Friday, January 6, 2017

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.

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