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.

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