second-largest Tribe women's basketball history. When asked why the surge in attendance, William and Mary coach Ed Swanson pointed to veterans like Masaquel.

If only she could sing....

Chit-chat with James Madison's Hailee Barron

Hailee Barron's season-high 14 points (that includes 4 treys) lifted James Madison over William & Mary 79-64, the Dukes' fifth victory in six games. Afterward LadySwish caught up with that rare kid who comes to Harrisonburg from Vermont (kudos, by the way, to Cracker Barrel for its maple syrup, she says). Get to know a little about Hailee, who will be cheering for the Pats on Super Bowl Sunday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

From walk-on to captain: Meet Liberty's Crowder and Rettstat


Very little about playing college women's basketball is glamorous. Now imagine the life of a walk-on, who goes through much of the same grind as the scholarship player but rarely gets real minutes let alone glory. Bluntly, walk-ons usually see what's regarded as garbage time -- time at the end of a blowout.

But sometimes the script plays out differently. Sometimes that dream does come true in the form of a scholarship or more.

Rarely does it happen as quickly as it did for Liberty's Audrey Rettstat, a senior. More frequently, the story is similar to the one from Tatyana Crowder, a sophomore.

Both are Lady Flames captains this season. Both started as walk-ons.

Last summer, on the eve of preparing to travel to Atlanta for an internship, Crowder got the scholarship offer from coach Carey Green: 

"It felt surreal," she said. "I'm this little ghetto kid from Roanoke.  Nobody in my family ever graduated from high school let alone college. I was ecstatic."

Playing college ball was a dream she had as a little girl growing up about an hour west of Liberty. Playing her high school ball at Liberty Christian Academy, she got offers -- Division III and NAIA. A Liberty assistant even advised her in that direction. It wasn't what she wanted to hear.

"I was crushed when he said that," she said. "I never thought I'd be here, but I knew I wanted to be at Liberty. I felt like God wanted me to be at Liberty; I didn't know why."

That same assistant later invited her to a summer bridge program for freshman athletes. Then she joined the Lady Flames as a walk-on, though her highlights last season were minimal. Crowder played in 17 games, scoring her first point on Nov. 23.

She went on to score one more the entire season, playing a mere 30 minutes in 2015-16.

"I wasn't getting financial support and I wasn't playing much," she said. "I worked super hard, but didn't get the results. That's discouraging in any area, not just basketball."

When Green offered her a scholarship over the summer, Crowder was not just appreciative but ecstatic. Being a captain is a role she relishes.

"I want to be above reproach," she said. "I want to be the hardest worker on the team, the one who serves the girls."

She's also the one with perspective. Crowder maintains a 4.0. She wants a future in social work.

"On the court if you mess up, you've got to have perspective," she said. "In life if you mess up, you've got to have perspective."

Rettstatt, a 1,000-point scorer at Ohio's Worthington High, began her journey in 2013 after her uncle reached out to Liberty to inquire about possibilities.

"Before I knew it, I was getting offered a spot as a recruited walk-on during the summer," she said.

After the first week or so, a stunningly short amount of time in retrospect, Green called Rettstatt into his office and offered her a scholarship.

"That was better than I ever dreamed," she said. "I thought it was going to take the whole summer

An injury prevented her debut until Feb. 6, 2014 against Coastal Carolina. Rettstaff saw minutes in nine of the Lady flames' final 10 games that season.

She played sparingly as a sophomore but as a junior cracked the starting lineup before suffering an ACL injury in Liberty's Big South opener at Gardner-Webb on Dec. 2, 2015.

As crushing as that was, she found confidence in what she had achieved already. The Galena, Ohio, native said initially she thought she'd struggle in the college game. It didn't take long to realize, "I can play with these girls. I can play and work hard and get time."

Rettstatt has started nine games this season, averaging just shy of 20 minutes along with 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds. Her calm demeanor and poise have been assets given the youth on a Liberty team that has 11 freshmen and sophomores.

More importantly, the exercise science major has learned a lesson that many in their 20s and 30s still struggle to grasp: "My identity is not my performance."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Our video chat with Hampton's Malia Tate-DeFreitas

After Hampton's scrappy victory over Norfolk State on Saturday, we caught up with Pirates senior Malia Tate-DeFreitas. The two-time MEAC Player of the Year1 en route to wrapping up the honor again, tore her ACL and meniscus against Delaware State on Jan. 14. It was a non-contact injury -- one of those "Why in the world does this have to happen" sort of thing; Tate-DeFreitas was 96 points shy of the conference all-time scoring record.

The sports management major said the program is exploring the idea of applying for a redshirt waiver. Given Tate-DeFreitas  had played in 16 games, the chances are slim, but we're hopeful. Prayers for her surgery, which is scheduled for Friday.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Here's the word on Hampton's Tate-DeFreitas and her knee

We'll make this brief. Hampton coach David Six confirmed that Malia Tate-DeFreitas tore the ACL and meniscus in her right knee in Saturday's victory over Delaware State.

"She's very upset," he said.

The injury is a devastating end to a college career that included twice being named MEAC Player of the Year and earning conference Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman. Tate-DeFreitas' 2,214 career points are the most of any Hampton player since the school became Division I. She was 96 points shy of breaking the league's all-time scoring record.

Among active players, Tate-DeFreitas 2,214 points ranks fourth and her 256 career steals rank fifth in the NCAA.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hampton's Tate-DeFreitas: MRI today, now we wait

Dating ourselves here, there's a song Anne Murray used to sing -- "A little good news today."

Hampton coach David Six could use some good news because right now it's lacking.

Two-time MEAC Player of the Year Malia Tate-DeFreitas, who sustained a right knee injury during Monday's victory over Delaware State, underwent an MRI on Wednesday afternoon. Six is awaiting results he anticipates will come Thursday, but said when Tate-DeFreitas went down while going for a layup, he said, "It didn't look good."

If the injury is a season-ending ACL tear, it will mark the end of a stellar career. Tate-DeFreitas is 96 points shy of the MEAC record that would make her the conference's all-time leading scorer.

Tate-DeFreitas started all 16 games for the Pirates and leads the team in scoring (17.2 ppg) and is second in rebounding (5.4 rpg). In fact, the senior has started all 112 games she has played in at Hampton and amassed 2,214 points thus far, 553 this season.

To be blunt, she's the franchise.

While Tate-DeFreitas' injury is certainly the most significant, Hampton is also without starting forward Jephany Brown, out with a high ankle sprain and reserves Mariah Bankhead (leg) and Mikayla Sayle (back). Sophomore guard K'Lynn Willis is expected back Thursday from an ankle injury.

We'll let you know more on Malia when we know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Big shots: Friday's top stars

Big performances by the usual suspects at William and Mary and JMU keyed winning efforts by the local teams Friday. Our top stars:

3. Alexandra Masaquel, William and Mary

Talk about turning one's game up a notch. Masaquel followed up her 24-point, 17-rebound performance a week ago at Charleston with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks Friday against Northeastern. Masaquel now has four double-doubles this season, all of which have come in her last six games.

2. Marlena Tremba, William and Mary

Tremba finished with 16 points, three of which came on a 50-foot heave to close out the first half.
But outside of that the senior shotmaker wasn't feeling it much of the night against Northeastern as she connected on just two of her first 11 shots. But when it got to the business end of the proceedings, Tremba went 3-for-3 from the field inside the final four minutes to account for the Tribe's final seven points in a 60-58 triumph. Tremba started by hitting a jumper to put the Tribe up 55-50. A minute later she splashed a 3-pointer to restore the five-point edge at 58-53. Then, with 15 seconds left and the game tied at 58...
So ignore those final shooting numbers (5-of-14 from the field). When the Tribe absolutely had to have buckets, Marlena was money.

1. Precious Hall, JMU

Friday we discovered that, in addition to everything else she does for these Dukes, when she puts her mind to it Hall can be a beast on the boards, too. The 5-8 senior grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds in the Dukes' 66-51 win at Delaware, obliterating her previous career high (10, set two years ago against UNC Wilmington). Her work on the boards was so stunning it almost reduced the 28 points she dropped on 11-of-19 shooting to a mere footnote. OK, a really, really, lengthy, meaty footnote. But back to the board work. Improved rebounding numbers are something we've been noticing from Hall of late.  After averaging 3.9 rebounds over JMU's first 11 games, Hall pulled down boards at a 8.3-per-game clip in the three games leading up to the trip to Delaware. This has helped offset the loss of Da'Lishia Griffin, the CAA's leading rebounder last season (9.5 rpg) who left the team last month after eight games. Without Griffin on the glass, it's incumbent upon other Dukes to do their part. On Friday, Hall padded her part.

Did we mention she's 5-8?

As for her specialty - scoring points - Hall passed former Dukes star Tarik Hislop Friday and now ranks third all-time at JMU with 1,861 points. Next on the list is WNBA star Tamera Young (2,121 points). At her current pace (23.7 ppg), Hall would catch Young in 11 more games, or on Feb. 19 at Charleston.

Friday's results

JMU 66, Delaware 51

Freshman Lexi Barrier added 13 points as the Dukes scored their ninth straight win over the Blue Hens.

William and Mary 60, Northeastern 58

Nice bounceback for the Tribe after a disappointing effort in its last outing, a 10-point loss at Charleston. After Tremba's heroics, senior center Abby Rendle secured the win by blocking Francesca Sally's attempt at a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds. It was the sixth block of the night for Rendle, who began play ranked second in Division I in rejections (4.0 bpg).

What's our record?

Virginia Tech 15-1, 2-1 ACC; William and Mary 12-2, 2-1 CAA; Virginia 11-5, 0-3 ACC; Radford 11-3, 3-0 Big South; JMU 10-5, 3-1 ACC; VCU 9-9, 2-2 A-10; George Mason 9-9, 2-3 A-10; Richmond 8-9, 2-2 A-10; Hampton 8-7, 2-0 MEAC; Old Dominion 7-9, 2-3 C-USA; Norfolk State 7-7, 2-0 MEAC; Liberty 4-10, 3-0 Big South; Longwood 3-11, 0-3 Big South

"Liv Healy Triumphs!" -- the feel-good, real life story of the former Richmond player now at New Hampshire

You know those happy endings on the big screen that move folks to tears? Liv Healy doesn't need a Hollywood script to provide hers. She's got one better.

Real life.

The former Richmond guard, who transferred to New Hampshire for her final three semesters of eligibility after graduating last month, scored 14 fourth-quarter points in the Wildcats' 71-58 victory over Albany on Wednesday. ('Cats hadn't beaten Albany since 2011 btw.)

It had been almost two years since Healy had appeared in a basketball game. A refresher on the back story: Healy suffered two ACL tears, one to each knee, at Richmond. The second one, a year after the first, came Feb. 11, 2015 at Dayton after a 17-point outing from Healy. Worse than the first, it included tears to the right and left meniscus and a sprain to her MCL.

When we talked to her in October 2015, Healy was despondent about the daunting recovery process. Playing basketball again seemed like an iffy proposition at best.

See why the film "Liv Healy triumphs!" could be the feel-good film of 2017?

"I definitely wasn't expecting 25 minutes," said Healy, now a graduate student at New Hampshire.

Or 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting, six rebounds and an assist.

"Once I hit the layup, I was like, 'OK, I got my layup down.' Then once I hit a little jumper, I was like, 'OK. I got the jumper down.' Then I hit the 3 and I was like, 'All right! I got the 3!' Then I hit the foul shot and I was like, 'I'm good now.' "

"I was so happy that I did that because I didn't feel like I was forcing anything. I was just playing basketball. And I don't think I ever played basketball without thinking since I've gone to college. I also don't think I've ever had so much fun with people I don't know all that well."

While Spider fans surely would love to see Healy in a Spiders uniform, she says she needed a fresh start. After practicing with the Richmond men's club team all fall, she found it at New Hampshire. Prior to making the decision to transfer there, she talked with Kat Fogarty, an AAU buddy of hers who transferred to UNH from Marist. Healy liked what she heard.

"I love being part of a team that is so supportive," she said. "They moved me into their house. Even helped with carpooling. I don't feel like a mid-year transfer at all. I was meant to be here in the first place."

The NCAA cleared Healy only last week, though she's practiced with the Wildcats since Dec. 18. As if this movie needs more drama, the learning curve was steep.

"Every single drill was different," Healy said. "It was pretty overwhelming but I tried not to look overwhelmed. I got the playbook and was testing myself over Christmas break."

After walk through on Wednesday night, coach Maureen Magarity reminded her not to feel any pressure to score. "Just play," she advised.

"To actually be able to help a team, that's what I wanted to do," Healy said.

The knee, by the way, is fine. The early long practices led to some soreness, but Healy receives occasional treatment and loves the fact that she left the brace behind. It actually made the car ride to New Hampshire, but it stayed in the trunk of her dad's car and made the 2 1/2-hour trek back to Rhode Island, Reading, Mass.

"My dad said, " 'We don't need this anymore,' " Healy said. "Just having that confidence from my dad helped me break off from that. I played pickup all fall without it."

Now given Healy has become a writer -- she's going for her master's in recreation management policy with a concentration in kinesiology now after earning her bachelor's in journalism at Richmond -- could she have scripted this any better?

Frankly, we could ask that of Francis Ford Coppola.

"Both of my parents were in the stands, and every single one of my family members watched online and everyone from high school and Richmond, too, so the support could not have been better," she said. "When I hit that layup in the fourth quarter, I talked to my mom and she almost started crying. I think I almost started crying, too, but it was more happy tears.

"It's been a long journey, but I'm so glad I ended up UNH."

Turnovers torment Old Dominion - again

Just one game on the docket Thursday and, given how things played out, we'll dispense with our usual three stars and proceed directly to the recap.

Southern Miss 84, Old Dominion 69

Once again, a team imposed its defensive will on the Lady Monarchs as the tenacious Golden Eagles scored 33 points off 29 ODU turnovers Thursday in a wire-to-wire victory. Southern Miss came into the game ranked 10th in Division I in turnovers forced so it was no secret the Golden Eagles would try to press ODU into submission. Still, it was stunning how quickly their style yielded dividends - Southern Miss led 10-0 before the game was two minutes old, with five of the points coming off turnovers. For the game, Old Dominion actually shot 50 percent from the field - its second-highest figure of the season - and won the rebounding battle by eight. Those are typically winning numbers. But the turnovers killed them.

It wasn't the first time a pesky defense has feasted on ODU mistakes. Nor was it the most glaring episode - on Dec. 20, Syracuse scored 41 points off 31 Old Dominion turnovers in a 92-66 victory. The word is out - if you come after these Lady Monarchs defensively, they'll spit the bit.

The loss dropped Old Dominion (7-9, 2-3 Conference USA) to 1-7 in road/neutral site games, and once again the team seems stuck in the type of midseason rut that has become all-too-familiar in recent years. There's still plenty of season left, and head coach Karen Barefoot's teams traditionally finish strong. But the hope was that this year's veteran-rich squad wouldn't need a late flurry of wins to salvage an otherwise middling regular season, that it could find consistent winning form more quickly. Performances like Thursday night indicate it hasn't quite come together yet. In fact, when faced with defensive pressure, too often it all comes apart.

What's our record?

Virginia Tech 15-1, 2-1 ACC; William and Mary 11-2, 1-1 CAA; Virginia 11-5, 0-3 ACC; Radford 11-3, 3-0 Big South; JMU 9-5, 2-1 ACC; VCU 9-9, 2-2 A-10; George Mason 9-9, 2-3 A-10; Richmond 8-9, 2-2 A-10; Hampton 8-7, 2-0 MEAC; Old Dominion 7-9, 2-3 C-USA; Norfolk State 7-7, 2-0 MEAC; Liberty 4-10, 3-0 Big South; Longwood 3-11, 0-3 Big South

Friday's games

It's a CAA Friday during which William and Mary and JMU will try to remain part of the pack chasing early frontrunner Elon (11-4, 3-0 CAA). The Phoenix, the only team still unbeaten in CAA play, are at Charleston (5-9, 2-1) Friday night.

Northeastern (6-9, 2-1 CAA) at William and Mary (11-2, 1-1), 7 p.m.
The Tribe's CAA home opener, and the team's first chance to respond to last Friday's 70-60 loss at Charleston that snapped its 11-game winning streak.

JMU (9-5, 2-1 CAA) at Delaware (7-7, 1-2), 7 p.m.
The Dukes have won eight straight in this series since a 61-60 setback at Delaware on Feb. 24, 2013. A Blue Hens victory would give head coach Tina Martin her 400th career coaching triumph.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Big shots: Wednesday's top stars

Sure, No. 15 Virginia Tech finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Wednesday at No. 14 Miami and yes, despite a 15-1 record, the Hokies are now 0-1 against teams currently in the AP Top 25. But given the quality of Tech's effort in defeat, the performance actually validated the Hokies' standing as a Top 25 team a lot more than many of their victories. At least that's how we view it.

As for the night's three stars:

3. Kara Wright, George Mason

In addition to being extremely productive, the Patriots senior also has a flair for the dramatic. On Nov. 30, her driving layup with 3.5 seconds left lifted the Pats to a 55-54 victory at Detroit. And Wednesday, with Mason trailing George Washington by three and time running out in regulation....
George Washington ultimately escaped the Revolutionary Rivalry with a 79-71 overtime win. But the victory came despite another sensational effort from Wright, who finished with a game-high 23 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists in 43 minutes.

2. Samantha Hill, Virginia Tech

The Hokies senior delivered yet again in her breakout final season, scoring a game- and career-high 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting in Tech's 82-75 setback at No. 14 Miami. It's the fourth straight game with double-digit points for Hill, who averaged 2.5 points per game in limited minutes last season. Through 16 games the Toronto native has scored 180 points; she tallied 195 in her previous two seasons combined.

1. Dominique Harper, Norfolk State

Another player who has seized opportunity when provided extended minutes, Harper contributed a game-high 16 points - one short of her career high - in the Spartans' 61-55 victory over Savannah State. It marked the sixth straight game Harper has scored at least 10 points. Now, Harper had 16 points and Hill and Wright each had 23, so why is Harper our No. 1 star? Harper's team won. That's the point of these exercises, right?

Wednesday's results

No. 14 Miami 82, No. 15 Virginia Tech 75
A 25-point fourth quarter vaulted the Hurricanes, who trailed by one after three quarters. The Hokies fell despite some big individual efforts - in addition to Hill's 23 points, Regan Magarity went for 18 points and 13 rebounds and Chanette Hicks finished with 19 points before fouling out of the high-level affair that featured eight ties and 13 lead changes. But that's life in the ACC,

George Washington 79, George Mason 71 (OT)
The Patriots surged to a 13-point lead in the second quarter but shot 1-13 from the field and scored just four points in the third quarter.

Norfolk State 61, Savannah State 55
The game itself may not have been pretty, but a 2-0 record in MEAC play has to look simply gorgeous to an NSU team that a year ago started out 0-9 in conference (0-19 overall) before bagging its first league win on Feb. 6.

Fordham 67, Richmond 41
More offensive struggles for the Spiders, who scored just five points in the second quarter to lose contact with the Rams in the Bronx.  Fordham (14-5, 5-0 Atlantic 10) continues to set the pace in the Atlantic 10.

St. Joseph's 64, VCU 58
The fourth straight road loss for the Rams, and disappointing play in the fourth quarter has been a critical component in three of them (Old Dominion, Saint Louis and St. Joseph's).

What's our record?

Virginia Tech 15-1, 2-1 ACC; William and Mary 11-2, 1-1 CAA; Virginia 11-5, 0-3 ACC; Radford 11-3, 3-0 Big South; JMU 9-5, 2-1 ACC; VCU 9-9, 2-2 A-10; George Mason 9-9, 2-3 A-10; Richmond 8-9, 2-2 A-10; Hampton 8-7, 2-0 MEAC; Old Dominion 7-8, 2-2 C-USA; Norfolk State 7-7, 2-0 MEAC; Liberty 4-10, 3-0 Big South; Longwood 3-11, 0-3 Big South

Thursday's game

Old Dominion (7-8, 2-2 C-USA) at Southern Miss (10-5, 2-1), 7 p.m.

The Lady Monarchs are just 2-5 in their last seven games. Also, an interesting pattern has emerged of late regarding the performances of ODU's dynamic Jennie Simms. Over the last eight games - or ever since the exam break - Simms has consistently alternated one strong scoring effort (26 points or more on at least 50 percent shooting) with one tough one by her standards (17 points or less while making less than half her shots):

Dec. 16 vs. Hampton: Simms 28 points on 11-20 shooting

Dec. 20 vs. Syracuse - 13 points on 4-11 shooting

Dec. 21 vs. Dayton - 32 points on 11-22 shooting

Dec. 28 at East Tennessee State - 17 points on 6-20 shooting

Dec. 30 at Rice - 26 points on 9-16 shooting

Jan. 1 at North Texas - 14 points on 4-11 shooting

Jan. 5 vs. Marshall - 43 points on 14-22 shooting

Jan. 7 vs. Western Kentucky - 13 points on 5-18 shooting

It's probably just a coincidence. Still, Lady Monarchs fans ought to be hoping this pattern has one more game in it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Big shots: Tuesday's top stars

Big South Tuesday produced some slight separation at the top of the early league race as Liberty and Radford won battles of conference unbeatens to emerge as the only remaining undefeated teams in league play. The brightest stars:

3. KK Barbour, Liberty 

The sophomore forward produced 10 points, 13 rebounds (6 offensive), 3 blocks in a victory over Presbyterian that feature vintage Liberty work on the glass -. a 48-27 rebounding edge, a 24-11 advantage on the offensive boards and 21 second-chance points.

2. Jayda Worthy, Radford

Worthy's average through the first two Big South games:
17 points, 8 rebounds

Worthy's numbers Tuesday at Campbell:
17 point, 9 rebounds

Clearly, you know what you're going to get these days from Jayda Worthy. No wonder she's the reigning Big South Player of the Week.

1. Iva Ilic, Liberty

Another game, another freshman standout for the Lady Flames. Tuesday's rookie hero was Ilic, the freshman from Koprivnica, Croatia who led all scorers in the Presbyterian showdown with 17 points. More importantly, Ilic did some of her best work when things got tight, after the Blue Hose sliced an 11-point deficit to just two with less than six minutes remaining. Liberty scored the next eight points and Ilic had a hand in seven of them, feeding Audrey Rettstatt for a layup and burying a 3-pointer and a jumper to put the Blue Hose on ice.

Tuesday's results

Liberty 68, Presbyterian 60

Imagine you play for (or coach) another Big South team. You see Liberty with all these freshmen stumbling through loss after loss in the non-conference schedule and think, finally, here's our chance to get even for years of taking Liberty beatdowns!

Yeah, right.

Radford 61, Campbell 42

Powerful statement sent throughout the Big South by the Highlanders, who went on the road and throttled a Campbell club that had won seven in a row and came in with the top scoring defense in Division I. Defending champion UNC Asheville deserves its respect as the Big South's preseason favorite, but right now, Radford looks like the team to beat in this league.

Gardner-Webb 77, Longwood 43

Another tough outing at home for the Lancers, who shot a measly 25 percent from the field and suffered their third straight loss.

What's our record?

Virginia Tech 15-0, 2-0 ACC; William and Mary 11-2, 1-1 CAA; Virginia 11-5, 0-3 ACC; Radford 11-3, 3-0 Big South; JMU 9-5, 2-1 ACC; VCU 9-8, 2-1 A-10; George Mason 9-8, 2-2 A-10; Richmond 8-8, 2-1 A-10; Hampton 8-7, 2-0 MEAC; Old Dominion 7-8, 2-2 C-USA; Norfolk State 6-7, 1-0 MEAC; Liberty 4-10, 3-0 Big South; Longwood 3-11, 0-3 Big South

Wednesday's games

No. 15 Virginia Tech at No. 14 Miami, 7 p.m.

We've called this the game of the night in Division I women's basketball and, given that it's Wednesday's only game involving two AP Top 25 squads, we're standing by that assertion. Miami has won 10 straight in the series since the Hokies prevailed 73-69 in Coral Gables on Jan. 24, 2010. Tech almost ended that streak last year (Feb. 21, 2016) when the Hokies took the Hurricanes to overtime before falling 67-56. After the game, then-Hokies coach Dennis Wolff praised his team's effort but acknowledged the Hokies didn't quite have enough firepower. With Tech now having five players averaging at least 10 points per game, that issue seems to have been addressed. If the Hokies can get the same level of effort, they may finally have enough offensive juice to successfully scale the Hurricane hurdle.

George Washington at George Mason, 11 a.m.

It's School Day at EagleBank Arena and hundreds of local elementary school students will be on hand. A lot of schools shape their schedule to have this kind of event against a team they're likely to beat. The Patriots are doing it against the defending Atlantic 10 champs. No one can accuse Nyla Milleson of taking the easy way out.

VCU at St. Joseph's, 11:30 a.m.

Another early start as 1,200 young students are expected for the Hawks' "Field Trip To the Fieldhouse" game. The Rams will be looking to regroup after Sunday's home setback against Saint Louis.

Richmond at Fordham, noon

The matinee madness continues in the Bronx. Richmond has won four of its last five but will need to find some answers for Rams forward G'mrice Rice, who averaged 20.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in a pair of games last week to claim Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors.

Savannah State (2-12, 0-2 MEAC) at Norfolk State (6-7, 1-0), 5:30 p.m.

Game was originally scheduled for Saturday but was postponed due to inclement weather. The Spartans haven't played since last Wednesday and likely missed practices for at least a couple of days because of the storm so it will be interesting to how sharp NSU is, particularly early. The Tigers are coming off Monday's 75-46 loss at Hampton. Savannah State has now lost 11 straight games since downing Alabama State on Nov. 15.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Big shots: Monday's top stars

Somewhat slim pickings from Monday as only Hampton was in action. But if hockey can award three stars from each game, we can, too. It certainly helps that that Hampton won, big.

Monday's result

Hampton 75, Savannah State 46
The Lady Pirates scored 30 points off 20 SSU turnovers. In other words, typical Hampton, particularly against a MEAC foe at home.

Three stars

3. Kaylah Lupoe, Hampton

The junior forward checked in with 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in the Lady Pirates' shakedown of Savannah State. Of particular note - six of Lupoe's eight boards came on the offensive glass.

2. Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton

It's a tribute to the hefty stats DeFreitas routinely cranks out that her numbers Monday - 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals - represent a fairly typical night's work for the two-time MEAC Player of the Year. But what stood out on this night was her accuracy. Typically the very definition of a volume shooter - by necessity on this team - DeFreitas was super-efficient against the Tigers as she made eight of her 15 field goal attempts. Perhaps it's a sign of things to come - after making at least half of her shots just once in her first 12 games, DeFreitas has now done it twice in her last three.

1. Monnazjea Finney-Smith, Hampton

Heading into Monday's game, Finney-Smith was tied with her NBA brother Dorian, a guard for the Dallas Mavericks - both had season highs of 17 points. Monnazjea's in the lead, now, though, as she joined Tate-DeFreitas in lighting up Savannah State for an even 20. It was also the most productive night of her entire college career; in two seasons at VCU Finney-Smith twice topped out at 18 points, once as a freshman and once as a sophomore. Finney-Smith's career night also included a season high-tying four 3-pointers. For what it's worth, Dorian Finney-Smith's single-game season high is three 3-pointers.

What's our record?

Virginia Tech 15-0, 2-0 ACC; William and Mary 11-2, 1-1 CAA; Virginia 11-5, 0-3 ACC; Radford 10-3, 2-0 Big South; JMU 9-5, 2-1 ACC; VCU 9-8, 2-1 A-10; George Mason 9-8, 2-2 A-10; Richmond 8-8, 2-1 A-10; Hampton 8-7, 2-0 MEAC; Old Dominion 7-8, 2-2 C-USA; Norfolk State 6-7, 1-0 MEAC; Liberty 3-10, 2-0 Big South; Longwood 3-10, 0-2 Big South

Tuesday's games

Gardner-Webb (5-8, 0-2 Big South) at Longwood (3-10, 0-2), 11:15 a.m.
The Education Day matinee for the Lancers.

Radford (10-3, 2-0 Big South) at Campbell (10-3, 2-0),  7 p.m.
The game of the night in Big South play. Campbell is riding a seven-game winning streak and already owns a win over defending league champ and preseason favorite UNC Asheville.

Presbyterian (4-9, 2-0 Big South) at Liberty (3-10, 2-0), 7 p.m.
Another matchup of Big South unbeatens. A real clash of styles as Liberty has scored 81 points in each of its first two conference games while the methodical Blue Hose excel at keeping games in the 50s.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Big shots: Sunday's top stars

Not as many options as we'd like on an overall disappointing day for the state's teams, but here are the three brightest stars from Sunday's games. Also, a quick look at Monday's lone matchup.

3. Regan Magarity, Virginia Tech

Another game, another double-double for the Swedish redshirt sophomore, who went for 14 points and 13 rebounds to help the Hokies knock off Clemson. Magarity, who had 24 points and 17 rebounds in Monday's ACC opener against North Carolina, has now posted a double-double in seven her her last eight games.

2. Samantha Hill, Virginia Tech

The senior guard tied for team-high scoring honors with 16 points as the No. 18 (with a bullet) Hokies remained undefeated at Clemson. She also spent significant time filling in at point guard for a foul-plagued Chanette Hicks yet committed only one turnover in 38 minutes. It's funny. Before the season began, we weren't sure what new head coach Kenny Brooks would do with Hill, who averaged just 2.5 points per game last season. Now, we're not sure what he would do without her.

1. Janelle Hubbard, Richmond

The senior guard was "the closer" for the Spiders Sunday, scoring 11 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter as Richmond held off St. Bonaventure 61-54. The biggest Hubbard hoop came with 45 seconds left when her driving layup boosted a three-point Richmond edge to five. It's also noteworthy that for the game Hubbard made five of her 10 field goal attempts After being mired in a serious shooting slump through the middle of last month, Hubbard has now made 50 percent of her shots in two of her last three games.

Sunday's results

Virginia Tech 78, Clemson 69
    - Brooks called it "probably my least favorite performance of the season." When you can say that about a near-double digit road victory in a league like the ACC, life's pretty good.

Richmond 61, St. Bonaventure 54
   - Fourth victory in five games for the Spiders. Richmond still didn't make a lot of shots (33.9 percent). But on this day, 20 of 59 from the field was just enough.

Towson 54, JMU 51
   - We had a weird feeling about this game.... Season lows in field goal percentage (30.0 percent) and 3-point percentage (2-21, 0.95 percent) helped do it the Dukes in Baltimore. The loss snapped JMU's five-game win streak this season, its 22-game winning streak against CAA foes and its 11-game winning streak against Towson. In other words, what happened Sunday hasn't happened often.

North Carolina 67, Virginia 58
- No shame in losing a close one in Chapel Hill; a lot of teams can relate. But in an all-too-familiar refrain, Cavaliers coach Joanne Boyle bemoaned the ill-timed turnovers that led to her team's demise. Virginia now has a combined 60 giveaways in its three ACC games.

Saint Louis 62, VCU 48
- The Rams were in decent position down just 48-44 after three quarters but made just one of 15 field goal attempts in a disastrous four-point fourth quarter. Overall a missed opportunity at home against an A-10 power.

What's our record?

Virginia Tech 15-0, 2-0 ACC; William and Mary 11-2, 1-1 CAA; Virginia 11-5, 0-3 ACC; Radford 10-3, 2-0 Big South; JMU 9-5, 2-1 ACC; VCU 9-8, 2-1 A-10; George Mason 9-8, 2-2 A-10; Richmond 8-8, 2-1 A-10; Hampton 7-7, 1-0 MEAC; Old Dominion 7-8, 2-2 C-USA; Norfolk State 6-7, 1-0 MEAC; Liberty 3-10, 2-0 Big South; Longwood 3-10, 0-2 Big South

Monday's game

Savannah State (2-11, 0-1 MEAC) at Hampton (7-7, 1-0), 5 p.m.

The very definition of a good matchup - a Hampton team that prides itself of gritty defense meets a Tigers squad that has been limited to 46 points or less in seven of its last eight games. Let's just say we're not expecting a shootout.

The South Carolina State-Norfolk State game originally scheduled for Monday has been postponed because of the weekend snowstorm. It will now be played on Feb. 15.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Big shots: Saturday's top stars

The three brightest stars in Saturday's games and a brief look at Sunday's contests:

3. Ashley Jackson, Old Dominion

Typically a player who takes care of the "little things," Jackson stepped into the spotlight Saturday with a career-high 17 points in a 67-62 loss to Western Kentucky. How unusual was this output? Prior to Saturday, the 5-9 junior had appeared in 79 college games. Only twice had she cracked double figures in scoring, notching 11 points each time. Saturday's performance was another positive step in what's been a breakout season for Jackson, who transformed her body and mindset last summer and has gone from spare part to key contributor. Now, we're not expecting 17 points from Jackson every night. But prior to Saturday, we didn't expect 17 points from Jackson ANY night.

2. Jayda Worthy, Radford

The 6-0 junior forward delivered 14 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in the Highlanders' somewhat tougher-than-expected 60-50 victory at Winthrop. It's the third straight game in which Worthy has been both highly productive and efficient. She's averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds over her last three and has made 18 of her 25 shots over that span.

1. Keyen Green, Liberty

A two-time Big South Freshman of the Week, Green tossed her hat into the ring for league PLAYER of the week honors with a career-high 26 points and 11 rebounds in Liberty's 81-74 victory over High Point. The 6-1 forward from Philadelphia made 10 of her 15 field goals attempts and 6 of her 8 free throws. In addition, seven of her rebounds came on the offensive end. Green now has three straight double-doubles and five on the season. And her 26 points were the most by a Liberty freshman since Devon Brown also rung up 26 on High Point on Jan. 30, 2010.

Saturday's results

Fordham 53, George Mason 49
UNC Asheville 80, Longwood 53
Radford 60, Winthrop 50
Western Kentucky 67, Old Dominion 62
Liberty 81, High Point 74

Sunday's games

St. Bonaventure (6-9, 1-2 Atlantic 10) at Richmond (7-8, 1-1), noon

Game was originally scheduled for Saturday but was pushed back a day because of the inclement weather. After back-to-back strong shooting performances in victories over Morgan State and St. Joseph's, the Spiders once again struggled to get shots to go down (31.1 percent FG) in Thursday's 61-55 loss at VCU. It's the fifth time the Spiders have shot 31 percent or less this season. Not surprisingly, Richmond is 0-5 when this happens - most teams would be.

Saint Louis (12-3, 2-0 Atlantic 10) at VCU (9-7, 2-1), 1 p.m.

Another weather-delayed game originally set for Saturday. After outdueling crosstown rival Richmond Thursday night, the Rams must now gear up for hottest team in the A-10. The Billikens have won five straight, a streak that includes victories over Washington State and Missouri, and have rolled in their two conference games by 37 and 39 points. A Rams win here would send a powerful message throughout the A-10.

Virginia (11-4, 0-2 ACC) at North Carolina (11-4, 0-2), 2 p.m.

After a pair of near-misses against quality teams (at Syracuse, Louisville), the Cavaliers will try for their first ACC win against yet another team that is good at forcing turnovers (19.6 per game). Virginia coughed the ball up a combined 43 times in their first two league games.

Virginia Tech (14-0, 1-0 ACC) at Clemson (11-4, 0-2), 2 p.m.

The Hokies are obviously playing well and are well-rested - last game was Monday - heading to a place where on paper they should have success. It would a sign of maturity for the Hokies to ignore perception and perform to their normal standard in this spot. That said, any conference road game presents challenges, and this will only be Tech's fourth road game of the season and first since Dec. 18.

JMU (9-4, 2-0 CAA) at Towson (7-6, 0-2), 2 p.m.

Quick turnaround for the Dukes, who pounded Hofstra by 36 points Friday night for their 22nd straight win against CAA opponents. Towson has tended to play JMU tough at home in recent years, though,

Note: The Hofstra at William and Mary game that was set for Sunday has been postponed. The makeup date has yet to be announced.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Big shots: Friday's top stars

The three brightest stars in Friday's games and a peek ahead at Saturday's matchups:

3. Alexandra Masaquel, William and Mary

The senior from Honolulu was a beast with 24 points (on 12-of-21 shooting) and a career-high 17 rebounds. But it was otherwise a tough night for a Tribe bunch that saw its 11-game winning streak end in a 70-60 loss at Charleston. A big key to the defeat - despite the 5-10 Masaquel's rebounding efforts, Charleston enjoyed a 48-36 edge on the boards and scored 20 second-chance points. It's funny, we saw the red-hot Tribe get picked off and Drexel lose for the first time in eight games at home against Elon, both on the same night, and thought, wow, the CAA is going to be crazy this year. Then we saw what JMU did to Hofstra and thought, well, maybe not.... Still plenty of games to play, though.

2. Anber Porter, JMU

Colonial Athletic Association play seems to agree with Porter, the 6-3 redshirt junior transfer from Stetson. After notching a season-high 18 points and 6 rebounds in just 16 minutes in the Dukes' CAA opener against UNC Wilmington, Porter followed up with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 12 minutes in JMU's 93-57 home humbling of Hofstra. Now, Amber's a bit of a foul magnet - a big reason she was light on minutes played is she fouled out of both games. Once she cleans that up, look out. Because based on her fine work during her two seasons at Stetson, we figured Porter would be an impact player at her new school. Two CAA games in, it looks like we figured correctly.

1. Precious Hall, JMU

The Dukes senior has had so many mega-scoring games there's a tendency to take the game-high 23 points she dropped on Hofstra for granted. We're not going to make that mistake, so Precious, our top spot goes to you.

Saturday's games

Some big opportunities for Old Dominion (Conference USA) and Longwood (Big South) as the preseason favorites in their respective conferences will be in town.

Fordham (12-5, 3-0 Atlantic 10) at George Mason (9-7, 2-1), 1 p.m.

The Patriots will look to shrug off the pounding they took at Saint Louis Wednesday (89-50) and return to the form that allowed them to win four of their previous five games. Fordham is enjoying a nice bounce-back season after finishing 14-17 last year. But it should be noted that most of the Rams' success has come at home (10-2); they are just 1-2 so far in true road games.

UNC Asheville (6-6, 0-1 Big South) at Longwood (3-9, 0-1), 2 p.m.

The Lancers may be catching the Bulldogs at a good time. The 2016 champions and the preseason favorite to repeat, UNC Asheville dropped its last three non-conference games, all by double digits, then lost at home to Campbell in Tuesday's Big South opener.

Western Kentucky (10-5, 2-1 Conference USA) at Old Dominion (7-7, 2-1), 4 p.m.

The Lady Monarchs improved to 6-1 at home Thursday by holding off Marshall 73-69. As you may have read somewhere, ODU's Jennie Simms lit the Herd up for 43 points on a sizzling 14-of-22 shooting (6 of 8 from 3). The last time the Hilltoppers visited the Constant Center, on Feb. 18, 2016, Simms scored 28 points but Western Kentucky escaped with an 84-75 overtime victory. NOTE: Because of the expected storm, fans are being encouraged to stay home and listen to the game on radio or check out the action on ESPN3.

High Point (3-9, 1-0 Big South) at Liberty (2-10, 1-0), 5 p.m.

Two very young teams that did excellent jobs of turning the page on rough non-conference slates. High Point lost all nine of its non-league games against Division I foes, then opened Big South play with a 45-point victory (!) over Winthrop. Meanwhile, Liberty went 0-10 against D-I non-conference opponents but scored an 81-72 victory over Charleston Southern in its Big South opener.

Radford 9-3, 1-0 Big South) at Winthrop (1-12, 0-1), 1 p.m.

The Highlanders are looking for their first 2-0 conference start since 2011. If they perform even reasonably close to their usual standard, they should find it here. Winthrop's obvious struggles have been exposed even more by a hyper-aggressive schedule that has put these Eagles in the ring with Baylor (the infamous 140-32 loss), Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan and Gonzaga. Winthrop's lone victory came in its season opener (Nov. 11) against Division III North Carolina Wesleyan.

Note: Because of the predicted snowstorm throughout the Hampton Roads area, the South Carolina State at Hampton game has been postponed until Jan. 25 and the Savannah State at Norfolk State contest has been moved to Wednesday.

Big shots - Thursday's top stars

The brightest stars in Thursday night's games, and a look ahead at Friday's matchups:

3. Dominique Toussaint, Virginia

The Cavaliers freshman splashed a 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer to force overtime against No. 8 Louisville. The Cardinals went on to win the game 86-81, but Toussaint's heroics forced them to dig in for an extra five minutes to pull it out. Now, going with Toussaint here is a bit of a tough call considering she finished with 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting and four assists while teammate Aliyah Huland El scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed a season-high eight rebounds. But there a few things more exciting than a buzzer-beating three, particularly in front of the home fans. Toussaint delivered.

A quick note on Virginia - turnovers, which crippled the Cavaliers Monday at Syracuse, hurt them again versus Louisville. Virginia coughed the ball up on six straight possessions in the third quarter, allowing the Cardinals to eat heavily into Virginia's 15-point lead. In fairness to Virginia, Syracuse and Louisville are two of the best at forcing turnovers in all of Division I. Still, the Cavaliers know this is something they must clean up. They should also know that if they do, these are games they are entirely capable of winning.

2. Keira Robinson, VCU

Robinson led all scorers with 19 points and added six rebounds as the Rams held off VCU in the Act One of the Atlantic 10 crosstown showdown. The Rams senior also choked off Richmond's last-minute rally by making six straight free throws in the final 34 seconds. For the game, Robinson, an 82.2 percent free throw shooter this season, was 11-for-11 from the line as the Rams (9-7, 2-1 A-10) won their third straight.

Richmond fell despite strong efforts by the resurgent Lauren Tolson (17 points for the second straight game and eight rebounds) and rapidly developing freshman Jaide Hinds-Clarke (10 points and 11 rebounds for her first career double-double).

1. Jennie Simms, Old Dominion

We shouldn't be in the business of correcting a woman who just dropped 43 points, but in this case, a correction is warranted. Asked about her Constant Center-record performance against Marshall, Simms replied, "I just took what they gave me."

No, Jennie, Marshall didn't GIVE you anything. You took what you wanted. Or to be more precise, Simms took what Old Dominion needed, as the demons that have vexed ODU in fourth quarters of late almost took over again. After being solidly outplayed for most of the night, the Herd shaved a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to three inside the final minute. The 73-69 victory wasn't secure until Simms made one of two free throws with 10 seconds left and Destinee Young blocked Shayna Gore's 3-point attempt at the other end.

After the game, Simms downplayed her record-setting numbers. In fact, on the Simms excitement meter her own 43 points appeared to rank a poor second to the 2 points she watched Old Dominion men's basketball guard Ahmad Caver deliver against Marshall at the regulation buzzer to force overtime while huddled in front of a computer monitor before her postgame interview.

Then again, lighting up an opposing team is old hat to Simms, who cracked the 30-point barrier for the 10th time in her career (2nd to Anne Donovan's 12 in Lady Monarchs history). Heck, 43 points isn't even her career high - she scored 45 at FIU two years ago.

In other words, as spectacular as it was to watch, the performance against Marshall was just Simms being Simms.

For the record, Simms final line - 43 points, 14-22 FG, 6-8 3FG, 9-10 FT.

Friday's games

William and Mary (11-1, 1-0 CAA) at College of Charleston (3-9, 0-1), 6:30 p.m.
   - The Tribe's 11-game winning streak is Division's I's fourth-longest.

Hofstra (7-5, 0-1 CAA) at JMU (8-4, 1-0), 7 p.m. 
   - The Dukes have won 21 straight against CAA foes since a loss at William and Mary on Jan. 3, 2016.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Big shots - Wednesday's top stars

The biggest contributors during Wednesday night's slate of games, and a look ahead at Thursday's contests.

3. Jephany Brown, Hampton

The former junior college star scored a season-high 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting and added three blocks as Hampton (7-7, 1-0) held off North Carolina A&T 64-57 in the teams' MEAC opener. It may have been a breakout performance by Brown, who shot 49.7 percent at Walters State Community College in 2014-15 but was at 26.6 percent through 13 games at Hampton heading into Wednesday's contest.

2. Kayla Roberts, Norfolk State

One of four Spartans in double figures, Roberts finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks as NSU (7-7, 1-0 MEAC) kicked off MEAC play with a 56-47 win at Morgan State. The Bears, who came in ranked 343rd of 344 Division I teams in field goal percentage (29.9 percent), connected at a 22.9 percent clip Wednesday and were stuck in the teens until a late fourth-quarter flurry.

1. Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton

The Lady Pirates scoring ace notched 20 points and moved into second place on the MEAC all-time scoring list in the victory over North Carolina A&T 64-57.  Tate-DeFreitas currently stands at 2,181 career points - former Howard star Alisha Hill had 2,179 - and will now take aim at Howard's Saadia Doyle, who tops the league's all-time scoring list with 2,310 points.

In other action Wednesday, Atlantic 10 preseason favorite Saint Louis rolled over George Mason 89-50. It was the second straight blowout victory for the Billikens (12-3, 2-0), who stomped Davidson by 37 on Saturday. Kara Wright's 14 points led the Patriots (9-7, 2-1).

Thursday's games

Richmond (7-7, 1-0 Atlantic 10) at VCU (8-7, 1-1), 7 p.m.

Chapter One of the crosstown showdown. The Rams have won two in a row thanks in large part to the play of forward Curteeona Brelove, who went for 19 points and 14 rebounds last week against Brown and posted a career-high 20 points Sunday against A-10 rival La Salle. Richmond, which lost its first three, won its next four and then lost four straight, is now on a three-game winning streak. A fickle shooting touch is behind the Spiders' roller-coaster results. Lately, the shots have been falling.

No. 8 Louisville (13-3, 1-1 ACC) at Virginia (11-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.

The Cavaliers committed 27 turnovers in Monday's 54-46 loss at Syracuse, which leads the ACC in turnovers forced. The league's No. 2 team in that category? Louisville (20.5). Two years ago, the Cavaliers upset a Cardinals team that was also ranked No. 8 in the final game of the regular season. Louisville posted comfortable victories in both meetings last season.

Marshall (10-3, 2-0 C-USA) at Old Dominion (6-7, 1-1), 7 p.m.

Old Dominion's first home game since Dec. 18; the Lady Monarchs went 1-4 in the five road/neutral site games since. They are 5-1 at the Constant Center. Fourth-quarter fades have been an issue of late for Old Dominion, The most recent example came Sunday when North Texas used an 11-0 run inside the final five minutes to break a 50-50 tie and claim a 10-point victory.

Finally, happy birthday to Liberty freshman Lela Sellers, who on Tuesday gave herself an early present with a career-high 21 points in a victory over Charleston Southern. Sellers' previous high was nine points (twice).